Newcastle United 0 Liverpool 1
- Andre Marriner
A first-half goal from Naby Keïta was enough to clinch an important victory for title-chasing Liverpool and consign Newcastle to a first Premier League home defeat of 2022.
It was a game too far for the Magpies, who’d won their last six on home soil but rarely troubled a professional Reds outfit – who remain firmly in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple.
A clash between Fabian Schär and James Milner in the run-up to Liverpool’s goal had caused a moment of controversy at the time, but Keïta’s strike was correctly allowed to stand and proved sufficient to take Jürgen Klopp’s side back to the summit of the Premier League.
The Magpies remained competitive throughout but it was Liverpool who always looked the likeliest to score again – Diogo Jota and Luis Díaz among those to go close.
United looked to get after Liverpool from the outset at a charged St. James’ Park, pressing high and hassling the Reds’ backline wherever possible. The visitors, however, marshalled by Virgil van Dijk in central defence and Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park, looked composed. Jota had a sight of goal five minutes in, blazing high and wide after Newcastle failed to deal with a free kick. Keïta then saw a deflected strike skim wide after a swift counter before van Dijk volleyed over after meeting ex-Magpie Milner’s corner.
With 19 minutes on the clock, however, Liverpool made the breakthrough. Milner spread the ball wide after colliding with Schär 30 yards out – with referee Andre Marriner waving play on despite the defender staying down. From that point on, the Reds worked the move perfectly, and Keïta applied the finishing touch after cleverly checking inside, rounding Martin Dúbravka and firing past a line of backtracking United defenders, who’d congregated next to the goal-line. The Magpies fumed, but replays showed that Milner’s challenge on Schär was fair.
United often looked most vulnerable in the wake of their own set plays. Schär’s hopeful punt forward in the 35th minute nearly brought about a second for the Reds, who attacked at pace after dealing with the delivery. Díaz led their attacking charge and, with the Magpies struggling to get numbers back, the wide-man unselfishly picked out Sadio Mané with a square ball. The Senegalese forward had a go first-time but his effort lacked conviction and Dúbravka gathered.
United’s number one was called into action again before the break, doing brilliantly to tip Jota’s header over the bar. Milner then took aim from the edge of the area with the Magpies backing off but failed to test Dúbravka.
The second half was stop-start to begin with, with a series of niggly fouls committed across the pitch. Jonjo Shelvey had a chance for Newcastle with a 25-yard free kick, but his curling effort was headed away by Milner on the far side of the wall. After Schär was substituted – seemingly the result of his coming-together with Milner – Mané spurned a glorious opportunity to make it two for Liverpool, side-footing wide from Joe Gomez’s square.
The Reds were starting to turn the screw again. Midway through the half, Matt Targett was forced into a fine last-ditch clearance to hack Díaz’s deflected strike away from goal and out of harm’s way. Mo Salah – a substitute on the day – then curled one straight at Dúbravka before the Magpies’ ’keeper parried Jota’s vicious strike after the Portuguese got in behind the hosts’ back four.
Jota, possibly Liverpool’s liveliest player, was then denied by Dúbravka again as the clock ticked down, shortly before a low Díaz effort trickled wide after taking a slight deflection. While Liverpool looked comfortable for the most part, there always remained a degree of hope for the Magpies with the score at 1-0. A rare shooting opportunity fell Bruno Guimarães’ way in the 88th minute, but the midfielder’s strike was easily held by fellow Brazilian Alisson in the Reds’ goal.
That was to go down as United’s only half-chance of a leveller, with Klopp’s charges seeing out the remaining exchanges relatively easily to continue their own hugely impressive run of form.