“Title contenders win games like this” – How the papers reacted to Newcastle 2-0 Liverpool

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Newcastle beat a below-par Liverpool 2-0 on Sunday afternoon, and we round-up how the morning newspapers reacted to the game.

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 6, 2015: Liverpool's dejected players James Milner, Martin Skrtel, Lucas Leiva and Dejan Lovren after the 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United during the Premier League match at St. James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After so much positivity in recent weeks, the Reds were given a reality check by Steve McClaren’s side at St James’ Park.

Jurgen Klopp suffered his first away defeat as Liverpool manager, and his team just never got going at any point on Tyneside.

Martin Skrtel’s own goal and Georginio Wijnaldum‘s late strike gave Newcastle victory, and although the Reds were unlucky to have an Alberto Moreno goal ruled out for offside, they never deserved anything from the game.

Here’s how Monday’s newspapers reacted to the match:

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 6, 2015: Liverpool's Christian Benteke misses a chance against Newcastle United during the Premier League match at St. James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Neil Jones of the Liverpool Echo was critical of Christian Benteke’s performance, with the Belgian enduring a bay day at the office:

It was another frustrating afternoon for Liverpool’s £32.5m man. Anonymous in the first half – though he did find time to waste a very good chance during it – Benteke was replaced just 16 minutes into the second. It was no surprise.

There’s a dilemma brewing here. Liverpool, clearly, are a different side with the Belgian than without.

Benteke, it appears, has neither the speed nor the movement to play the kind of combination football we have seen from the Reds of late.

His skillset requires a different type of game, and with Liverpool having perfected a pacy, counter-attacking style away from home in recent weeks, here they looked uncomfortable trying to adapt. They knew they could look long, but didn’t appear to have a plan once they did.

Louise Taylor of the Guardian was also unimpressed with Benteke, as well as James Milner, and believed the Reds missed key players:

Liverpool lacked end product. So much so that a close-range miss on Christian Benteke’s part and a shot, curled just over, by Ibe represented the sum of their first-half threat. Perhaps it was a little bit of complacency, a sense that their mere presence on the pitch would be sufficient to beat Newcastle, but collectively they rarely matched Klopp’s dynamism in the technical area.
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In mitigation, the injury that sidelined Philippe Coutinho and the physical fragility that ensured Daniel Sturridge began on the bench hardly helped the Liverpool cause on a day when their manager experimented with a flexible version of 4-4-2.

Granted this configuration was sufficiently fluid to frequently morph into a more familiar 4-3-3 but generally it seemed designed to deploy Ibe and James Milner as orthodox wingers, with a brief to attack Dummett and Daryl Janmaat. This might have been all right in theory but, not for the first time, Milner proved why he is much better deployed as a central midfielder. Meanwhile, without Coutinho and Sturridge around, Benteke looked a little lost – and very ordinary.

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 6, 2015: Liverpool's goalkeeper Simon Mignolet looks dejected as Newcastle United score the second goal during the Premier League match at St. James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Telegraph‘s Luke Edwards felt Liverpool lacked the ruthlessness to be considered potential champions, and is unsure whether Klopp’s relentless style will always be achievable:

Title contenders need to win games like this, even when they are playing badly, something Klopp nodded to in his post-match observations.

If Klopp is going to turn Liverpool into a team capable of winning the league, there is still much to be done and it could even require a slight change in approach from their charismatic new manager.

The first query is whether his high-octane, lung-bursting pressing game can always be deployed twice in the space of a few days in the Premier League. No league is more physically demanding and although he rested Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana on the bench, while Emre Can was ruled out, Liverpool looked jaded and with it unimaginative.

[…]

The second is whether these Liverpool players have the mentality of champions or whether they only raise their game against the glamorous names.

In his ESPN player ratings, David Usher felt Alberto Moreno was a rare bright spark for the Reds, but Brazilians Lucas Leiva and Roberto Firmino struggled:

Moreno- The only player in red to perform to an above-average level. Got forward well and was robbed of what would have been a brilliant equaliser by an incorrect offside decision from the linesman.

Lucas- Put a simple pass straight out of play to end a good spell of Liverpool pressure in the opening couple of minutes and that set the tone for his performance. Picked up his customary booking and although he was marginally better in the second half, this is a game he’ll want to forget.

Firmino- Did absolutely nothing and was rightly subbed off after an hour. He was fortunate to last as long as he did and he has completely failed to build on that brilliant display at Manchester City a few weeks ago.

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 6, 2015: Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge looks dejected as Newcastle United score the second goal during the Premier League match at St. James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Finally, James Pearce of the Echo bemoaned both the defeat and the performance, adding that the result acts as a real momentum-killer for Liverpool:

Liverpool have made a habit of springing surprises since Jurgen Klopp’s appointment. Kopites watched in astonishment as the Reds ran riot against Manchester City.

There was wonderment when they came from behind to stick six past Southampton at St Mary’s. But this was the biggest shock of the lot as the Klopp inspired revival ground to a demoralising halt.

After the dizzy heights of recent weeks, Liverpool crashed back down to earth at St James’ Park. Momentum has been squandered.

[…]

This was a bewildering performance from Liverpool. Everything that has been so impressive about them under Klopp was lacking in the North East. There was no spark, no tempo, no rhythm, no intensity, no quality.

Standards slipped across the board as talk of mounting a Premier League title challenge was silenced.

> Benteke a problem, Ibe lacks end product, Reds waste opportunity: 5 Talking points from Newcastle 2-0 Liverpool

> Newcastle 2-0 Liverpool: Player Ratings

> “Consistently inconsistent” – Liverpool fans react to 2-0 defeat at Newcastle

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