Liverpool defeated Newcastle 2-0 on Monday evening, as the Reds just about remain in the hunt for a top-four finish. Henry Jackson saw some standout displays on the night, but also a couple of disappointing defensive performances.
For a while, this game felt like it had the potential to be a cricket score in Liverpool‘s favour.
A dire opening by John Carver’s hapless Magpies saw the Reds opening up their defence at will, and Raheem Sterling’s excellent opener looked set to give Brendan Rodgers’ men an easy night at the office.
It didn’t quite pan out that way, however, and Anfield grew increasingly nervy after half-time, with the defence all at sea and the visitors bossing proceedings.
Joe Allen’s well-taken strike after 70 minutes, his first goal at Anfield, eased those nerves though, and Moussa Sissoko was sent-off late on to effectively put the game to bed.
Liverpool strolled to three crucial points in the end, but who impressed and who endured an off night?
Brilliance of Coutinho – again
There were several standout players for the Reds, but none shone brighter than Philippe Coutinho.
The brilliant Brazilian ran the show from start to finish, and at times appeared to be on another stratosphere to anyone else on the pitch.
Occupying a central role – the so-called ‘false 9’ position – Coutinho enjoyed seven successful dribbles, five shots and two key passes. His general vision and eye for the unpredictable were a constant joy. One audacious back-heel in the first-half was particularly outrageous.
Philippe Coutinho's game by numbers vs. Newcastle:
2 key passes
81% pass accuracy
Great display. pic.twitter.com/tMTYsBwTku
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 13, 2015
When Coutinho is in this kind of form there are not many more aesthetically pleasing players to watch in the Premier League.
Given his tender years, his consistency and decision making will only improve in the coming years. Let’s just hope his peak years are in a Liverpool shirt.
Sterling was also a constant threat for much of the game, despite a few poor finishes, while Jordan Henderson produced another influential captain’s performance in the absence of Steven Gerrard.
The news that Glen Johnson will leave Liverpool this summer has been met with ironic cheers by a number of Reds supporters, and this display will have done little to alter their opinion of him.
The 30-year-old produced an insipid performance all night long, following a rare good outing against Blackburn last week, doing very little right – although, there was no trademark cut inside and drag a shot wide with his left foot, so small positives there.
Time and time again he switched off defensively, his use of the ball was careless and lazy, and his general demeanour was not one of a player desperate to prove his worth.
Liverpool‘s defence always has a more shaky, calamitous feel to it when Johnson is playing, and sad as it may be to ridicule your own players, his imminent exit can only be a good thing for the club.
Please tell me Rodgers wasn’t serious when he said he wanted Johnson to sign a new contract?
Dejan’s Fragile Confidence
The Croatian centre-back, who many felt would solve the Reds’ defensive problems when he moved to Merseyside for big money last summer, began brightly but got increasingly worse as the game progressed and his confidence evaporated.
Lovren was extremely fortunate not to give a penalty away in the first-half, following a woefully timed challenge on Ayoze Perez, and the 25-year-old never seemed to recover from that point on.
One shockingly wayward header almost allowed Newcastle to equalise shortly after half-time, and thereafter he spread panic across the defence. Composure was lost.
So Lovren's impressive spell lasted how long?
— Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) April 13, 2015
It was also noticeable how slow the Croatian’s use of the ball was from the back, and it affected the whole tempo of Liverpool‘s performance at times.
With the criminally underrated Mamadou Sakho out injured, the Reds’ build-up play felt as ponderous as it did during the dark days of earlier in the season. There’s a reason for that: Lovren was involved in both instances.
Early on Lovren attempted long cross-field balls but it was too predictable and often off target.
It’s harsh to write off a player after just one season at a new club, but if Lovren manages to turn his Anfield career around, it will be of huge surprise to many.
Who were your best and worst Liverpool players against Newcastle? Let us know in the comments below.