Newcastle United 1-1 Liverpool
A hard fought draw saw another happy face to face encounter to Rafa against his old Liverpool side leave his unbeaten opposition manager status remain in tact.
A fairly typical performance this season from both sides would leave most who attended St James Park happy with their lot going into the international break after a fortuitous Joselu strike late in the first half cancelled out a Coutinho stunner.
Rafa would make just two changes before the game with Manquillo and Shelvey coming in for Mbemba and Hayden - both of whom can consider themselves a tad unlucky to be dropped from the starting XI.
But the switch would pay off as it would be a lovely weighed pass from Shelvey on 36 minutes that would see Joselu go clear of the Liverpool defence before Matip’s last gasp clearance ricocheting beautifully off the Spaniards shin and into the unguarded Reds goal.
STARTING XI: Elliot, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Manquillo, Shelvey, Merino (Hayden, 74), Ritchie, Perez (Diame, 91), Astu, Joselu (Gayle, 79)
Liverpool would, as expected, dominate possession throughout but Rafa would be cute with his tactics.
It would have been easy to adopt nothing but ‘park the bus and hit them on the break mentality’ but our boss would have other ideas. Or at least a version of this theme that would serve to nullify some of the Reds threat.
In Yedlin and Manquillo Newcastle had pace not just in defence but going forward too, using this to repeatedly probe the Liverpool back line and forcing their full backs to tend to their duties more than they’d perhaps hoped.
It wouldn’t stop the visitors from having the best from the early exchanges through. One goal mouth scramble, a chance for Sturridge and a break from Salah, brilliantly cleared by Yeldin with the Liverpool man racing clear.
It would take a wonder strike from Coutinho to break the deadlock. Picking up the ball in midfield and cutting in from the left flank he unleashed a right foot shot that would give Elliot no chance.
Such is the spirit of this team in recent times you knew there would be a reaction. And it was Shelvey, back in the first eleven, who provided it. Collecting the ball on the half way line his look up and beautifully weighted ball would send Joselu clean through.
Like every fan we watched on a the big Spaniard nervously bore down on goal, he never looked like scoring. Joel Matip it would be who would catch our man before he could pull the trigger but, just when we needed a little luck, the Liverpool centre half would only kick the ball onto he shins of Joselu with both players and Mignolet watching on as the ball tricked into the unguarded net.
1-1 on 36 minutes, with Liverpool holding their lead for just seven minutes.
Liverpool’s problem for a little while now has been an inability to kill teams off. And so it would prove again. Despite having 68% possession the visitors just couldn’t find a way past a stubborn Newcastle defence, and on the rare occasion they did Elliot was equal to whatever they could throw at him.
Newcastle for their part had a good go themselves to find a winner. Our 5 shots on target to their 2 tells it’s own story whilst the work ethic of our lads told another.
Man of the match Matt Ritchie being just one example having covered more ground than anyone as the lads saw the game out.
An excellent performance all in all. Definitely a point gained this one.