Liverpool: Keïta 19’
It’s a gorgeous spring day on Tyneside as the Reds take on Newcastle in the early kickoff. Jürgen Klopp fielded a rotated squad at St. James’ Park today. Trent Alexander-Arnold got a break, with Joe Gomez coming in at right-back. In the middle, he’s gone with Jordan Henderson, Naby Keïta, and James Milner, who got a rare start. The front three consisted of Sadio Mané, Diogo Jota, and Luis Díaz.
Liverpool came out with determination in the early stages of this game. As expected, they had the majority of the possession as they tried to breakthrough with a quick goal. Newcastle attempted to go long and get in behind the defense using the speed of their attack. Virgil van Dijk, in particular, did a good job of fending off the danger and cutting off any potential Newcastle breaks.
A nervy moment came when Alisson was forced far out of his box, challenging a Newcastle player all the way at the touchline. However, he managed to nudge the ball out of play for a throw-in and then sprint back into position.
It’s controversy in the 19th minute when James Milner slid in on Schar to intercept the ball. Referee Andre Marriner determined it was a fair challenge, and the quick turnaround lead to Liverpool’s first goal. Jordan Henderson latched onto the loose ball and got it to Keïta. Keïta slid it to Jota and ran into the middle to get the return pass. He calmly rounded the keeper and slotted it home.
Dïaz engineered a fine break on the counterattack following a Newcastle push forward. He passed it to Mané, but the Senegalese captain’s shot is straight at Dubravka. That was a missed opportunity from Liverpool to make it 2-0 in the first half.
Newcastle had a goal called offside, with Almiron moving in a bit too early, allowing Liverpool to retain their one goal lead.
Dubravka came up with a great save 40 minutes in. Henderson crossed the ball into the box and Jota got a strong head on it. Unfortunately, the keeper got fingertips on it and tipped it over the bar.
The first yellow cards come out after a scuffle between Jota and Joelinton. Jota took issue with the Newcastle player’s challenge on Díaz and decided to make his thoughts on the subject known.
The whistle blows with the Reds ahead by one.
Jota and Díaz and combine in the early parts of the second half, but unfortunately the shot is deflected out wide.
Liverpool’s old friend Jonjo Shelvey squared up for a free kick in a dangerous position after Gomez received a yellow card for a shirt pull on Willock. The shot is a bullet that a brave Milner stopped with his head. He dropped to the ground right after, stopping play. Thankfully, Milly got back up with a wince and was fit to continue.
Another opportunity went begging for Liverpool. Gomez crossed the ball to Mané, who side-footed it wide of the target on his first touch.
The attack looked a bit tired in the middle stretch of the second half. It wasn’t a surprise when Mohamed Salah came on for Mané in the 69th minute. Fabinho additionally replaced captain Henderson to shore up the defense and protect their slim lead. Meanwhile, Eddie Howe pinned his hopes on big, tall aerial threats, trading Willock for Wood.
Liverpool looked desperate to put the match to rest, but they couldn’t get the ball into the back of the net. Fair play to Dubravka, who did well in the second half to nullify the significant Liverpool threat.
Alisson is forced into service, as Wood gets a shot off on target. The goalkeeper does well to block the attempt, but the flag went up a moment later to make the heroics irrelevant.
Milner came off at 78 minutes for a fresh Thiago Alcantara to see out the rest of the game.
As hard as they try, things don’t seem to be going Liverpool’s way to get that second goal. Every effort is thwarted, and it’s become a matter of running out the clock. By all rights, Díaz should have a hat trick of assists this afternoon. The most recent came in the 89th minute, when he found Salah on the break. Salah overran the ball while trying to get it onto his left foot and let Dubravka scoop it up harmlessly in the end.
Final Thoughts and Man of the Match
The whistle blows, and somehow Liverpool came away with the three points, despite not finding that second goal. Until at least this evening, Liverpool are back on top of the table.
Who was Liverpool’s Man of the Match against Newcastle?
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Virgil van Dijk