Liverpool are without doubt one of the best clubs the Premier League has seen in recent seasons. Alongside Manchester City, they have pushed the standards of modern football up that next rung of the ladder.
Yet, for the opening 25 minutes or so at Anfield on Saturday, chaos broke out. The usually indomitable Reds stumbled at home against a Newcastle side that boasts little in the way of special talent. Liverpool staggered and spluttered their way through the opening exchanges, and so truthfully it came as little surprise when they found their typically airtight defence at fault for an opposition opening goal.
What a goal it was, mind. Newcastle full back Jetro Willems wrote himself into the memories of Newcastle fans for years to come with a stunning finish. Cutting inside onto his weaker foot, Liverpool full back Trent Alexander-Arnold likely thought the danger had been seen to. The Dutch international couldn’t get his cross in – and that was true.
It’s just Willems wasn’t intending on crossing. Instead, he unleashed a rocket of a shot that arrowed into Adrian’s top corner.
A sublime finish, worthy of stunning a sublime opposition. Anfield was silenced, but for the pandemonium erupting in the away end from the Magpies faithful.
It didn’t last; as was to be expected in truth. Newcastle went into this match seeing anything as a bonus, and even just having the wherewithal to punch out of the gates and shock Liverpool into conceding early was a success.
Waking up eventually towards the half hour mark, Liverpool’s superior talent and quality began to take control once more.
Steve Bruce’s Newcastle is no defensive slouch. As Tottenham found to their detriment just a few weeks earlier, the Magpies are more than adept at soaking up pressure – but even the best defences face an uphill struggle when faced with the front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
Mane netted the equaliser with an equally impressive strike, before a calamity from first Christian Atsu in giving away possession, then Martin Dubravka in the visitors’ goal saw the Senegalese international tap home the second just before the interval.
Salah rounded off a beautifully worked third in the second half, courtesy of some outrageous skill from Firmino in assisting him, to allow Jurgen Klopp’s men to leave Anfield somewhat less red-faced.
Newcastle should still walk away from the match with their heads held high. They still gave Liverpool more of a challenge than the Reds likely expected, with the early goal a wake-up call to the Champions League holders for games coming.
Joelinton impressed once more with his strength, dominating even the likes of Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk at times, and Bruce can look to Brighton next with positivity.