Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle: Jürgen's Reds Ease To First Win Over Rafa
Despite stark divisions between their position in the Premier League table, this looked like a testing fixture for Liverpool. Newcastle hadn’t lost a league game for over two and a half months, bar Manchester City while Rafa’s ability to grind out an unlikely point meant he could never truly be ruled out the contest.
The first-half was a testament to that; Newcastle were disciplined in their defensive duties, shutting off space and preventing Liverpool from building up ahead of steam. Despite having the lions share of possession, there were few moments of real threat to Newcastle’s back-four while the image of Dwight Gayle on the counter-attack put fear into the minds of every Reds fan.
Yet, the first-half breakthrough from Mohamed Salah set Liverpool on their way to another routine victory in their quest to regain second spot. It was the Egyptian’s 32nd goal of the season; one more than Luis Suarez’s best goals tally for Liverpool in 2013/14, combining beautifully with Oxlade-Chamberlain for the second game in a row. The goal means only Rush, Hunt, Fowler and Torres are above him (since 1963). Picking up the ball in midfield, Ox’s direct run dragged three Newcastle players out of position, freeing up space for Salah on the right-hand side of the box. A neat toe poke slid the ball through, taking Chamberlain’s direct goal contribution to double figures (6 assists, 4 goals).
Bear in mind, that's more goal contributions in ten games than he managed in league and Europe in five of his six seasons at Arsenal.
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) March 3, 2018
For the second successive game, things could’ve taken a very different turn had it not been for the timely intervention of Loris Karius. Had the German not got up well to tip Arnautovic’s long-range strike onto the crossbar, it could’ve been a very different game. This was a similar case too, with Mohamed Diame’s shot destined for the top corner prior to Kaius’ world-class stop. It was a brilliant save at a decisive moment for Liverpool, with a goal on the stroke of half-time having the potential to change the pattern of the game. Two key moments in two games from a ‘keeper that continues to improve, and impress.
Liverpool doubled their lead after the interval with a tremendous team goal rounded off by Mane. Every aspect of Firmino’s game was on show as the Brazilian raced back to the halfway line to retrieve possession before displaying his creative genius. Pressured by three/four Newcastle defenders in minimal space, Firmino produced a lovely weighted ball through to Mane. The Senegalese international dually responded with an emphatic finish, marking his 14th goal of the season with another Firmino inspired celebration. He’s now scored one more than his tally for the entire of the 2016/17 season – not bad for a player on ‘bad form’.
From then, Liverpool controlled the game really well, demonstrating composure all over the pitch to inhibit Newcastle from getting a route back into the contest.
Mohamed Salah will have felt slightly aggrieved having been denied a penalty and a free-kick on the edge of the area after being brought down through on goal. Klopp was visibly livid and had every right to be following a farcical, or lack thereof, decision from the officials. Luckily it proved indecisive in the overall outcome of the contest as Klopp’s team recorded another routine win on a day that had the potential to cause Liverpool some real problems.