Newcastle produced a resilient performance to take a deserved point against Liverpool at St James’ Park this afternoon.
The hosts lead twice during the course of the game but found themselves pegged back on both occasions, which is perhaps understandable given the fact that United had to make do with ten men for more than half of the game.
In fact prior Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa’s red card five minutes before half-time it could have been argued that we were the better side and fully deserved to go in at the interval holding the lead courtesy of a fine strike from Yohan Cabaye but an error from Mbiwa saw him allow Luis Suarez to get goal side and when the former Montpellier defender pulled the Uruguayan back referee Andre Marriner was left with little alternative other than to award a spot kick to the Reds and send Mbiwa off allowing Steven Gerrard to level the scores from 12 yards out.
Before that though United had been the better side. Liverpool were chased and harassed out of the game and couldn’t build up a head of steam. Cheik Tiote was playing well as captain in the absence of Fabricio Coloccini but he wasn’t the only one as most players in black and white rolled their sleeves up and got involved.
However the sending off changed the game, but surprisingly it only really changed the game until half-time. This is not to say that United were dominant in the second period because they weren’t and Liverpool with the man advantage had the bulk of the possession. I had the sinking feeling and felt it was only a matter of time before Rodgers’ men took the lead but the home side proved resilient and provided another shock ten minutes into the second half.
Yohan Cabaye sent in a free-kick from the left hand side which managed to evade everyone apart from Paul Dummett who stole in at the back post and fired past Simon Mignolet in front of the Gallowgate end. A first senior goal from the local lad who became the first Englishman to score for United since Boxing Day 2012 and the first Geordie to score for us since Boxing Day 2010.
Holding out for over half an hour was always going to be a big ask and so it proved as Liverpool once again pulled level on 72 minutes. Luis Suarez burst down the left and crossed for Daniel Sturridge who nodded the ball into the net from six yards out.
Aside from the odd counter-attack United rarely threatened the Liverpool goal and holding on for a point became the aim. Ultimately it was mission accomplished albeit via a nervy ending which saw Luis Suarez graze the crossbar on one occasion before stinging the palms of Tim Krul from a free-kick which proved to be the last action of the game.
As I’ve said, it was a deserved point for United and I’m happy with it considering we played for 50 minutes with a man short and only one recognised central defender on the pitch. There were some great performances all over the park and if we can produce that level of performance on a regular basis we’ll be alright this season and might end up surprising a few. Cheik Tiote was largely excellent despite the odd lapse in concentration but I’d probably plump with Mathieu Debuchy if I was asked to pick a star performer. He’s had his critics but he performed well, rarely got beaten and linked up well in attack when called upon. More of the same please.
Howay the lads!
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Mike Williamson, Davide Santon; Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, Moussa Sissoko; Yoan Gouffran, Hatem Ben Arfa, Loic Remy
Subs: Rob Elliot, Paul Dummett, Vurnon Anita, Gabriel Obertan, Sammy Ameobi, Shola Ameobi, Papiss Cisse
Liverpool: Simon Mignolet, Glen Johnson, Aly Cissokho, Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho, Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard, Victor Moses, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge
Subs: Brad Jones, Dan Agger, Martin Kelly, Jon Flanagan, Luis Alberto, Raheem Sterling, Joe Allen