Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool are left shocked by electric Newcastle

Newcastle 2-0 Liverpool

The final twist of the knife for Liverpool came in the 95th minute, when the Gallowgate End of St James' Park burst into the Beatles' "Hey Jude".

It is a song that was adopted years ago by the Newcastle support and it is aired as a symbol of pride in the region and the team.

That same end of the stadium had come more in expectation of another culling, Steve McClaren this time with his head in a noose. No one in the city of Newcastle, before a ball was kicked yesterday, foresaw what would follow; fight, energy, shape, desire.

Rarely has McClaren had so much riding on a game, not quite in terms of its importance to members of the boardroom, but more to show those fans that he can turn the tide of misery. Somewhere inside the club this week, they found spirit.

They do not wave white hankies at St James' to call out their own team's failings. Instead in every office, house, shop and bar, they dismissed their team. They spoke only of how many free-scoring Liverpool would put past their team.

Two years ago, when Alan Pardew was in charge, Newcastle conceded six at home to Liverpool. It was the worst defeat on home soil since 1925. It was felt that statistic would be revisited.

That was the starting point for yesterday's game. That was what something in the region of 48,000 Geordies expected to see. There were even muffled jeers when their captain, Fabricio Coloccini, had his name read out before kick-off. It was muted for the rest of the players.

This was breaking point. There was no hiding from that. McClaren had managed just 14 Premier League games, but the weight of failure, of exasperation, fell on his shoulders. In his words afterwards, when phrases like "brink of crisis" were used, came the admission of what was on the line.

They had not looked like a group of men you would want fighting for your future. No one foresaw that they would almost crawl from the pitch, around 97 minutes after the opening whistle, with victory to their names.

There is a mountain of work still to be done at Newcastle, but to have blunted Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool - 13 goals scored in their previous three away games - and to have found a priceless victory in the fight to stay in the Premier League was a rarefied moment.

They slowly found a path into the game. McClaren stood in his technical area from the start. He held the hands of his players as they faced three corners in the first 70 seconds. Newcastle grew into the game. Liverpool grew out of it. Nothing they did matched the start.

By the close of the half, Papiss Cissé had spurned a good opportunity and Chancel Mbemba had headed over. They were chinks of light for the home side.

Their opening goal came in the 69th minute and it carried good fortune. There was debate about whether Georginio Wijnaldum should be in the starting XI, as McClaren tinkered with formations. The manager called it a lightbulb moment on Thursday to keep faith with many of those who had failed before.

Wijnaldum ran himself into the ground for victory. He remains the most likely goalscorer in the side.

In the 69th minute he timed his run perfectly into the Liverpool penalty area, taking a pass from Moussa Sissoko, out wide on his right. The chance appeared to be fading as he moved across the Liverpool box, but he struck a shot that clipped the leg of Martin Skrtel to beat Simon Mignolet.

Afterwards McClaren repeatedly used the mantra about luck following hard work. Given that Klopp would say he thought the start, the middle and the end of the game went wrong for his side, there was substance to his words.

There was nothing lucky about the second goal, which came in the 93rd of the official 95 minutes that were due to be played. Sissoko did extremely well, once more from the right, to wait for the run of Wijnaldum. He drove into the Liverpool penalty area and cleverly lifted Sissoko's cross over Mignolet.

McClaren gritted his teeth and repeatedly punched the air in celebration. There would even come a handshake of congratulations before the game had finished from Klopp.

Substitute Daniel Sturridge had shot horrendously wide earlier and there was a volley from Alberto Moreno that cleared Rob Elliot and landed in the far corner of the Newcastle goal when it was 1-0. It was not offside, which it was ruled out for.

They would prove minor details. For once, Newcastle got the bigger picture correct.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph