Philippe Coutinho fired the Reds into the lead in spectacular style with a stupendous long-range effort before Joselu equalised in hugely fortunate circumstances, his goal coming after Joël Matip played the ball off the Newcastle striker.
Liverpool dominated possession in the second-half but were unable to break down Newcastle’s stubborn resistance as the home players ran their socks off to earn a hard-fought point for Rafael Benítez against his former side.
The result leaves Liverpool seventh, having picked up 12 points from seven games, while Newcastle are two points and two places behind them.
Here, Football Whispers analyses the five major tactical takeaways from Sunday’s game.
NEWCASTLE EXTREMELY WELL DRILLED
You would expect no less from a Rafael Benítez side. The Spanish manager clearly used his tactical nous, years of experience and methods on the training pitch to stifle his former employers, giving each player detailed instructions to follow whenever Liverpool had possession, which was most of the time.
After getting the equaliser in the first-half, Benítez sent his players out in the second-half to frustrate Liverpool, and it worked. When the Reds had the ball, they were met with two solid banks of four that were compact, narrow and positionally astute.
When the ball went wide, Liverpool were constantly met with the energetic duo of Matt Ritchie – Sky Sports’ Man of the Match – and Christian Atsu, while DeAndre Yedlin did his best to keep close tabs on Coutinho, the most elusive player on the pitch. At times Coutinho, operating from a deeper position, was forced to go back when faced with Newcastle’s pressing.
The only time Newcastle were guilty of not sticking to the task was allowing Coutinho to shoot from distance for the opener.
Newcastle continued their structured pressing throughout the game, like below when Jordan Henderson is given no time on the ball and misplaces his pass.
LIVERPOOL’S DEFENCE EXPOSED AGAIN
Newcastle didn’t create much in the way of clear-cut chances, but it only required one simple pass straight down the middle to slice open Matip and Dejan Lovren as Joselu ran through to score.
Firstly, Matip and Lovren were too far apart and, with space in between them, the former Stoke City striker seized his opportunity, being picked out by Jonjo Shelvey before punishing Liverpool’s slack defending.
It’s textbook defending: two centre-halves simply shouldn’t be beaten by a straight ball across the ground and it exposed Liverpool’s lack of organisation which cost them dearly.
It’s now been seven games in all competitions since Liverpool kept a clean sheet, but the nature of the goals they are conceding will anger Klopp. Immediate remedial action is essential with Manchester United coming to Anfield after the international break.
SHELVEY PROVES CREATIVE EDGE
In his post-match interview with Sky Sports, Shelvey said he needed to ‘earn back his manager’s trust,” but with decisive contributions like his assist on Sunday, he’s doing all the right things.
At 25, Shelvey should already have rid himself of those crazy moments like the one against Spurs but, against his former team, he was solid, industrious and, crucially, he made a difference going forward.
Shelvey’s creative spark was preferred to the hard-running Isaac Hayden in the centre, and it paid off, as he had the vision to spot Joselu’s run and the technique to find him for the equaliser. On top of that, Shelvey completed more long balls than any of his teammates, with five, illustrating how his range of passing can be key in starting attacks.
Shelvey is unquestionably one of Newcastle’s best passers of the ball and, if he keeps himself fit and free of indiscipline, his creativity can be a real asset for Benítez this season.
INEFFECTIVE HENDERSON SHOULD BE DROPPED
It wasn’t the greatest day for Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson. Operating as the deepest of Liverpool’s three central midfielders, the England international was mostly futile in his attempts to find Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, mostly because his lifted pass didn’t give the pair much of a chance when they faced an aerial battle with Jamaal Lascelles or Ciaran Clark.
Henderson failed to create a chanced against Newcastle, or register a single shot. He also failed to win four out of his six tackles. His performance was ripped to shreds by angry Liverpool fans on Twitter, who drew attention to the perception that Henderson doesn’t provide the two defenders with enough of a shield.
Someone tell Henderson that Salah and Mane are tiny, he's lofting balls into the box to them since the start of the season.
— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) October 1, 2017
Whereas a dedicated defensive midfielder like Lucas Leiva would have provided a stable foundation deep in midfield, Henderson lacks the spatial awareness to play there week in, week out.
Beyond Henderson, though, Georginio Wijnaldum was also singled out for a poor performance. His second-half stats make for worrying reading if you’re a Liverpool a fan, failing to create a chance, win a tackle, win an aerial duel or make an interception.
With Emre Can certainly doing enough so far this season to stake his claim to a regular starting berth, it would be surprising to see both Wijnaldum and Henderson starting together against United.
SALAH DANGEROUS IN NUMBER 10 ROLE
Mohamed Salah may have squandered a chance to win the game, but he was far from Liverpool’s worst player at St James’ Park. In fact, he was rather good. In full flight, the Egyptian winger is an utter joy to watch and, on another day, he may well have been the difference between the two sides.
Salah started on the right and was an effective outlet on the counter for the visitors. In just the third minute, Salah raced up the pitch, laid it off to Mané and was left frustrated when his teammate’s return lagged behind him.
However, when Klopp switched to a 4-2-3-1 with Salah operating as the number ten, Newcastle couldn’t get near him. The former Chelsea and Roma playmaker had the vision and quick-thinking to supply Daniel Sturridge from that position.
On one occasion, he clipped an inviting through ball over the defence for Sturridge to run onto. If it hadn’t been for some courageous goalkeeping by Rob Elliot, Sturridge would have had a clear chance to score. A minute later, Salah again fed the striker, but he was rightly flagged for offside even though he was looking right across Newcastle’s back-line.
Those were two examples of how Salah can open up defences when he plays centrally, dropping into pockets of space and spotting runners in behind. It may well give Klopp something to think about ahead of the United game.