The Opening Remarks
The trip on the opening day to Stamford Bridge and a home game against Bournemouth have led to four points being accrued in the opening two fixtures of Liverpool’s 2023/24 Premier League season. Many in the Reds’ fanbase were understandably worried about this trip to St James’ Park, given that the Geordies are now operating at a very good level of play. This could become a renewed rivalry that lasts for many years to come, as the north east club continues to make smart moves since their Middle Eastern takeover.
The Starting Eleven
I was always hopeful that it would be our Uruguayan number nine, Darwin Núñez, that started this game. The fact that he has begun the first three games (of this new campaign) on the substitutes bench was starting to become a worry. However, you could understand the manager’s thinking in wanting a false nine on the pitch. By naming his latest signing, Wataru Endō, as the holding midfielder, it allowed a more fluid midfield shape to develop, at least in theory. The fears over Trent Alexander Arnold’s ankle injury were dismissed as he maintained his starting place, with only Ibrahima Konaté ruled out through injury. Diogo Jota was consequently the one that dropped out of the side, allowing Cody Gakpo to push forward into a central striking role. Thiago Alcântara is still in training, whereas Stefan Bajčetić returned to take a place on the visitor’s bench.
— The Anfield Talk (@TheAnfieldTalk) August 27, 2023
The First Half
The game started frenetically with both teams looking to gain control of proceedings. The energetic style of Newcastle seemed to unsettle Liverpool’s attempts for rhythm, as the transition stages of their setup looked vulnerable from the off. The Reds’ vice-captain was booked early on for a moment of petulance, as he threw the ball away after a spat on the sideline. It was just moments later that a clear foul by the reds number 66 nearly saw a second yellow card produced. Eddie Howe would later label the incident with Trent as an obvious red card offense, yet the official was able to maintain his calm and keep everyone on the pitch, at least for a few more minutes.
The warning signs were there for all to see (again), as Anthony Gordan continued to scamper onto direct balls beyond the reds back line. Eventually, an uncharacteristic piece of mis-control saw the former Everton flyer clean through on goal, before calmly slotting the ball beyond the on-rushing Alisson Becker. Things would then turn from bad to worse when, on the 26th minute, Virgil clattered into Alexander Isak on the edge of the box. It was a definite foul, with the position of the on-rushing striker seeing the referee produce the red card which was then validated by VAR. Hopefully, this dismissal can be downgraded to a one-game ban, as there was enough grey area regarding the severity of the decision. The remainder of the half was about regaining composure, with Joe Gomez coming on for Luis Díaz, to enable a more defensive ten-man shape. During this run to half time, Alisson Becker produced an unbelievable save onto the post, which the opposition manager labelled as the greatest save he had ever seen.
The Second Half
The second half primarily saw the away side being diligent in their off-ball work, while Newcastle attempted to break down the ten-man reds. This changed approach was something that the home side could not take advantage of as the minutes ticked on by. Substitutions were frequent as Jürgen Klopp looked for a way to create offensive moments. It would be on 77 minutes that the biggest change transpired, one which saw Darwin Núñez brought into the game to play as a counter-attacking weapon of speed and power. His performance was a breathtaking display of dangerous intent, as both his two goals were fired across Nick Pope and into the far corner. The elation and relief were evident for all the away supporters, as our German manager celebrated joyfully. The precision of our number nine and deep playmaking by Mohamed Salah was a tremendous sight, which should see an adjusted front line for next week’s visit of Aston Villa.
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That's now 9 red cards in the opening 29 PL matches this season.
Small sample size, but we're seeing a red card every 3.2 games, the most frequent rate in PL history. pic.twitter.com/VszqbETsLm
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) August 27, 2023
What Are My Final Thoughts…?
This match showcased a period of brilliant character and some individual moments of brilliance, with our ‘Uruguayan Raging Bull’ rampaging his way into the hearts of all his adoring supporters. There have been so many questions regarding how and when to utilize this elite-level talent; therefore, I am confident this cameo can now see him starting from here on out as the central striker he is destined to be.
Pre-match prediction Newcastle 1 – 2 Liverpool