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Keita Clips Magpies’ Wings

A lunchtime kick-off, away to a revitalised Newcastle, could have posed a formidable obstacle to a much-changed Liverpool eleven, but a first-half strike from Naby Keita was enough to clip the wings of Eddie Howe’s Magpie’s. Liverpool, however temporarily, have a two-point lead at the Premier League summit, ahead of Manchester City’s evening game at Elland Road.

Playing less than 72 hours after defeating Villarreal, Jurgen Klopp, set to be at the helm at Anfield until 2026, made five changes from the mid-week starting lineup. Gomez, man of the match Milner, Keita, Matip, and Jota all started, and though Liverpool didn’t perhaps play the free-flowing football of recent weeks, in a thoroughly professional performance, they comfortably kept Newcastle at arm’s length.

James Milner, surely playing his last season in a red shirt, was constantly combative, patrolling midfield with his usual tenacity, and it was a well-judged tackle by the former Newcastle player, that led to the only goal of the game. The ball eventually found its way to Keita inside the penalty box, and showing tremendous composure to round the goal-keeper, he slotted it into the net, defying the effort of three home defenders on the line.

Having not lost a top-flight league game when ahead at half-time, since 2016, Liverpool were clearly favourites to take all three points, as the second half began. However, it was Eddie Howe who last turned around such a lead against Liverpool when managing Bournemouth. Liverpool though, registering a record forty-second win of the season, are an entirely different proposition these days. Indeed, they spurned several good chances to stretch their lead in the second period, not least when Salah, who’d replaced Mane in the 70th minute, failed to get his shot away in a foot race with the Newcastle defence. Jota also had good opportunities to score but was thwarted by Dubravka on
three separate occasions.

In a not entirely nerve free final fifteen minutes, both Thiago and Fabinho came on to help Liverpool see out the game. Newcastle continued to look for the ball over and behind the Liverpool defence, but throughout the game, even when they did succeed in finding some space in front of a largely redundant Alisson, they were off-side. Liverpool’s high line, again proving its worth, as a vital three points were secured.

So, with just four league games remaining, and a possible three more cup matches, in two separate competitions, this quite remarkable squad of players, head into May with the previously elusive quadruple still on the table. It will undoubtedly be tough. Perhaps an almost impossible task, but these are heady days to be a Liverpool fan, days we should never take for granted, led by a man, in Jurgen Klopp, who irrespective of the final outcome in this incredible season, will surely be revered for generations to come.

Russell Kennedy