Papiss Cisse and Jack Colback boosted Newcastle United’s survival hopes as the strugglers produced a brilliant second-half display to draw 2-2 with Liverpool on Rafael Benitez’s latest return to Anfield.
Liverpool entered Saturday’s Premier League contest in a rich vein of form, including a 4-0 battering of Merseyside rivals Everton on Wednesday, and they appeared in cruise control at half-time.
Daniel Sturridge scored in the second minute to make it four goals in as many league games, before Adam Lallana’s fine effort on the half hour deservedly made it 2-0.
But Benitez knows a thing about comebacks having led Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005 after being 3-0 down against AC Milan at half-time, and Cisse’s header after the break started the revival.
And the visiting supporters were on their feet again in the 66th minute when Colback’s
drive took a huge deflection to leave Simon Mignolet stranded.
Newcastle have now taken five points from three matches and are just a point adrift of safety, while Liverpool will look to regroup ahead of Thursday’s Europa League semi-final first leg at Villarreal having seen their four-match winning league run come to an end.
Liverpool’s preparations were hindered by the news that Mamadou Sakho would not be considered for selection while UEFA conducts an investigation into a possible doping violation. Sakho subsequently took a watching brief as Kolo Toure took his place in one of five changes.
But there was no sign of distraction and Liverpool led in the second minute when Alberto Moreno’s long free-kick was chested down by Sturridge. He turned sharply in the area and arrowed a shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
Sturridge, who may not have played had Divock Origi not injured his ankle against Everton, was full of confidence and cleared the crossbar with a long-range effort.
Newcastle were chasing shadows and it was no surprise when Lallana made it 2-0, the England international bending a sublime 20-yard left-foot effort past Karl Darlow.
The visitors created little, but Cisse should have done better when he headed Andros Townsend’s cross wide of the right post.
Newcastle were back in it shortly after the break, though, when Vurnon Anita’s deep cross right-wing cross was headed in by Cisse with Mignolet caught in no man’s land.
Shortly after, Sturridge had penalty claims for a trip from Cheick Tiote turned down and a Newcastle counter almost saw Moussa Sissoko pass up the chance to shoot in a promising position.
Liverpool thought they had regained the two-goal cushion when Roberto Firmino tapped in after Sturridge’s header was saved, but the Brazil international was adjudged to be offside.
And Anfield was left stunned in the 66th minute. Townsend’s cross was not dealt with and the on-rushing Colback saw his low strike take a huge deflection beyond Mignolet.
Now in the ascendancy, Benitez threw on Aleksandar Mitrovic in search of a winner and Liverpool’s defending became increasingly frantic.
The visitors had to remain on guard, though, and Anita made a crucial block from Philippe Coutinho’s goalbound effort.
It remained 2-2, though, and although Newcastle’s winless league run against Liverpool at Anfield stretched to 21 matches a point may prove crucial in their battle against the drop.
Key Opta stats:
– Newcastle United have kept just one clean sheet in their last 35 league trips to Anfield (83 goals conceded in total in that period).
– Daniel Sturridge has netted seven goals in seven Barclays Premier League starts against Newcastle.
– Against no club has Sturridge scored as many Premier League goals as he has against Newcastle (seven).
– Adam Lallana has scored three and assisted two more in just four Premier League starts against Newcastle.
– Jack Colback netted his first away goal in the Premier League since February 2014 – his last five league goals had been scored in home matches.