Newcastle United 1-1 Liverpool: Reds' lacklustre defence undermines more Coutinho magic

Liverpool's questionable back-line once saw them drop more points at Newcastle United despite Philippe Coutinho's third goal in as many games as Rafael Benítez held his former club to a point.

Newcastle United 1-1 Liverpool: Reds' lacklustre defence undermines more Coutinho magic
(Picture: Getty Images - Lindsey Parnaby)
Newcastle United
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Newcastle United: (4-4-2) Elliot; Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Manquillo; Ritchie, Merino (Hayden, min. 74), Shelvey, Atsu; Pérez (Diamé, min. 90), Joselu (Gayle, min. 79).
Liverpool: (4-3-3) Mignolet; Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Coutinho; Salah (Oxlade-Chamberlain, min. 84), Mané (Solanke, min. 74), Sturridge (Firmino, min. 74).
SCORE: 0-1, min. 29, Coutinho. 1-1, min. 36, Joselu.
REFEREE: Craig Pawson (ENG). Yellow cards: Pérez (min. 56), Gomez (min. 58).
INCIDENTS: Premier League match-day seven clash between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park. Attendance: 52,000.

Liverpool fell further behind the Premier League's front-runners on a frustrating afternoon in the North East against former boss Rafael Benítez's Newcastle United as their defence again cost them. 

Philippe Coutinho's third goal in their last three games - and another sublime long-range strike at that - had put Liverpool ahead on the half-hour mark at St James' Park.

But their lead lasted just seven minutes before Joselu took advantage of flat-footed defending to equalise, Joël Matip's attempted sliding clearance bouncing off the striker's shins and in.

Both sides had opportunities to find a winner - Liverpool's best seeing Daniel Sturridge denied after Ciaran Clark's failed attempt to clear - but they were ultimately forced to settle for a point apiece as the away side came to regret failing to convert their superior possession into goals - managing just two shots on target.  

Liverpool - who have endured several games similar to this one this season - are now in eighth, seven points behind league leaders Manchester City and a point off of Chelsea in fourth. Newcastle remain in 9th just two points behind the Merseyside outfit.


A meeting of friendly faces

Benítez recalled two former Liverpool players to his starting eleven, with full-back Javier Manquillo and midfielder Jonjo Shelvey replacing Chancel Mbemba and Isaac Hayden

Fit-again defender Florian Lejeune started from the bench while Aleksandar Mitrović, despite his return from a three-game ban, was left out of the squad entirely.

Jürgen Klopp dropped Roberto Firmino in favour of starting Sturridge up front against a team that he had scored seven goals in seven starts against going into this meeting.

Sadio Mané returned from a three-game domestic suspension while ex-Newcastle midfielder Georgino Wijnaldum replaced Emre Can in the centre, facing his former club for the first time.

Newcastle started brightly but struggled to really test Simon Mignolet in the opposition goal, Shelvey's curled attempt from distance one of several simple saves for the Belgian.

Liverpool started sluggishly but slowly began to show flashes of their fluent attacking threat with Sturridge seeing a shot excellently blocked by Jamaal Lascelles and Mané volleying wide at an angle.


Magician Coutinho waves his wand again

It was the visitors who should have found the breakthrough on 23 minutes as a dramatic goalmouth scramble somehow saw them fail to score as they began control proceedings.

Wijnaldum - still looking for his first ever goal away from home in the Premier League - inventively flicked Coutinho's corner delivery off of the near post with Rob Elliot beaten.

Though the ball bounced back off the woodwork and into the six-yard box, neither Dejan Lovren - whose attempt was blocked on the line - or Mané - who struck wide - could finish the follow-up.

Yet the opening goal came from another moment of brilliance from the mercurial Brazilian whom they fought so hard to keep in the summer.

Known as 'the Magician' by his team-mates, Coutinho collected the loose ball from Matt Ritchie's poor clearing header and produced a rabbit out of the hat from distance.

Having scored in the Reds' previous two games in the last eight days against Leicester City and Spartak Moscow, Coutinho skipped beyond Joselu and inside Shelvey to gain just a half-yard of space. With that, he curled a right-footed effort past Elliot and into the top left corner in stunning style.


Shelvey's classy pass sets up Joselu to level

That continued a run of 68 games without a goalless draw in this fixture, stretching back to 1974, and typically the goalscoring continued in quick fashion. 

Seven minutes later, it was 1-1 through another painfully simple goal; their mediocre defence undoing the magnificence of their forward line once again.

Shelvey, 10 yards inside his own half, spotted Joselu's run into the space beyond Liverpool's two centre-backs and released the Spanish summer signing with an excellently-weighted through ball.

Though Joselu's lack of pace allowed Joël Matip to catch up with him, the defender's attempt to slide in and dispossess only saw the ball diverted into the far corner after deflecting off of Joselu's shins.


Visitors fail to take their best chances 

Liverpool wasted an ideal opportunity to restore their lead early into the second-half, failing to take advantage of a defensive error unlike many of their opponents so far this season.

Salah's poor touch took the ball away from him but Ciaran Clark swiped at the ball, allowing it to fall for Sturridge. The striker was denied by the feet of Elliot before Salah stabbed the rebound over the bar.

Newcastle continually looked capable of carving Liverpool open and Joe Gomez was outpaced by Christian Atsu down the left, the England U21 captain fortunate to see Matip race across to nick the ball away from the winger in the box.

Liverpool continued to look vulnerable and panicky at the back and struggled to make the most of their dominance of the ball - lacking zip and intensity in their passing.

Elliot responded well to Salah's lofted ball over Newcastle's defence to claim a loose ball in the box a millisecond before Sturridge in one of the only instances Liverpool looked like getting in behind.

With 20 minutes remaining, Klopp introduced both Roberto Firmino and Dominic Solanke as he went in search of the full three points - Sturridge and Mané making way. 

Benítez, facing Liverpool for the third time as an opposition manager since ending a six-year spell as Reds boss in 2010, made a change himself with the Hayden replacing Merino to shore up the Magpies' defensive structure.

The sheer amount of Newcastle bodies in front of the ball made it hard for Liverpool to force openings and Dwight Gayle was handed another cameo off the bench to try and stretch the away side on the counter.

Newcastle's defensive resilience maintained Liverpool's exasperation. Solanke went close, guiding Coutinho's cross wide, before Oxlade-Chamberlain headed over the crossbar from Alberto Moreno's cross

Mo Diamé might have supplied a late decider if not for a deflection off of Lovren taking the ball into Mignolet's grasp, but the full-time whistle left Liverpool once again frustrated. Klopp's side have won just one of their last seven in all competitions.

Yet Newcastle gained a credible, and deserved, point in their first draw of the season and maintain their steady return to the top-flight in the process.