How Newcastle United's tactics helped them against Liverpool
Photo credit:(Getty Images/Stu Forster)

A frustrating 2020 for Newcastle United ended with a positive result on Wednesday night as the Magpies became the first side to stop a usually rampant Liverpool from scoring in the Premier League this season.

So far this season, it has been too easy to score against the Magpies, with them only keeping two clean sheets up until this point in the wins against West Ham United and Crystal Palace.

But they looked a different team against Jürgen Klopp's side on Wednesday night as they frustrated his team and made it extremely hard for them to break through their backline.

The defence

Newcastle have been too slack at the back throughout the 2020/21 campaign so far, however against Liverpool they were anything but this.

A lot has been made about Steve Bruce and his tactics in the past, but whatever he and his players had been working on in training in recent days seemed to do the trick.

There were signs of improvement at the back in the Boxing Day defeat to Manchester City where they kept another attacking force down to just two goals, but even more work has been done since then it seems and it certainly made things a lot tougher for Liverpool than they were perhaps expecting heading up to St James' Park.

The Reds did come close on a few occasions with two goal-line clearances from Fabian Schär and DeAndre Yedlin being required to keep them out, but prior to those late incidents the defence had held relatively firm throughout the evening.

It also helps when the likes of Mohammed Salah have an off-night by their standards as the Egyptian missed a number of chances that you would often fancy him to put away. 

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Karl Darlow

There is no doubting that Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow was the man of the match against Liverpool after he pulled off a number of excellent saves to keep his side level.

With usual number one Martin Dubravka returning to the bench after injury for this game, the pressure is on Darlow to impress and he certainly didn't disappoint.

In the first half, the shot-stopper did brilliantly to tip a Salah effort around the post when it looked certain that he would score, whilst also reacting well to keep Roberto Firmino out.

In amongst the chaos leading up to the last-ditch clearances from Schär and Yedlin in the second half, Darlow also did well to make himself big and make life difficult for the Liverpool front-line.

Darlow has certainly stepped up to the mark this season after coming in for Dubravka and it looks like he could remain Bruce's first choice for a while longer if these types of performances continue. Surely Gareth Southgate must be looking at him as well as a potential option for an England call-up. 

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Elsewhere on the pitch

Even under the popular manager Rafa Benitez, Newcastle were heavily criticised for their ultra-defensive style of play.

But in fairness, this showing against Liverpool did also produce some key moments in attack for the Magpies and they did manage to find eight shots which is only four less than their opponents.

As ever, Callum Wilson caused problems for the makeshift Liverpool defence and were it not for a great block from Fabinho in the first half he may have even given his side a shock lead against the leaders.

Much has been said about there not being any form of attacking threat in these types of matches against the top sides, but that looked different on this occasion with more of a 5-2-3 formation being played rather than the 5-4-1 seen previously.

If Newcastle can find that extra bit of attacking quality then they could cause even bigger problems to the Premier League's big boys in the future.

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