A truly abysmal opening half-hour didn’t prove as costly as it looked it would as Liverpool fought back to sensationally beat Newcastle 2-1 late on.
Newcastle 1-2 Liverpool
Premier League (3), St James’ Park
August 27, 2023
Goals: Gordon 25′; Nunez 80′, 90+3′
Sent off: Van Dijk 28′
NOTE: These ratings have been edited, because for anyone who saw the original ones that were published, let’s be honest, they weren’t great…!
Alisson – 9 (out of 10)
Couldn’t stop the goal in a one-on-one but made an unbelievable stop to tip a fierce volley against the crossbar soon after as the onslaught started.
Took aerial claims well, stood up to set-play deliveries and generally kept his level, though we continue to question the goal-kicks taken into the six-yard box, especially a man light for options.
Pulled off his highest tally of saves in any Premier League game.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7
Booked within minutes for throwing the ball away after he thought he was fouled – then could have got a second just a minute later for an arm across Anthony Gordon.
Got away with it on that occasion but not the next one, as Trent miscontrolled the ball, tried to pull back Gordon again, failed at both and watched on as the winger scored.
Didn’t produce anything else of note at either end thereafter, save for a clearance at the far post.
Joel Matip – 7
Did not have a particularly good game. Yet how much blame can be attributed to the centre-back?
He hasn’t really played any meaningful minutes since February, he had a different partner within half an hour this time and had no movement or options to pass to into midfield.
In truth, hasn’t looked good enough as a third starter for well over a year, but he’ll certainly have another game now at least to get his eye in.
Virgil van Dijk – 4
Made a few decent clearances early on and looked dominant in the air, but then made a fairly inexplicable decision to tackle Alexander Isak…through him.
Got the ball, yes, but only after whacking the striker through the ankles. He’s also wrong side for the run and runs across him, rather than recovering the run.
A red card was shown but Van Dijk made the situation worse by berating the ref, refusing to initially leave the pitch and then seeming to swear at the fourth official too as he was ushered down the tunnel.
A dismal few minutes all around.
Andy Robertson – 6
Couldn’t stop crosses, connect passes or support the midfield in a poor first half. Started the second half by sending a cross-field free-kick straight to a black-and-white shirt.
Defended better against crosses afterwards but still couldn’t contain Miguel Almiron much at all.
Wataru Endo – 6
Run past a bit easily several times in the first few minutes and in all honesty was an anonymous factor once Newcastle started dominating possession.
Will need to become a lot more aggressive, a lot more agile and responsive and a lot more capable of showing his technical capabilities than we’ve seen in the opening weeks – he’s capable of it, but he needs to hit the ground running.
Alexis Mac Allister – 8
Neat, tidy, industrious. Occasionally excellent in close quarters to keep possession, but too much requirement on him still to be part ball-winner, part recovery man.
Once more ended as the defensive midfielder and his lack of speed was shown a few times with dribbling players streaking past him.
Dominik Szoboszlai -9
Sometimes looks the only player in this team playing with real direction, intent and quality.
Worked hard and kept the ball when he could, even if it wasn’t a game to see his creativity and driving forward on a regular basis.
Mohamed Salah – 7
Got through a whole lot of running across open green grass, mostly without ever getting close to the ball. Had no support and no service.
Worked hard and was selfless with his movement but we didn’t see Mo the magician as the game didn’t allow it – until stoppage time, when he played an absolutely delicious pass to split the defence and assist the winner.
Luis Diaz – 7
Had one really good, driving run where he ghosted past two players and forced Nick Pope into a save…then the only player to score in both our games this season was subbed off.
Cody Gakpo – 6
Restored to centre-forward and produced a totally anonymous showing for just under an hour.
No real goal threat or link play when we had 11; moved left wing after the red and had even less of an effect on either our defensive or attacking capabilities.
Poorly used, poorly performing.
Joe Gomez (on for Diaz, 33′) – 7
A few moments where his good defensive work was on show, but it’s hard to know whether it can be classed as genuinely good on his behalf or just by volume: some had to be decent, some not.
Got through it making enough blocks and challenges.
Harvey Elliott (on for Endo, 58′) – 7
Tried to support Salah, didn’t get too far in that regard but had a hand (or a chest) in the winner.
Diogo Jota (on for Gakpo, 58′) – 6
A couple of quick link-up play moments but little else until he played a (fairly poor) pass towards Darwin which ended up assisting the equaliser.
Jarell Quansah (on for Matip, 77′) – 7
A Reds debut for the centre-back, did very well in the circumstances.
Darwin Nunez (on for Mac Allister, 77′) – 9 – Man of the Match
So a potential club-record fee these days buys you a last-12-minutes rescue act, it seems.
Klopp doesn’t just owe him a beer, he owes him a long overdue start. Two unbelievably good finishes into the far corner.
Subs not used: Kelleher, Tsimikas, Bajcetic, Doak
Jurgen Klopp – 8
Went for Matip over Gomez in the biggest call in his lineup, with Endo’s full debut very much expected.
In reality, Matip had no trouble because Trent didn’t invert into midfield much, but the overall central alignment for the Reds continues to look atrocious.
Another big decision came his way with Van Dijk’s red card and Klopp has real questions to answer over why Diaz – two goals in two games, pace for counters, hard-working down the flank and one of the team’s few ball-carriers, ideal for being a man down – was the player sacrificed.
Considering Gakpo managed nothing other than to win a few fouls and was then subbed off himself barely 25 minutes later, it’s safe to say Jurgen got it woefully wrong – and then when Gakpo did depart, it was surely the time of game the Reds needed a presence in attack, a hold-up option, another ball-carrier.
Darwin Nunez? No. Jota came on, a predator and a hard-worker for sure, but not the outlet required.
Liverpool created next to nothing after going down to 10 men, and they hadn’t offered too much beforehand.
Set-pieces were our primary route into the box and yet Klopp opted for us to attack with the giant Salah, Elliott and Jota, plus Matip and yet-to-score Gomez. It didn’t appear well thought out.
There will be some who point to ‘being in the game’ with 10 to play and Nunez’s goals as proof of good decisions.
A red card masks obvious truths which have been on show in every game this term, plus pre-season, plus months of last year.
This midfield setup is… not… working. Forget Trent for a moment – he wasn’t in there today – it’s the off-the-ball work we’re talking about.
The aggression, the shape, the spaces, the lack of movement: it has to change and very fast if this season isn’t to become another pointless grind.
As the eventual result showed, we still have the grit and the quality to make it work, to beat decent teams, to produce magic results. We have to get it right.
Thankfully for Klopp, his in-game management masked over the inadequacies of his preferred starting tactics and formation.