Rafa Benitez took his Newcastle side to the place he calls home desperate to continue a mini run of form that had seen 4 points picked up from the last two fixtures including a fantastic draw against Manchester City last time out.
Not since 1995 had Newcastle won at Anfield, on that day our ginger hero was a certain Steve Watson in a 1-0 Coca Cola Cup win. Today another unlikely ginger hero would emerge, all be it to rescue a point rather then register a famous Premier League victory.
Rafa would stick with the same side that had battled so hard to take a point from City on Tuesday, with Cisse again preferred to Mitrovic up front and with Tiote and Colback continuing to keep Shelvey out of the starting eleven.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Anita, Mbemba, Lascelles, Dummett, Tiote (Shelvey), Colback, Townsend, Sissoko, Perez (Wijnaldum), Cisse (Mitrovic)
The hosts would make the best possible start to the game as, with only 65 seconds on the clock, the returning Sturridge would fire his team ahead. One long high ball to the edge of the box, one sublime control and shot on the turn, 1-0 Liverpool.
It would have been Rafa’s worst nightmare but perhaps one that he would have talk about with the players before the game as despite the early setback his team didn’t try and chase the game but instead would keep their shape and concentration with the Reds dominating possession from the first whistle.
The hosts would enjoy 66% of the ball throughout the game and their dominance with the ball would pay off again after 30 minutes when Lallana curled a delicious strike past a disappearing Darlow.
At two nil down the Newcastle team we’ve witnessed for most of the season would have normally capitulated as we had done a Palace, City and Chelsea this season. But not anymore.
What Rafa has done more than anything else is bring organisation, discipline and belief to those who wear that black and white shirt.
Going forward it was Andros Townsend who would once more show all the qualities that should certainly see him pushing for a place in the England squad this summer. First his movement would create space for Sissoko and then Anita down the Newcastle right. And it would be Anita’s high, whipped cross to the back post that would see Cisse head Newcastle back into the game. In fairness the goal, scored just into the second half, was made easy by Mignolet who had moved from his line to try and take the ball only to see Cisse out jump his man at the far post and head back over the Liverpool keeper into an empty net.
Liverpool would continue to pile forward hitting the back of the net again only to see the flag, rightly, go up against Firmino for offside. Whilst Newcastle would continue to try and hit them on the break.
And on 66 minutes the equaliser. A great jinking run from Townsend ended with a cross to Sissoko who’s challenge for the ball would drop into the path of Colback who’s strike would be deflected into the Liverpool goal.
The somewhat subdued and surprising lack of celebrations on the pitch were certainly not echoed on the terraces as the travelling black and white hordes. Newcastle would hold on for the remainder of the game to take what could be a vital point in the fight against the drop.
The point still leaves Newcastle second bottom although level on points with Sunderland and a point behind Norwich although those teams now have 2 and 1 game in hand over Newcastle respectively.
Yet again we are left to wonder where we’d be if Rafa had been with us for a few games more.
Up next Palace at home and the chance to get out of the bottom three if we were to take three points and other results go our way.