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Black And White, But Red All Over

A tale of two goalkeepers allowed a largely listless Liverpool to overcome a Newcastle side who were down to ten minutes inside 30 mins. By then, a sublime finish by Darwin Nunez, followed by a second consecutive league goal for Cody Gapko, had all but secured three points.

Coming under early pressure, Liverpool had Alisson to thank for keeping the Magpies at bay, thwarting them twice inside the opening five minutes. Those in front of Alisson Becker, who again started sloppily, needed the Brazilian to serve up another match-winning display, before Nunez clipped the wings of the home side, with a thunderous strike, having sprung the off-side trap, with a defence-splitting pass from Trent. It was soon 2-0, as Gapko, playing with renewed confidence after his derby goal on Monday, received a wonderfully chipped pass from Salah, before slotting past Pope.

At 2-0 up, and the mood inside St. James Park punctuated by seeing their team undeservedly behind, a red card for Pope all but settled the game. Salah, chasing down yet another of those long-range passes from Alisson, looked likely to round the advancing keeper, who panicked at the thought of going further behind, inexplicably handled the ball twenty yards outside his area. A clear goal-scoring opportunity had been denied, and a straight red card was inevitable.

With almost 70 mins against ten men, and 2-0 up, it looked odds on that Liverpool would go on to score more. However, Newcastle reacted more positively to the red card and continued to probe, play with purpose and energy, and looked more likely to add to the score sheet. They put Liverpool under relentless pressure from corners, where despite the presence of a returning Virgil van Dijk, the defending was shocking time after time, and they were fortunate not to concede when their bar was rattled with a header.

During the half-time interval, Klopp surely reminded his players of the need for a third goal, but they again lacked sufficient purpose and intensity to close the game down. In fact, for much of the second half, Liverpool were sloppy and slow. Perhaps they had one eye on the first leg mid-week Champions League tie with Real Madrid, but nonetheless, it was only in the final minutes that they looked likely to stretch their lead, as second-half subs, Jota and Firminho, combined on numerous occasions against a tiring Newcastle defence.

Jurgen Klopp, in his post-match comments, talked of ‘a massive result’ and that there was ‘space for improvement’, and of course, by collecting six hugely important points in the last six days, he’s all too aware, that it’s points that win prizes. He might though be concerned by his side not being sufficiently clinical when the chance was clearly there to improve his side’s recent goal-scoring record. Indeed, he was rightly less than impressed with his sides showing against ten men, but was ‘really happy we got over the line.’

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