Three things we learned from Newcastle - Liverpool
Newcastle - Liverpool: A day for the goalkeepers saw Liverpool drop points for the second-successive match in a scoreless draw with Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Wednesday.
The Reds followed up their 1-1 home draw with West Brom by failing to take the first half by the horns up north, dropping points on successive matchdays for the first time since losing to Aston Villa and drawing Everton in October.
Liverpool’s 33 points are three points more than second-place Manchester United, who has a match-in-hand.
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It’s the first time Liverpool hasn’t scored in a league match this season, and the first time they’ve been blanked in the PL since a 4-0 loss to Man City on July 2.
Newcastle’s winless run reaches four but Steve Bruce will hardly care as his Magpies rise to 14th on 19 points, eight clear of the bottom three.
Isaac Hayden saw a late yellow card and will be suspended for Sunday’s visit from Leicester City, as Newcastle bids for another top four opponent.
Three things we learned from Newcastle - Liverpool
1. Reds labor again: The hosts entered the game with an average of just 9.1 shot attempts per game this season, but took six in the first half alone against a Liverpool side expected to be angry after the draw with bottom-three visitors West Brom. Goals could’ve been there early and the second half was all about the champions trying in vain to beat Darlow. Still, Liverpool did not and will know what its three-point lead on Manchester United, who has a game-in-hand, will make a Jan. 17 rivalry match quite the consequential spectacle.
2. Darlow, Alisson trade show stoppers: Newcastle backstop Karl Darlow is used to being called upon for heroics and had three terrific saves -- two of them out-of-this-world -- to keep Newcastle alive early and late. The last one also included some really clever disguising from the keeper, who made a super save on Sadio Mane and took hold of the Senegalese star’s right thigh to give Ritchie an extra second to clear the danger off the line. VAR did not see anything wrong if it did review the potential penalty.
The cherry on top was Alisson’s 79th-minute two-handed save of a Ciaran Clark header after Joelinton won a dangerous free kick off of Nathaniel Philipps, who saw a yellow card for breaking up the Brazilian’s race to the ball on the right side line.
Or was it? Darlow made another stunning save in the 88th minute, getting low to deny Firmino’s header off a Liverpool corner and Yedlin joined Matty Longstaff in clearing the ensuing battle of desperate headers.
3.Thiago returns: It wasn’t anything extraterrestrial on the field, but 21-of-23 passes, 6-of-6 long passes, and 6-of-6 duels won? Thiago Alcantara’s return to the pitch for Liverpool will give the Reds a huge boost as they build up confidence in the race for a second-straight PL title. His service was terrific over 17 minutes in red, and the difference in quality was enough that just three more minutes would’ve likely been enough to break apart Newcastle. Think KDB’s vision without the finishing prowess.
Co-Men of the Match: DeAndre Yedlin and Karl Darlow
We’ve detailed Darlow’s incredible saves and-- so was ex-Magpies midfielder James Milner -- the USMNT right back had his best and most complete match in years. He limited Andy Robertson and Sadio Mane while making big challenges, using his speed equally going forward and in recovery. James Milner and Mohamed Salah joined Alisson in playing well, though Salah’s lack of finish could plague his evening.
Newcastle - Liverpool recap
Callum Wilson ran onto a longball and spun Nathaniel Phillips. Driving the box, his in-tight shot was blocked for a corner by a lunging Fabinho.
Liverpool had most of the ball, as expected, and a mishit Federico Fernandez allowed James Milner to take a low shot saved by Karl Darlow in the 16th minute.
The Magpies countered and Wilson played DeAndre Yedlin into the right side of the 18 for a shot Andy Robertson deflected out for a corner.
Newcastle was happy to keep Liverpool wide and hope for counterattacks, and Jacob Murphy missed the net with a curling effort for the hosts in the 33rd minute.
Mohamed Salah got a 1v1 break when he broke Newcastle’s line but Darlow got a piece of the Egyptian’s shot to concede a corner.
Newcastle had a spell of possession before halftime, and Murphy’s low left-footed shot was comfortably saved by Alisson Becker.
A sloppy 42nd minute forced a terrific sliding clearance out of Yedlin in what looked to be a surefire chance for the Reds to go ahead.
Darlow made a second terrific save on a Firmino stoppage-time header that was nodded hard but a bit too central.
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Yedlin led an attack and drew a yellow card from Fabinho in the 49th minute.
Free kicks and corners came for both teams, with Mane nodding one of the latter off the outside of the netting at the near post. Darlow appeared to have it covered.
Firmino sent Salah through on call but the Egyptian failed to swerve his shot inside the far post, keeping it scoreless with 24 minutes left in the 90.
The Liverpool pressure ramped up further, and the Reds were in their best form of the day when Federico Fernandez’s two-footed slide deprived Salah of a shot in the 72nd.
Alisson and Darlow traded amazing saves in the final quarter-hour, the Liverpool backstop making a two-handed diving save on a Ciaran Clark header and Darlow stymying Mane.