Two points lost - Newcastle reflection
Feature by Ian Salmon
Updated Tuesday, 22nd October 2013
I could talk about the endless drama that meetings between Liverpool and Newcastle provide...
...refer back to the consecutive 4-3 games that stand as highlights of the Premiership era, point at the fact that only a superb Tim Krul save prevented a last minute Suarez free kick for serving up similar scintillation.
I could. I'm not going to. I'm going to be negative and point out the fact that Liverpool threw away two points and their place at the top of the table with poor tactical choices and yet more careless defending.
This was not the Newcastle that we ran riot against at the end of last season, a 6-0 win signalling that Suarez' enforced absence might not be as disastrous as we'd thought. Today's Newcastle were a more marshalled, infinitely more organised side. Their constant pushing held Liverpool deep for long stretches in the first half, their use of the semi-fashionable 'false 9' made our employment of three centre backs seem a little superfluous even when the opposition were managing to keep 11 men on the field. When they went to 11... Well, we'll come to that.
There is a weakness in our midfield set up at the moment; our two holders are neither deep enough to protect the defence nor high enough to dictate the game. There are holes for opposing players to expose. Newcastle's first goal came from exactly such a situation; Sakho stood off the advancing Cabaye. And stood off. And stood off. Just long enough for Cabaye to decide that he might as well have a pop then.
Thirty yards, bouncing just in front of Mignolet, just enough to raise the ball over the hand that he expected to be nudging it round the post. Defensive lapse, 1-0 down.
Steven Gerrard's 100th Premier League goal, a penalty resulting from a drag back on a clearly threatening Suarez that saw Newcastle reduced to ten men, should have been the turning point; the loss of a central defender obviously meant substituting a midfielder in order to shore up the backline, Liverpool would obviously now have the space in midfield that Newcastle's previous swamping had denied.
And for a while the obvious appeared ready to happen. Liverpool were clearly set to push on and win convincingly.
Our defence, though, had other thoughts. Skrtel (otherwise impressive) conceded a needless free kick on Newcastle's left flank, a long hopeful ball floated into the area and Newcastle's substitute defender ghosted away from his marker to convert far too easily. Once again our left back had switched off at a set piece. Not Enrique this time though, the returning (debuting if we're honest, his first time doesn't count as it lasted nearly five minutes) Aly Cissokho had been excellent until this point, strong, direct, threatening as a left wing back. One lapse of concentration and we're behind again.
Rodgers finally made the decision to take his central defensive cover down to the two that it should have been for quite a while. Newcastle weren't attacking, we had three men marking nobody and lacked forward thrust. Removing your 'marquee signing' is a brave move; changing to 4-4-2 and turning Victor Moses from lost and wasteful in the centre to threatening on the left seemed obvious.
Suddenly there was energy, movement, impetus. Obviously Daniel Sturridge equalised with a header from a Suarez cross after clever interplay between Suarez and Moses. Obviously we threatened again and again. Obviously it wasn't enough.
There are days when a 2 all draw on Tyneside can be regarded as a good result. Today isn't one of those. There aren't many days when you can move back to the top of the league and feel that you have wasted a major chance. Today is one of those.
At Three O'clock, first in the table, this felt like two points dropped. Two hours later, after wins for Arsenal (can we close the goal of the season competition now, Arsenal's sublime team effort has it wrapped up) and Chelsea it feels even more so.
It's an odd season, it's wide open and becoming very obvious that anybody could end up anywhere, every match is already must win, you can't afford moments when your defence lets you down and we already have too many of those moments.
There's a long way to go, we have a team that is still learning but if we want to end where our potential dictates that we can then we need learn our lessons very quickly.
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