Liverpool 1 Newcastle United 1
- Andre Marriner
Substitute Joe Willock’s 95th-minute equaliser earned Newcastle United a point against reigning champions Liverpool after an incredible final few minutes at Anfield on Saturday.
Mo Salah’s spectacular early effort, blasted home on the turn, looked like it was going to prove the difference between the two sides at the end of what was an end-to-end, engaging contest.
But in a staggering finale, in which Callum Wilson’s stoppage-time equaliser was ruled out for handball following a VAR check, United did manage to snatch a point, as Willock’s deflected drive in the dying seconds made it 1-1 in the most dramatic fashion.
It was a rapid start from the hosts, who went ahead in impressive fashion just three minutes into the contest. Sadio Mane’s cross found its way, via a flick, to Salah at the far post and from there, Liverpool owed their lead to the Egyptian’s brilliance. His control, with his back to goal, was instant and crisp and his shot on the turn was precise, flying past Dúbravka and high into the net.
But the rest of the first half was a largely open affair. Newcastle, with Allan Saint-Maximin typically lively and at the heart of much of their offensive work, had a go, and could easily have pulled level. Jonjo Shelvey’s through ball played in Longstaff, who would have been rewarded for his fine run in behind the Reds’ backline were it not for Alisson’s intervention.
Steve Bruce’s men actually had the ball in the net midway through the half when Ciaran Clark glanced in Federico Fernández’s flick on following a corner, but having been correctly ruled offside, the opportunity signalled a rally from the hosts. Diogo Jota and Mane, working effectively in tandem in the Liverpool attack, both went close a couple of times, with the latter missing a particularly glaring opportunity when one-on-one with Dúbravka after the former had dragged one wide after a mistake from Clark. United’s Slovakian stopper, though, stood up well to Mane, denying the former Southampton forward as he attempted to round him.
Then it was Salah’s turn to squander a chance, with Dúbravka again coming out on top when the winger ran clear and attempted to dink in his side’s second of the afternoon. There were further chances in an increasingly frantic end to the half, with the best of them falling to Liverpool and Mane. He couldn’t find the target to extend his team’s advantage before the break, though, leaving the Magpies with plenty of hope for a second half recovery.
The outstanding Dúbravka was called into action soon after the restart, comfortably holding onto Roberto Firmino’s drive, but while the hosts retained much of the ball there were still signs that Bruce’s men sensed a leveller was there for the taking. A beautifully-lofted pass from Shelvey, whose sublime passing probed his old club’s defence all afternoon, released Joelinton, but Alisson was quick off his line to beat him to it. The two went head-to-head again a few minutes later in what was an even clearer chance, with the Brazilian stopper again denying his compatriot by beating away his shot.
It turned out to be Joelinton’s final contribution as he was replaced by leading scorer Wilson, just after Dúbravka’s took his turn to impress again as he saved Firmino’s close-range volley with his feet. Andy Robertson pulled one wide just after the hour as the chances kept coming, with Willock – United’s matchwinner after coming on against West Ham last weekend – summoned from the bench as the visitors’ pack was shuffled for the closing stages.
The reigning champions could have extended their lead in the final quarter as Salah dragged an effort into the sidenetting after a mix-up as Newcastle attempted to pass their way out of their own third, before Trent Alexander-Arnold was teed up by Thiago and attempted the spectacular, but his volley whistled just wide.
There was still time, in the last ten minutes, for Dúbravka to cement his claim for the day’s most impressive performance, as he denied both Mane and former Magpie James Milner late on, but the real talking points came right at the end of stoppage time.
Wilson ran clear to go one-on-one with Alisson, but saw the ball rebound off the goalkeeper and strike his arm before he bundled the ball over the line. United’s celebrations were cut short when, after a consultation with VAR, the goal was disallowed, and it looked like they would be heading back to Tyneside without reward for their efforts.
But then, with just a few seconds remaining, Newcastle pushed forward again. Paul Dummett’s long ball instigated it and Willock anticipated it well, running onto it and shooting. The ball took a deflection, wrong-footed Alisson and nestled in the corner, pulling Bruce’s men level and securing what had seemed just moments earlier to be the unlikeliest of points.