A sensational Karl Darlow performance and superb effort from front to back saw us secure a well deserved point against Premier League leaders Liverpool tonight.
We defended admirably throughout, but it was the individual performance of Darlow that single-handedly kept us level, with him making four top class saves to deny Liverpool’s ferocious front three.
Newcastle looked a completely different side to the one that looked uninterested at Brentford and conceded defeat against Manchester City on Boxing Day, as this performance was one defined by character and resolve.
We expected Liverpool to have the vast majority of the ball and dominate periods of the game, but this time we weren’t sitting ducks or afraid to attack, pass the ball forwards, press, and get into the opposition half! We were brave and full of battle – not timid, negative and afraid.
Newcastle starting XI: Darlow; Yedlin, Fernandez, Schâr, Clark, Ritchie; Murphy, Hayden, Longstaff, Joelinton; Wilson.
Liverpool starting XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson; Milner, Henderson, Jones; Mane, Salah, Firmino.
It was a bizarrely positive start from Steve Bruce’s side, completely atypical of anything that the fans have had to endure so far this season. Not only was there a clear game plan, but the pressing was fierce, and passes were played with real intent. I wasn’t really sure whether I was watching Steve Bruce’s Newcastle for long spells of the opening stages.
Such was the positive start that, in the 13th minute, we really could have snatched the lead. Callum Wilson latched onto a long Matty Longstaff pass and our top goal scorer bullied Liverpool’s Nat Phillip’s off the ball before driving towards the Reds ‘goal. Unfortunately, his eventual effort was crucially blocked by Fabinho and the ball rolled away for a corner kick.
Jürgen Klopp’s side failed to register a touch inside the Newcastle box inside the first 30 minutes, but Mo Salah nearly atoned for the away side’s lethargic start with a goal. The Egyptian found himself in acres of space and one on with Karl Darlow, but our stand in ‘keeper made a sensational fingertip save to deny the opposition’s main man.
Much has been made of the return of Martin Dubravka in recent days, but Darlow proved once again how determined he is to remain as Newcastle’s number one with another sublime performance.
We failed to create any clear-cut chances apart from Wilson’s early effort. There were long-range efforts from Hayden and Murphy that forced a reaction from Alisson in net, but they were never going to seriously trouble the Brazilian and Liverpool’s goal remained unthreatened until the half-time whistle blew.
Throughout the first half, there were moments of exceptional defending from a Newcastle standpoint. The pick of the bunch came in the 42nd minute, when DeAndre Yedlin denied Mo Salah a clear shot on goal from close range with a perfectly timed last-ditch interception.
All of Newcastle’s hard work was almost undone in the dying moments of the first half. Fabian Schär lost Roberto Firmino as a cross came into the box and the Brazilian’s free header was denied by the sharp reactions of Karl Darlow.
Compared to the performances of recent weeks, I was quietly delighted with our first-half performance. We kept ourselves in the game whilst managing 6 shots on goal, albeit with only 27% possession.
It was a relatively slow start to the second half and neither team were able to create any clear-cut chances. Liverpool came closest to opening the scoring in the 54th minute, but Sadio Mane’s header missed the target.
I began to wonder whether it might just be our night as the Champions repeatedly wasted simple chances. The goal opened up for Mo Salah in the 66th minute and all he had to do was steer his effort into the bottom corner, but his shot missed the goal altogether.
Just moments later, Roberto Firmino missed an unforgivable chance that was essentially an open goal. A rare Karl Darlow error during a corner meant that the ball was able to find Firmino at the back post. Liverpool’s number nine had the entire goal at his mercy his effort somehow went wide of the goal.
As the closing stages approached, it felt as though Liverpool stepped up a gear whilst we looked considerably fatigued. Our intense pressure of the first half was non-existent and we reverted to a bank of nine men behind the ball in an attempt to see out a draw.
Against the run of play, Newcastle nearly snatched a winner late on! Matt Ritchie provided a sublime delivery from a free kick and Ciaran Clark rose highest with a powerful header that had to be saved by Alisson.
Soon after, Liverpool nearly found the winner that they had been desperate for. It seemed as though Sadio Mane had a simple tap in left after Alexander-Arnold’s saved shot fell into his path, but Fabian Schär prevented a certain goal with a sensational goal line clearance!
Then, in the 88th minute, Karl Darlow secured his Man of the Match status with another top save, getting down low to keep out another Roberto Firmino header. Not for the first time, we then got bodies around the ball and cleared our lines, but it was yet another key stop.
Four minutes were added on but we hung in and saw it out to come away with a well deserved point. Yes we rode our luck at times, but that is all we ask for – energy, ideas, heart and discipline!
Many of us feared a an absolute battering and with good reason before the game kicked off, but that was MUCH better from start to finish.
A big point for Steve Bruce and a brilliant performance from just about everyone involved.
After some deserved criticism, we must now use this as a blue print moving forward, with us brave on the ball, energetic, aggressive and showing a level of intensity at both ends that we’ve been crying out for!
Let’s hope we can build on this when Leicester come to town on Sunday!