There were some solid if not spectacular performances as Liverpool kept pace with Man City, defeating a poor Newcastle side.
Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle
Premier League, Anfield
December 16, 2021
Goals: Jota 21′, Salah 25′, Alexander-Arnold 87; Shelvey 7′.
Alisson – 7 (out of 10)
Didn’t move for Shelvey’s long-range strike as it sailed past him into the corner. Maybe a combination of surprise that Thiago gave the ball away and players blocking his view of the shot.
Made an important stop the next time Thiago gave the ball away, thwarting Allan Saint-Maximin.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8 (Man of the Match)
An important tackle in the second half prevented Ryan Fraser from having a clear shot at goal. It was a risky moment but one in which he just managed to get a touch on the ball.
Even more important was his goal to seal the victory for Liverpool, and what a goal it was, rifling one past Dubravka from distance.
Joel Matip – 7
Given the nature of the game and Liverpool’s dominance of possession, Matip became an extra midfielder, and was the best midfielder in the team in the first half.
His low, precise passes to forwards were one of the most effective methods of breaking through Newcastle’s lines of defence.
Ibrahima Konate – 7
Had a good chance to score when he found himself in acres of space at a corner, but headed wide despite having plenty of time to pick a spot.
Was called upon on several occasions to deal with the tricky Saint-Maximin, and did so well, on one occasion leaving his compatriot on the floor wondering what just hit him.
Andy Robertson – 7
A steady, reliable presence down the left even though he’s not getting as many goal contributions these days.
Was regularly around the opposition box down the left, and on another day might have had a couple of assists.
Jordan Henderson – 6
Misplaced a few through-balls and sometimes struggled positionally in the Fabinho role, as shown when he was forced to pick up a booking as he recovered.
Had more touches than any other player on the pitch as Liverpool enjoyed plenty of possession, but like the man alongside him, missed the presence Fabinho.
Thiago – 5
Looked a bit lost without Fabinho alongside him, and might have also missed Virgil van Dijk‘s communication and organisational skills as he tried to clear the ball despite being under no pressure, therefore assisting Shelvey’s opener.
You’d think he would have composed himself after that, but gave the ball away again in a dangerous situation allowing Saint-Maximin in on goal but was bailed out by Alisson on this occasion.
Played a few good long diagonal passes to Salah, and settled into the game, but in those early moments, he was Newcastle’s best player.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6
Very direct as usual, always looking to turn and pass or run forward, but was not as effective as he has been in recent games.
Ran down a few blind alleys in his attempts to drive Liverpool up the pitch, but the intent was useful.
Mohamed Salah – 8
Was full of flicks and tricks, always with purpose rather than just for show, and set up Jota and Mane for decent chances with such clever play.
When the ball fell to him after Martin Dubravka saved Mane’s shot, there was never any doubt as to the outcome.
His 15 consecutive Premier League games either scoring or assisting has equalled a record held by Jamie Vardy.
Didn’t like being subbed, but will need to be fresh for this upcoming run of games (hopefully).
Diogo Jota – 7
Eventually netted the equaliser after his initial header was stopped by Dubravka.
Prior to that, he had a couple of chances, seeing an early shot saved and also firing a left-footed effort into the side netting.
Moved to the right-wing once Salah departed, and had a good chance late on blocked by Isaac Hayden.
Sadio Mane – 6
Saw his shot saved after being presented with a chance following a stray backpass from Shelvey.
Was well positioned to take advantage in Liverpool’s counter-pressing formation, with Salah eventually tucking home the rebound.
Had a few loose touches in attacking situations, but it was his ball that led to Jota’s goal.
Naby Keita (on for Oxlade-Chamberlain, 74′) – 7
Looked like he would have been the best midfielder on the pitch had he started.
Roberto Firmino (on for Salah, 74′) – N/A
Jurgen Klopp – 8
Was forced into a couple of changes, but it did give him the chance to give some minutes to Konate who played well.
There can be no argument with his subs, and in the end it was a routine win for Liverpool, though the boss would no doubt have liked to have seen them be tidier and more ruthless in attack.
Subbing Salah, for the first time in the league this season, might have been controversial, especially with the game in the balance, but it paid off. Likely done with Sunday’s scheduled trip to Spurs in mind.