Jurgen Klopp endured an all-too familiar afternoon full of frustration as his Liverpool side were held to a draw against a disciplined and well-organised Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon.
Liverpool started off firmly on the front foot, with Georginio Wijnaldum striking the post on return to his former club, before Philippe Coutinho broke the deadlock with a sublime effort from 25-yards.
But their defensive frailties reared its head again when ex-Liverpool man Jonjo Shelvey found Joselu’s run with a superb defence-splitting ball and, with a huge slice of luck, Joel Matip’s recovery challenge deflected the ball back onto the Spaniard’s shin and past a despairing Simon Mignolet.
Klopp’s side picked up their dominance again after the break but they failed to carve out too many meaningful chances on goal, and the Magpies defended excellently to see out a well-deserved draw.
17 – Philippe Coutinho strikes from distance again
Where would Liverpool be without Philippe Coutinho?
After inspiring his side to a win on the road at Leicester City last weekend, the Brazilian turned on the style once again at St James’ Park as his excellent first-half strike secured a point for Liverpool.
It came in typical Coutinho fashion, working a yard of space by shifting the ball onto his right foot before unleashing a trademark hit right into the top corner, giving Rob Elliot no chance in the goal.
In doing so it signaled the 17th goal that he’s scored from outside of the penalty area since arriving at Anfield back in January 2013, a number that no other Premier League player can match.
With Sadio Mane, Daniel Sturridge and Mohamed Salah misfiring on Sunday the onus was on the Brazilian to conjure up a moment of magic, and he duly obliged in a typically brilliant way to bail his side out again – and Liverpool fans will be delighted he’s returned to form after his summer saga.
82 – Where’s the clinical edge?
Whilst Coutinho was adding another long-range effort to his already impressive highlights reel for the season, boss Jurgen Klopp would have left St James’ Park with a harrowing sense of déjà vu.
The Reds had 68% of the possession on Sunday, reflecting their pure dominance of the match, and they managed to get 17 shots away on goal but once again they failed to find that definitive impact.
Of these 17 shots only two were on target – with one being Coutinho’s goal – and for a Liverpool side that have aspirations of challenging for the Premier League title this year this simply isn’t good enough, particularly against a newly-promoted side who are still finding their feet in the top-flight.
Despite having the likes of Mane, Salah, Roberto Firmino and Coutinho in their ranks they’ve truly struggled to be clinical, and since beating Arsenal 4-0 they’ve had 82 shots and scored just five times.
Klopp re-jigged his team after the mid-week draw away at Spartak Moscow and brought Daniel Sturridge back into the fold but even he couldn’t find a way through, and there’s growing concerns at Anfield.
7 – Liverpool short-comings all too clear
If you’re Jurgen Klopp you must be tearing your hair out and wondering what you can do after yet another calamitous moment in defence cost Liverpool the chance to win three points at Newcastle.
The hosts had offered very little in an attacking sense during the opening 35 minutes – and they offered very little after – but a lapse of concentration allowed Joselu to steal in and find the net.
What Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip were doing leaving such a big gap in between them is anyone’s guess but it allowed Jonjo Shelvey to play a defence-splitting through ball to the Spaniard, who timed his run expertly, and it was almost comical how Matip’s tackle deflected the ball into the net.
It was all too easy for Newcastle and it’s now seven games without a clean sheet for Liverpool in all competitions – and it certainly won’t get any easier with Manchester United arriving in town next.
15 – Budding midfield partnership for Newcastle United
A lot of credit has to be heaped on Newcastle United and manager Rafael Benitez for how they went about the match, with the Magpies putting in an exceptional display of organisation and discipline.
Right at the heart of their efforts was the midfield duo of Jonjo Shelvey and Mikel Merino, a combination that Newcastle supporters have been dying to see since the start of the new season.
Their completely contrasting playing styles seemed to work against Liverpool, with Shelvey sitting deeper and protecting his back-line whilst Merino – signed on a season-long loan from Borussia Dortmund during the summer window – has a more attacking intent and looks to get into opposition territory.
The duo made four tackles, three interceptions, two clearances and six blocks between them in an excellent rear-guard effort to repel the visitors and they rarely left gaps open for the Reds to exploit.
They showed an excellent sense of positioning too, particularly to handle the movement of Liverpool’s attacking options, and perhaps more pertinent than anything they managed to keep their focus superbly throughout the 90 minutes – shown by Shelvey’s nerveless clearance off the line under pressure.
It was their first full match playing together and boss Benitez would have no doubt been impressed with what he saw, and it’ll now be interesting to see if he persists with them after the international break.