A brilliant game at St James’ Park and a performance that deserved more from a Newcastle perspective, with us giving as good as we got against a title-chasing Liverpool side.
Here’s an assessment of each player’s performance and my marks out of 10:
NUFC XI – (5-2-2-1): Dubravka (7) – Manquillo (7.5), Schar (6), Lascelles (4), Dummet (7), Ritchie (8) –– Hayden (7.5), Ki (6) – Perez (7), Atsu (8) – Rondon (9) – SUBS – Muto (N/A).
Dubravka – 7 – Made a crucial save to deny Mane and keep it at 2-1 in the first half. Claimed a few crosses comfortably and was quick off his line to punch clear when he needed to.
Manquillo – 7.5 – Another vastly improved display from the Spaniard. He was disciplined in his defending, doing very well to limit both Mane and Robertson down Liverpool’s left, but also playing his part in the attacking third. He carried the ball well and put in several dangerous crosses, including one that caused chaos in their box just moments before Atsu tapped in to make it 1-1.
Schar – 6 – A very mixed performance from the Swiss centre-back. He was brilliant at times, timing a few challenges perfectly in the first half, but he also had 3 or 4 incredibly sloppy clearances which saw us lose possession in dangerous areas. His booking was petty and avoidable, leaving him walking a bit of a tightrope in the second half, however his vision and positivity from the back did really help us create attacks at times – even if the risks he took sometimes backfired.
Lascelles – 4 – A tough night for the skipper, with him arguably being at fault for a few of Liverpool’s goals. He allowed Van Dijk to get free and head home their opener, he was pulled out of position for their second, with Salah free in an area you’d expect him to be in the box and was also out-jumped by Origi for their winner. He did make one vital last ditch intervention to deny Sturridge and almost certain goal in the second half, however this was an off night for him, with him failing to deal with a few basic crosses into the box.
Dummett – 7 – Was in the right place at the right time on several occasions, making several crucial clearances when balls came in and around the Newcastle United box. Worked well with Ritchie to keep Salah quiet, stayed switched on throughout and was constantly prepared to put his head on any ball that entered the Newcastle United half.
Ritchie – 8 – Another all action display, with him being brilliantly full-blooded and typically tenacious in everything he did. He got tight to Salah from the off, made a few vital blocks, was quick into the tackle and first to so many loose balls. Always showed for the ball, timed his attacks well and played a part in Atsu’s goal as he flashed a shot across the box. Not for the first time this season, he set the tone in what was a spirited display.
Hayden – 7.5 – Held his own up against a midfield trio of Wijnaldum, Fabinho and Henderson, showing great energy and timing several challenges to perfection. He was strong in the air, won several lose balls and seemed to cover just about every blade of grass – not for the first time at St James’ Park this season. Given how good he’s been since the turn of the year, I sincerely hope he ends up staying this summer!
Ki – 6 – Retained the ball well with some neat and tidy passing in midfield, however it felt like he could’ve been a little bit more positive at times, with him going backwards on several occasions when forward passes appeared to be on. Couldn’t quite match the intensity shown by the likes of Ritchie, Hayden, Atsu and Rondon, but still put in a steady performance, taking up good positions and looking after the ball well.
Perez – 7 – Battled away all night and carried the ball brilliantly at times. Got into good positions at both ends, being busy up top and clipping the cross bar, whilst also getting into good defensive positions to help protect Manquillo up against Robertson and Mane. Looks so confident and much stronger than I’m used to seeing him, with him often using his body well to shield the all and right challenges.
Atsu – 8 – One of his best performances in a black and white shirt for me. He was a bundle of energy all night, a constant threat on the break and worked his socks off. Got himself in the right place at the right time to make it 1-1 and, although he was a little wasteful after getting into good positions in the second half, he was anything but our weak link here. He took the game to Liverpool and constantly unsettled them in attack.
Rondon – 9 – The big man was an absolute beast up top once again. He unsettled Van Dijk as much as I’ve seen any striker do this season, he bullied Lovren from start to finish, was tireless in his running and took his goal brilliantly. Another monstrous display, with his tally up to 11 goals and 8 assists in all competitions now. It’s absolutely essential we sign him permanently this summer.
Muto – N/A – Came on for the final 5 minutes. Showed his impressive turn of pace, closing down quickly and making a few decent darting runs in behind, but wasn’t on long enough to make any real impact.