Newcastle: Atsu 20’, Rondon 54’
Liverpool: Van Dijk 13’, Salah 28’, Origi 86’
Well, it’s the same as it was last week and, really, for the past month or so: win and we keep the pressure on Manchester City in the title race. Drop points and we’ll need something rather more than minor miracle we already are hoping for to finally break our league title drought.
In terms of major team news, we already had the deflating news that after a run that saw him grow in real influence, The Admiral Naby Keita is now out for the season and is likely out for an extended period with a torn adductor. Before the match, though, the concerns surrounding Roberto Firmino’s knock look to have completely blown up as Bobby was left out of the squad and news today says things might be more serious than we thought:
Liverpool start the match with Daniel Sturridge preferred over Divock Origi and the mysteriously our of favor Xherdan Shaqiri. The squad looks up for it and even without their talisman leading the line comfortably assert themselves in the match. Daniel Sturridge looked bright early as he released Sadio Mane on a curling pass and it’s clear the team are looking for the win.
It doesn’t take long for Liverpool to strike, though, as Virgil Van Dijk rises up and nods home a free header. Trent Alexander-Arnold collects another assist with the absolute pitch perfect cross. At 13 minutes into the match, Liverpool have found themselves on the board.
And quickly, Liverpool sloppily conspire with Newcastle to gift the Tyneside gents an equalizer a mere seven minutes after. In a bit of irony and cosmic dark humor, Newcastle are only able to finish after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s handball clearance denies Salomon Rondon a goal. The icing on top is that the eventual goal scorer, Christian Atsu, hadn’t scored a goal since 2017. TAA is lucky to have escaped a red in that interchange. Football is pain.
The five minutes immediately following the Newcastle goal shows an LFC side struggling to regain control. It all culminates in another chance for Newcastle with Ayoze Perez hitting the woodwork on his shot. Football is the worst.
But the Egyptian King comes through with a resounding response just three minutes later as he latches onto a brilliant cross from, who else, TAA. The score is level at the 28th minute and it appears to have put a bit of a damper on the crowd at St. James’ Park who'd been rather raucous. Football is ok, I guess.
The rest of the half plays out with Liverpool firmly in control. No major chances save Salah playing Mané in on goal, but the angle was always going to be a big ask. Liverpool enter their locker room with a one goal advantage.
As expected, the second half kicks off with no changes to the Liverpool side. Things sounds a bit quiet at St. James’ Park, and Liverpool seem to pick up where they left off at the end of the half. The Reds are in control and, early on, have a nice look as Andrew Robertson got in the act with a beautiful cross with Daniel Sturridge waiting on the back post. A slight deflection from the Newcastle defender was just enough to put the ball off, but the team is clearly looking to build on their lead.
About five minutes into the half, Salomon Rondon looked to have a good chance in on goal. But Alisson Becker is up to task. Almost immediately after, Liverpool head down and Daniel Sturridge has a terrific look about center spot in the 18, but skies it. I am holding out a lot of hope for a Daniel Sturridge goal here.
Good grief. A corner is half-cleared and the ball lands at Rondon’s feet just as it pings around. The striker makes no mistake and buries it past Alisson Becker. 54th minute brutalizer. Football is terrible again.
Chasing a goal, Klopp opts to call on Xherdan Shaqiri for Georginio Wijnaldum a bit earlier than his usual substitutions. Not too long after, at about the 68th minute, Liverpool fans have their heart in mouths as Mohamed Salah’s head meets Dubravka’s knee as the goalkeeper and forward ended up in the same space in search of a ball lofted into the area. Salah is taken off on a stretcher. Divock Origi on for Salah. We are all just hoping that Mo is ok.
The feel of the match following the injury is entirely changed. There’s a very real sense of heaviness on and off the pitch at the moment. Not to mention that the quick substitutions have likely also helped to let some air out of the match.
OH. MY. GOODNESS. Fabinho wins a free kick just outside of the 18 yard box. While the Reds are setting up to receive the kick, Van Dijk waves off TAA - who’s carrying two assists in this match - and asks Shaqiri to take the kick. It was a brilliant move as Origi knocks in the perfect cross. Liverpool inch ahead. Football is a dizzying ride.
Due to Mo’s injury, the referees give eight minutes of stoppage time. Scary moment about three minutes into the extra minutes as James Milner gives up a free kick after two strong, professional fouls. Thankfully, the wall stands strong as Rondon knocks it straight into the stout defenders. Liverpool ride out the full 8 minutes of stoppage time and earn the win. Big, big moment.
The result is great but is greatly marred by the loss of Mohamed Salah. The concerns here, of course, go beyond the sporting issues: head trauma is serious and while I’m grateful that the head injury protocols were followed in this instance, I still carry a grave concern for the health of Mo. With that injury in mind and with Liverpool still not in control of their destiny, then, there is a lingering fear this could turn out to be a bit of a Pyrrhic victory despite the absolute necessity of the points just to keep hope alive.
But there are those three points in the bag, and with it pressure back to City. Here’s hoping the Fighting Brendaos can, just maybe, get something.