Liverpool remain top of the Premier League table, despite a 0-0 draw with Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
A combination of bad finishing from the visitors — an aspect of the game where Mohamed Salah was particularly guilty — and the saves of Karl Darlow kept the hosts in the contest as the Reds failed to prize open their low block defence on enough occasions.
Newcastle had opportunities themselves and Fabinho saved Nat Phillips blushes when he diverted a goal-bound shot from Callum Wilson over the bar after Phillips was burnt for pace by the Magpies strike near the halfway line. Alisson, too, was called into action in the second half when he had to save a Ciaran Clark header from a corner.
The return and cameo of Thiago was one of the only bright spots for Jurgen Klopp as the Spaniard came on with fifteen minutes remaining and resuscitated the Reds’ attacking play with incisive passing and vision that was sorely lacking before his substitution.
Jurgen Klopp picked a conservative midfield from the outset with the returning James Milner — who, to his credit, was the best of the starting trio — partnering Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones in the engine room.
It was the Geordies who began the game in 15th place who had the best opportunity in the opening 20 minutes, despite Liverpool having all of the ball and territory. A lumped ball into the channel was misjudged by Phillips and Wilson ran in behind. Sizing him up at the edge of the box, the former Bournemouth striker waltzed past the 23-year-0ld and bore down on goal. Wilson let fly only for Fabinho to block his shot — which appeared destined for goal — behind for a corner.
To their credit, although they could hardly have been worse, Liverpool improved thereafter and should have been 2-0 up going into the interval. First, Salah — in perhaps his worst showing for the club — missed a one versus one with Darlow after Henderson’s clipped pass found him isolated in the box. The keeper got the faintest of touches, but the Egyptian ought to have scored.
Then, nearer the half time whistle, Roberto Firmino tamely headed a Sadio Mane cross into the grasp of Darlow with the save being more comfortable than it should have been. Relieved the Magpies went into the break with the 0-0 they were playing for.
The opening period of the second half was played out in a similar manner and Klopp opted to replace the ineffectual Jones with Georginio Wijnaldum in order to add some thrust to his midfield. It wasn’t until the introduction of Thiago with 15 minutes remaining, though, til Liverpool really got their attacking act together.
The Spaniard clipped a beautiful ball into the path of Trent Alexander Arnold and the right-back fired across the face of goal where the ball ricocheted off Darlow and then Mane. Had the bobble bounced an inch or two to the other direction Liverpool would have scored.
Firmino spurned another headed chance when he headed wide a Robertson corner after Darlow was taken out of the equation. Another set-piece chance arrived, but the hosts keeper was again equal to a Fabinho header and the bounce didn’t go the way of Liverpool.
Salah wasted another one versus one opportunity and Wijnaldum maddingly undercooked a cross to Mane when Alexander Arnold had sent the Dutchman through on goal. Better execution of a simple pass would have surely resulted in a goal; but that was the story of the Reds’ night.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Jones, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Replacements: Wijnaldum for Jones, Shaqiri for Salah, Thiago for Milner.
Subs not used: Phillips, Adrian, N.Williams, R.Williams, T.Minamino, A.Oxlade Chamberlain, D.Origi.