Liverpool’s season so far was summed up in 90 minutes at St James’ Park as Philippe Coutinho produced a spectacular opening goal before a defensive lapse allowed Newcastle United to salvage a 1-1 draw.
Coutinho’s strike after 29 minutes epitomised the qualities that made him a target for Barcelona and while he continues to inspire Liverpool’s attack this season, Reds fans may fear what a January departure would do to their side’s potency.
The Brazilian is the Premier League’s leading exponent of long-range goals, having scored 17 from outside the box since his Liverpool debut, but he is playing in front of a defence that regularly proves the Reds’ undoing.
Joselu’s 36th-minute equaliser was the ninth goal Liverpool have conceded in their last four league outings, which matches the total they shipped in their previous 12 games combined and Jurgen Klopp must find a way to eradicate their momentary lapses if they are to challenge for honours this season.
Liverpool have now won only one of their last seven games and, with Manchester United and Tottenham awaiting them after the international break, Klopp could find himself under considerable pressure by the end of October.
17 – Coutinho has now scored 17 goals from outside the box since his PL debut, at least three more than any other player. Update. https://t.co/eoVhnvi4te
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 1, 2017
Jonjo Shelvey’s return to the Newcastle team had a galvanising effect and after 12 minutes he picked out Matt Ritchie, whose angled drive from the edge of the box forced a diving save from Simon Mignolet.
Daniel Sturridge should have opened the scoring three minutes later when he dribbled to within five yards of goal only to have his low shot blocked by Jamaal Lascelles, before Mohamed Salah’s touch let him down when he had the chance to go one-on-one with Rob Elliot, allowing DeAndre Yedlin to recover and dispossess him.
Newcastle were let off the hook after 23 minutes when Georginio Wijnaldum struck the post from close range and both Dejan Lovren and Sadio Mane squandered opportunities to score as the ball bounced around the penalty area uncontested by anyone in a black and white shirt.
After almost half an hour of dominance, Liverpool capitalised through a moment of sheer brilliance from Coutinho, who collected the ball on the left wing and cut inside before curling a powerful right-footed shot into the top-left corner of the net from 25 yards, leaving Elliot no chance.
30: It didn’t seem like Coutinho had much space for it, but find the spot he did! Phil whips a 25-yarder into the top corner!
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 1, 2017
But Liverpool’s defence has been their Achilles heel this season and so it proved when Shelvey’s pass caught them napping after 36 minutes and Joel Matip, rushing back to try and tackle Joselu, kicked the ball against the Spaniard’s shin before it rolled beyond Mignolet and into the corner of the net.
Ciaran Clark gift-wrapped a chance for Sturridge after five minutes of the second half, slicing an attempted clearance on the edge of the box into the path of the England striker, who shot straight at Elliot before Salah blazed the rebound over the crossbar.
Just after the hour mark, Mignolet hesitated over a Ritchie cross that drifted all the way to the far post before eventually being cleared, and at the other end Elliot made a brilliant interception to prevent Sturridge from scoring, sliding out and snatching the ball away from the on-rushing striker’s toes.
Newcastle sent on Dwight Gayle as they sought a late winner but it was Liverpool, rejuvenated by the introduction of Dominic Solanke and Roberto Firmino, who pressed hardest in the closing stages.
Shelvey headed a Lovren header off the line in the 77th minute to keep his former employers from snatching three points before Solanke went agonisingly close with a diving header that flew just wide seven minutes from time.
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