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“Calculated selection gamble” pays off as Liverpool take steps to “a golden May”

Liverpool produced a hugely accomplished performance to win 1-0 at Newcastle on Saturday, with those in the press box hailing their impressive squad depth.

The Reds were under pressure to beat an in-form Magpies side who sat ninth in the table after Eddie Howe turned their fortunes around.

Naby Keita‘s solitary strike settled matters at St James’ Park, as Jurgen Klopp‘s side dug deep to pick up a precious three points and go top of the Premier League.

Here’s a look at how the media reacted to Liverpool’s victory.

 

It felt like an enormous win for the Reds…

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 30, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St James' Park. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rob Draper of the Daily Mail hailed the gritty nature of Liverpool’s victory:

“They got there in the end. And when the final whistle eventually came, the embraces from Jurgen Klopp were that much more intense and tighter than usual.

Jordan Henderson and James Milner were clasped close, then on to the pitch he marched he threw his arm around Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, smiling that broad grin. There was a special moment for Naby Keita, goal-scorer and exceptional here.

“Was it joy or mainly relief? When you studied Liverpool’s fixtures, coming to a revitalised Newcastle at St James’s Park where they have won six successive games, looked the biggest hurdle. And it had been cleared.

[…]

“Klopp had played every pass and fought for every tackle on the touchline. At this stage of the season, the tension is unhealthy.”

Richard Jolly of the Independent looked back on a memorable week for Klopp’s men:

“Arguably, it has not even been Liverpool’s best week of the last fortnight, let alone the year, but by most other clubs’ standards, it would amount to a special spell on and off the pitch. A Merseyside derby victory has been followed by good news on a daily basis: a win on Wednesday gave them one foot in a Champions League final.

“Thursday brought Jurgen Klopp’s new four-year contract, Friday Mohamed Salah’s Footballer of the Year award. On Saturday, they went to the club with the second-most points in 2022 – after Liverpool themselves – and claimed three with dominant display.

“A 13th triumph in 14 league games allowed them to leapfrog Manchester City, albeit because they kicked off before their title rivals, while turning their thoughts to the rematch with Villarreal.

[…]

“Now Liverpool’s glorious April could lead to a golden May.”

The Guardian‘s Louise Taylor touched upon a pleasingly professional three points:

“It is not so long ago that Jurgen Klopp allowed Eddie Howe access all areas at Anfield as he permitted a then out-of-work colleague to shadow virtually his every move.

“Liverpool’s manager had perhaps not bargained for Howe subsequently poaching one of his key analysts, Mark Leyland, as soon as he took charge of Newcastle – or breathing so much new life into Steve Bruce’s old side that this lunchtime kick-off in the Tyneside sunshine represented an unexpected threat to the Merseysiders’ title chances.

“In reality it was not quite as tight as the scoreline might suggest, but a refreshed Liverpool XI, watched by the initially benched Mo Salah and Thiago Alcântara, were still made to work hard for a win which not only maintains the pressure on Manchester City but ended Newcastle’s record-equalling run of six straight home victories.”

 

There was much praise for the excellent Keita…

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 30, 2022: Liverpool's Naby Keita celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Nathan Ridley of the Mirror lavished the Guinean with praise:

“With some of Liverpool’s big-name stars on the bench, not many would’ve expected Keita to be the replacement who made the biggest impact, but his opening goal after 20 minutes vindicated Klopp’s rotation.

“After a strong challenge from Milner on Fabian Schar that was deemed legal by VAR, the ball fell to Jota, who laid in Guinea international Keita on the right of the penalty area.

“From there, the 27-year-old midfielder went on a mazy solo run between a load of black and white shirts before slotting home past Martin Dubravka with his left foot.

“Having scored his two other Premier League goals this season in emphatic wins against Manchester United and Crystal Palace, Keita’s third of the campaign will go down as by far his most important.”

This Is Anfield‘s Mark Delgado loved what he saw from ‘Naby Lad’:

“It has taken a long time – too long let’s be honest – to see this level of Naby Keita performance on a regular basis, uninterrupted by injury, management of physicality or any other reason.

“Right now though, he’s pretty much just the joint-third midfielder along with Hendo, given Thiago and Fab are stand-outs and shoe-ins and all the other words which make them must-start in every notable fixture.

“Against Newcastle he wasn’t just the match-winner, he was continually the difference-maker: the player who blocked off Saint-Maximin’s dribbles, the one who surged with the counter-press, the individual who filled spaces in both halves of the pitch on and off the ball…and, yes, the only one who kept his composure at a critical moment.”

The Independent‘s Karl Matchett was impressed with how Keita stood tall on a big day:

“Keita’s composure in rounding Dubravka and beating the defenders on the line was matched by his tenacity in ball-winning, tracking Allan Saint-Maximin and being the Reds’ frequent initial out-ball in counter-pressing moments.

“The No.8 has enjoyed his best run of form and involvement since joining the Reds over the last two-and-a-half months or so.

“Finally appearing to be over his regular fitness concerns and absences, he has dovetailed with Jordan Henderson for the third midfield spot with regularity, though both started on this occasion as it was instead the two guaranteed starters – Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara – who started on the bench and came on later.”

 

This is surely the best Liverpool squad of all time…

2J6BM3T Liverpool's Naby Keita (centre) celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game with team-mates Andrew Robertson (left) and Luis Diaz (right) during the Premier League match at St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne. Picture date: Saturday April 30, 2022.

The manner in which Klopp is rotating his squad was lauded by Delgado:

“Whatever about the individual players – how about the boss’ constant use of them?

“It’s a fine balance to strike at the best of times between the best side and the fittest one, keeping those in-form in the team and resting those who need a break at the right time.

“Now, though, every single match counts. There’s no scope to take gambles or get the big calls wrong, yet all those on the fringes of the team have to be kept engaged, sharp, ready to be called upon with the right mentality.

“Klopp and his coaches have handled this situation superbly so far and there’s no reason to think that will change.

“Everyone wants to be involved and there might be disappointment when they are not, but the competition for places is working in the right way by increasing performance level and team spirit.”

And the Telegraph‘s Sam Wallace focused on those fringe players who came in and shone:

“The Premier League pursuit of Manchester City continues and for Jurgen Klopp this was a lunchtime in the north east when the calculated selection gamble of a manager chasing three trophies between now and the end of the season paid off.

[…]

“This was not one of the Klopp-era classics but it says much about the strength of the Liverpool squad that – with so much at stake – the manager was ready to go with so many of his second choices.

“Among them was James Milner, who had not started a league game this season since the visit to Stamford Bridge on January 2. For Joe Gomez, in place of Alexander-Arnold at right-back, it was a first league start since Watford on April 2.”

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