If Newcastle United are to remain in the Premier League then this point (which felt like a win) may well prove crucial. It says it all that some fans will be disappointed we didn’t beat the European Cup semi-finalists on Tuesday and slightly disappointed we didn’t take that opportunity here after a rousing second half comeback. We have given ourselves a chance, and let’s be honest that looked highly unlikely after dispiriting performances against Sunderland and Southampton. If they were dispiriting then the loss to Norwich was potentially catastrophic. Yet, we have shown spirit, fight and let’s be honest, the improvement has coincided with this manager cajoling and educating this bunch of potentially very talented players into a cohesive unit. The sight of him stood on the side-lines actively coaching and organising the side is a joy to see.
The bright sunshine and revival of sorts brought a healthy (in spirit, not in physicality) of Mags down to the North West and there was a feeling of renewed optimism that Newcastle United would manage another step on the route to the great escape. That optimism was dashed within the first 2 minutes as a free-kick was given away just inside our half. The ball was floated in and an odd high line was caught out. Paul Dummett and Lascelles only showed Sturridge onto his left hand side and he duly hit the net. He hadn’t made the cleanest contact and Darlow was a touch flat-footed; all-in-all it was an horrendous goal to give away. The first half was beginning to show our weaknesses being likely to be exposed further as the gap between the midfield and the unfairly derided Cisse was huge.
We duly went further behind when we were caught out in midfield, with some sharp passing seeing the ball arrive at the feet of Adam Lallana who curled the ball into the roof of the net. It was a good move but again, their high press had caught us in possession and the turnover cost us. I may be being harsh here again but should a top keeper have gotten closer to that effort? It wasn’t in the corner and it wasn’t smashed in. The half was drawing to a close when we had a penalty shout. My immediate reaction was penalty, and having watched it again this morning it looked like one. Opinion is divided on this one but the lad didn’t play the ball. Mind, most ref’s would have given the Tiote one later on so I suppose we can say he was consistent.
At half-time I think most of the away contingent would have been thrilled with a point but what we saw was a sensational comeback from where we were and players stood up to be counted. Gini replaced the frankly shattered and physically out of his depth, Perez and we immediately looked a more fluid team. Perez should be playing 21s football and coming in at the end of a good season for experience. It says it all that he’s played as many games as he has. New centre forward anyone? Just 4 minutes after the break some good link up play between the outstanding Townsend, the far superior to Janmaat, Anita and Sissoko culminated in the little Dutchman swinging the ball across the box, arcing away from Mignolet. Papiss Cisse watched the ball, the keeper flapped and our Senegalese striker nodded us back into the game and gave the hope back to the frankly tremendous away following.
We sensed Liverpool could be on the ropes a bit and flagging after a busy couple of weeks with more important
engagements coming up. The indomitable Tiote tussled and harried, Colback mopped up and played sensibly, the back 4 defended for their lives and at their maximum capabilities, Cisse ran their back 4 around and Townsend was quick, industrious and a huge threat. Gini, who changed the game sprung on the break and played a slide-rule pass to Cisse, but the pass was a touch behind him, he took a poor first touch and with hearts in mouths in the Anfield Road end of the ground, he dallied too long finishing with Townsend skying the ball into The Kop. The common consensus was that could have been a big moment. Yet we weren’t giving up without a fight.
Just after the hour we broke again with pace, power and unlike under McClaren with an idea of what we were trying to do. Townsend turned Moreno inside and out and his dinked-in ball was headed partially clear by Lovren to the onrushing Colback who hit a shot which deflected in off Lovren. It took a moment to register that we’d scored from the other end of the ground, but delirium was soon the order of the day. Only the past experience of following this club hung as a weight to stop us winning now and despite Liverpool’s aforementioned penalty shout and a rightly disallowed goal the feeling was we can win this. Ultimately we ran out of steam but defended stoutly and resolutely earning what looked an improbable point at 3:45.
This is all Newcastle United fans expect; effort, application and a desire to sweat for the shirt. We don’t expect trophies (hell we never win them anyway and haven’t for most fans’ lives) and we don’t expect to be top of the league. Let’s be honest if we could bottle this second half here there’d be no wringing of hands at football matches involving Newcastle United. It’s a shame we haven’t had this consistently for the previous 34 games. Let’s keep the faith and not live to regret giving this manager more time this season to save us. He could be the key to a future none of us have experienced in the past.
Newcastle United: Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett, Tiote (Shelvey 83), Colback, Townsend, Sissoko, Perez (Wijnaldum 46), Cisse (Mitrovic 75).
Subs: De Jong, Aarons, Woodman, Mbabu.
DAVID X SMITH
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