Sunday, 20 October 2013

Reds held by ten-man Toon

You know it's been a disappointing match when an away draw feels like a dismal defeat.

There is no doubt Liverpool should have beaten Newcastle United yesterday lunchtime. Our recent record against them has been impressive- the Reds had won 10 of their previous 14 Premier League games against the Geordies- and, after the ascendancy was handed to us on a plate just before half time when Mbiwa saw red for fouling Suarez and Gerrard notched his 100th League goal from the spot, there was little excuse for failing to go on and claim all three points.

As it turned out, the Merseysiders failed to capitalise on the situation and Newcastle, to their credit, fought valiantly to earn a well deserved point, which they could have even conceivably converted into three but for the brilliance of Liverpool's famed SAS.

Right from the off, the Reds didn't appear to be at the races. With players like Gerrard, Sturridge and Suarez perhaps suffering from fatigue after some important international fixtures and others, namely Glen Johnson and Aly Cissokho, playing for the first time since injury, Rodgers' side lacked the sharpness and dynamism that has characterised their first half displays this season. Meanwhile, the hosts seemed intent on building on their 2-1 victory at Cardiff last time out and performed significantly better than they did earlier on in the campaign.

Despite taking seemingly countless corners, the visitors weren't able to profit from them and it was Newcastle who opened the scoring midway through the first half. Yohan Cabaye, who was vilified in the summer by the Geordie faithful after pining for a move away from the North East, went some way to winning back their affection when he somehow managed to strike past Mignolet and into the bottom corner from a ridiculous range.

Mignolet perhaps should have dealt with Cabaye's effort better
Admittedly the ball bounced awkwardly just in front of him, but I can't help feeling Mignolet should have done better.

Sakho nearly responded immediately for Liverpool, stooping to direct his header over the bar when he perhaps should have at least hit the target, but Newcastle retained their momentum and went close to doubling their lead. First, Cabaye blasted just wide before Moussa Sissoko hammered an effort on target, forcing Mignolet to make a smart stop.

The Magpies squandered their momentum four minutes before the interval, though, when last man Mbiwa fouled Suarez as he was rushing through on goal and was inevitably and correctly sent off by referee Andre Marriner, despite the vociferous protests of the Newcastle players. Captain fantastic Steven Gerrard predictably kept his cool and calmly converted the resulting penalty to bag his 100th League goal.

Gerrard's 100th League goal was supposed to be the start of Liverpool's supremacy
At that point many spectators envisaged Liverpool going on to dominate the second half, taking advantage of their extra man and the level scoreline to net further and comfortably collect all three points. Unfortunately, it didn't quite go to plan. Instead, the Merseysiders continued their irritating habit of poor second half performances and remained sluggish, only really coming to life when they were shocked into action by Paul Dummett unexpectedly regaining the lead for the Geordies.

When Dummett found the back of the net moments before the hour mark, it was in large part due to some shoddy defending from Sakho and Cissokho from a free kick. Failing to emulate their defensive teammate Skrtel, who had only minutes earlier crucially intervened to prevent Remy going through on goal, the French pair failed to clear the ball into the box and Dummett ghosted in behind them to connect at the back post and guide the ball beyond Mignolet.

Thankfully, at the other end of the pitch Suarez and Sturridge saved the day, combining to equalise on 71 minutes. Moses did well to find the number seven, who clipped the ball across the box to Sturridge and the England international headed into an open net with little difficulty from yards out.

Suarez set up the Reds' second equaliser
Suarez then smashed against the cross bar as Liverpool threatened further, monopolising possession and dominating during the closing stages but ultimately failing to break down the stubborn Barcodes. Luis Suarez had the chance to clinch a last gasp winner with literally the last kick of the match but frustratingly Krul dealt with his free kick from the edge of the area to deny the Uruguyuan.

After Newcastle surrendered the driving seat and handed control of the contest to Liverpool, it is deeply frustrating that we didn't go on to punish the hosts and win the match comfortably, which is what we should have done. Taking a step back, though, and looking at the bigger picture, a point at St James' Park isn't disastrous. Alan Pardew's men can trouble any opponents on their day and few will find a trip to Tyneside easy.

At this point in the campaign, even after this disappointing draw, there are far more reasons for Liverpool fans to be optimistic than for them to be pessimistic and, if the Reds can remain in the top four ten matches into the Premier League season, Kopites' cups will be more than half full.


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