Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Newcastle United v Liverpool in the Premier League at St. James’ Park…
WHEN Nick Pope lashes himself down and makes a divvy of himself, if I started this piece then, I would have said…
Delightful that, Reds.
I would have said:
Better side, Reds. By far the better side.
That was true. The sending off changed the game. If the keeper doesn’t do what he does Liverpool probably make it 3. They then make it 5. But the keeper does the mad thing and he is unlucky and wrong and it goes from there.
Their goalkeeper is of course unlucky to get himself sent off. He didn’t make a wild challenge or start a fight. He made a rubbish error and no one will be more cross with him than himself. Pope is a good goalie and whilst it’s an absolutely correct sending off, there should be no bitterness. He will be furious, but he should write it off as the mad stuff that happens.
Liverpool have been dealing with more than the mad stuff that happens. Liverpool have lacked confidence, direction, shape and purpose. Putting that right was never a five minute job. Beating Everton and their new survival of the fittest manager was a step – a big step – but we needed to make strides in one of the most challenging of environments.
The opening twenty tonight doesn’t just see us keep a clean sheet. It sees us score two. And not two chancy goals out of nowhere. Our passing is fine and Núñez blasts his in on the tenth minute from a sterling Trent Alexander-Arnold assist. Núñez shakes his fists at the world as if to say, see, I told you I would do this. And then just seven minutes later, Cody Gakpo realises a Mo Salah moment of creativity and our new boys let joy be unconfined. Yes, reds. A clean sheet, again. Two goals, again.
The better side. The better side.
Then the red. Then the weirdness.
Whilst Virgil Van Dijk’s return is so welcome, and he looks strong and confident, our defending in the second half leaves a fair bit to be desired. We see phases of the messy shape that has plagued Liverpool. Henderson is getting his head around managing a different set of players, and whilst Fabinho puts in a strong performance, Liverpool have space to grow into this new team. Old and young alike are still learning what and who to expect. Passing is much much better, but you wonder if everyone might have raised their game further had Newcastle’s full compliment of players remained on the pitch.
Newcastle themselves do not give in. Saint-Maximin doesn’t let up and Allison is our most crucial player in the second half, arguably, arguably the 90.
The most joyous player though is Trent Alexander-Arnold. He is amongst the finest footballers on the planet. He is the very best. And he is from by ours. You’ve never seen a smarter player in your whole life. He’s the best of us.
But still, it is delightful to see a confident Liverpool. It is delightful to see smiles on faces. It is delightful to see new players score and finding out where they fit in. It is delightful to do the double over a strong Newcastle team.
The manager has to look at them and see the chances to build on this. New look midfield and attacking line-ups are emerging and it is not bad at all tonight. There will be shaky moments, and tactically speaking, Liverpool have much work to do to be able to respond to games, as well as take our chances, but filling the confidence hole that was at the pit of our stomach was a good place to begin. Back to back wins in the league helps. Big challenge ahead on Tuesday. Keep going Reds.
Delightful that regardless. A second half chat. A certainty Liverpool are alright.
A delight. They aren’t perfect The Reds. But that is when I love them the most. They, you, and the travelling Reds will do for me.
You feel alive? I hope so. You aren’t alone. However difficult you have found it, however hard it is, you aren’t alone.
We’re alive, Liverpool. Who knew. It was a pleasure to see you.