Newcastle United 0 Liverpool 1, St James’ Park, 30/Apr/22, KO: 12:30 Att: 52,281, Premier League. 

For many people this game was a marker, where are we and how much do we have to do? Based on this, the answer is closer than we thought but still some way away. The sun shone on Tyneside and made it a morning game that felt like mid afternoon. Klopp rang the changes, but the idea that this bloke is a nice guy given all the whinging he does is embarrassing. Given the riches of the last ten years at Liverpool and the money spent, they’ll be ok for a bob or two and some squad rotation. He is what he is, a manager of an elite football club, paid a lot of money to be there. Let’s not pretend he’s all about socialist principles, he’s earning millions a year!

We made no changes to the team that beat Norwich as it was clearly hoped that the same level of intensity and pressing would have the impact required. Joelinton was left of the three at the point of attack, obviously to limit the impact of Gomez down the line. Newcastle started brightly and seemed to be ok moving the ball from left to right. However, normally I expect to see us leave a foot in just to see what they do. That didn’t happen, at all. If we can’t match you for skill, let’s match you for physicality. The first real challenge of substance came from Milner. I thought it looked a foul in real time, the half-time replay showed it wasn’t and they were ahead.

From that point on the game was settling into a pattern. Newcastle were happy to sit back and counter, but also needed to spend some time pressing to keep Liverpool honest. On the right I felt Almirón was excellent at pushing and harrying Robertson but Saint Maximin had one of those games where it made you question what he is. Either he doesn’t have the appetite or desire to press, or he doesn’t have the energy, but we looked like a man down when their back four got the ball.

Willock was full of running, even Jonjo was keen to make an impression. One ball got Almirón in, he forced the keeper to fumble, then tucked it away in the Gallowgate End. Linesman raised his flag, if there was a check it was quick and then the game carried on. There was also an incident involving Joelinton where Jota ran 10 yards to get involved and start a pushing match. Both players were booked and that was a win for them. Joelinton was then not able to risk any kind of heavy tackle. Half time came to a chorus of boos for the referee but a feeling that we were in the game.

By the way,  I’m not sure if Almirón was fouled on the D just before half time, but the referee seemed absolutely certain he wasn’t, didn’t even give it a second thought. I found that odd, even if he didn’t think it was a foul, he very quickly played on.

The second half followed much the same pattern and, having not seen any replays yet (the East Stand has many things but the opportunity to watch incidents back is not one of them), it appeared the linesman closest to us had the idea that getting the flag up early was the best thing to do. I’ve no idea if he was right about them or if any were tight but they appeared quick. Burn, Almirón and Wood seemed to be close to us, but up the flag went.

ASM had a run in with Matip where the defender was extremely theatrical in his fall to the ground. Home fans weren’t happy, even less so when the game was stopped as James Milner stayed down after heading the ball from a Shelvey free kick. Schär was replaced by Lascelles which didn’t seem to rock us at the back but we weren’t soaking up pressure as well and when Willock gave way to Wood I felt we lost midfield altogether. Liverpool countered by bringing on Salah and Fabinho, they are literally playing a different game.

We offered so little up top for most of the ninety and if there was one obvious gap in the game it was that when Liverpool broke they had six or seven players, you knew all could hurt you. We had … Bruno.

I don’t want this to become a separate report but I think it is worth reminding ourselves that this team we were playing are one of the two best club sides in world football. Ten years ago Liverpool were near bankruptcy under Gillette and Hicks, now they’re funded by an American company who make sure they can buy players who are at the top of their price range. Virgil van Dijk was purchased for seventy-five million, that’s one player for our entire back four today and keeper and Shelvey and probably Willock. Seven players that cost the same as the best defender in the league.

In five or ten years time let’s compare ourselves to Liverpool. We’ve had fourteen years of underinvestment, negligence and almost football poverty. We don’t have a proper striker (no offence Chris Wood) to really threaten them with. One ball over th top got Maxi in but I’m not really sure which body part it hit, then it ended up taking him miles away from goal.

We’ve had a fantastic time since January, we happen to have two games against the two best club sides in the world back to back. We gave Liverpool a fright and Klopp was concerned enough to be making big changes in the last twenty minutes.

It’s nice to be involved in these battles again, in a year or so it would be great if we felt we entered them on equal footing.

Well done Eddie’s Mags. No shame in this.

Stephen Ord @smord84