Liverpool came from behind to swat aside Newcastle as an absolute blunderbuss from Trent Alexander-Arnold helped earn a 3-1 victory.
Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle United
Anfield, Premier League
Thursday 16 December, 2021
Goals: Jota 21′, Salah 24′, Alexander-Arnold 86′; Shelvey 7′
Two steps forward, three steps back
Had to hit us sooner or later, right? As games all across the Premier League are getting called off, the Reds had three absences due to Covid – Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk and Curtis Jones.
Naturally, the hope will be for a short-term lay-off for all three, whose positive results so far are described only as “suspected”, but it’s another case for the Reds of struggling to get almost everybody available at once.
Jones and Roberto Firmino had only just made their returns to training this week, so once again it’s a case of easing one or two back into action just in time as the spaces open up and rotate.
In looking for the positives, Liverpool haven’t yet faced a situation like last year where everybody from a single area of the pitch is out, causing disruption and imbalance in other positions as a knock-on.
Jurgen Klopp is a pretty good juggler and even with our defensive behemoths out, he’ll keep finding solutions.
It must be close to sporting torture being a left-back or left-sided defender and going up against the Egyptian King these days – he’s just relentless.
We’ve reached the point where it’s actually a surprise if he doesn’t score a chance, even though such consistency is silly and unsustainable – we just expect the net to bulge.
One effort rolled wide on his right foot and another near-post strike saved bookended a predictable moment of celebration, with his strike setting us ahead.
Outside of his finishing, an outrageous first-time, outside-of-the-boot cross was delicious, several backheeled passes set free the overlapping run of a team-mate and was always, always ready to run at his man or in behind the defence.
It was undoubtedly a lower-key second half from Mo, and the team in general, but it’s now 24 goals and assists this season in 17 Premier League games – astonishing.
The goal here equalled Jamie Vardy’s record of scoring or assisting in 15 consecutive Premier League games. He breaks a record every game now.
Ibou steps up once more
Another chance for Ibrahima Konate to step up and another good performance.
It can be argued that against one of the league’s worst sides and attacks, nothing less would be expected, but it was an interesting challenge up against skillful speedster Allan Saint-Maximin.
Plenty of times he won the battle for pace, but more often he either guided the forward out into the channel or simply won the lofted clearance in the air.
Even when Saint-Maximin did evade our No5 initially, Konate was adept at getting to the second ball or positioning himself to intercept return passes to the Newcastle man.
Naturally the hope is that Van Dijk’s enforced absence isn’t a long one, but it’s reassuring to see Konate, and partner Joel Matip, performing well together.
Virgil has the Covid, but Konate provides the booster.
Trent’s rocket fires a two-team fight?
Rafa Benitez’s Everton did the Reds a pretty big favour, sneaking a late 1-1 draw at Chelsea.
Minutes later, Trent nearly broke the net with a Gerrard-style thunderbolt into the top corner, dispelling any worries that a host of earlier missed chances might come back to haunt us just like last year against this opponent.
The three goals and three points keep Liverpool just one behind Man City, but now three clear of Thomas Tuchel’s side.
It’s hardly an insurmountable tally of course, but home games are especially important to win and every game of dropped points feels like a title blow among these three incredibly consistent sides.
Covid or Christmas?
So attention turns to the weekend and our game with Tottenham – and a very real threat of the game being postponed.
Spurs’ trip to Leicester was called off, so too their game at Brighton last weekend, and they already have a Europa League fixture which they might now not get to play due to time constraints and calendar space.
The league table might quickly become fragmented and irrelevant-looking over the festive period, with teams out of sync by two or three matches, but all the Reds can do is take the three points every time they’re allowed to take the field.
A League Cup quarter-final and a home game with Leeds on Boxing Day lie beyond, plus the quickfire games either side of the New Year.
It’s a rush period which can make or break a season, so concentration, consistency and cool heads are key. Plus, hopefully, nowhere near as many injuries as we suffered around this time last year.
Recover well, Reds.