Liverpool returns to Premier League play tonight at Anfield against Newcastle United.
Liverpool defeated Newcastle 3-1 in the Premier League; Diogo Jota equalized with Isaac Hayden clutching his head inside the six-yard box; Eddie Howe: “It’s had a major influence on the game”; Trent Alexander-Arnold scored a spectacular late third from range.
The Premier League’s COVID cancellations were avoided in Liverpool vs Newcastle United, but the hosts had to find a way to win without the services of Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, and Curtis Jones, all of whom are suspended.
The absences were felt, but Jürgen Klopp’s side was always going to have enough to win, and despite an early scare, the sheer firepower of this Liverpool team was enough to despatch Eddie Howe’s side.
Jonjo Shelvey’s superb long-range effort (7) gave Newcastle an early lead on his return to his former club, but Liverpool equalized in controversial circumstances.
Diogo Jota (21) scored on the second attempt, but Isaac Hayden was down in the area, clutching his head after being caught defending a Liverpool corner moments before. The protests from Newcastle were understandable, but the goal stood.
“It was clear to me that Isaac went down holding his head immediately,” Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe told BT Sport. “In my opinion the game should have been stopped.
“It’s had a huge bearing on the game. We had the lead. It feels unjust and I feel it was doubly hard on our players.”
Mohamed Salah (25) scored again four minutes later to put Liverpool ahead. He has now matched Jamie Vardy’s record of 15 Premier League goals in a row set by the Leicester striker in 2015.
Mohamed Salah has so many records, he’s likely to have one for having the most at any one time by a Liverpool player.
With Newcastle in town, there could only be more on offer for the Egyptian.
Salah became the first Reds player in history to score in five consecutive home games against the Magpies, and he now has nine goals in seven games against an Eddie Howe team.
He has also scored or assisted in his last 15 Premier League games, matching Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy’s record, and his 22nd goal of the season means only Roger Hunt (23 in 1961/62) has scored more for Liverpool before Christmas.
Mohamed Salah has 24 Premier League goal involvements this season (15 goals, 9 assists) – only Alan Shearer in 1994-95 had more before Christmas in a single season (25 – 16 goals, 9 assists). – According to OctaJoe on Twitter.
And Salah has now scored 37 goals for Liverpool in 2021, tying his career high for a calendar year. Only Ian Rush has ever scored more goals for the Reds.
Salah’s substitution with 16 minutes remaining, however, raised eyebrows, with the forward visibly frustrated as he walked past Jurgen Klopp to the bench. Such is his desire for accomplishments.
The second half was more even, and it took a stunning effort from Alexander-Arnold (87) to secure the three points for Liverpool. As Liverpool became the first team in English top-flight history to win 2,000 games, the full-back thundered an effort past Martin Dubravka’s fingertips.
This was also a historic night for Klopp, who won his 150th league game as Liverpool manager, a feat accomplished in 12 fewer matches than any other Reds manager.
Liverpool are now one point behind Manchester City at the top of the table, and three points ahead of Chelsea, who drew 1-1 with Everton on Thursday.
Newcastle, who have been without Jamal Lewis and Allan Saint-Maximin due to injury, remain in 19th place with 10 points, with Burnley and Watford having games in hand. Their tenacious performance, on the other hand, will be encouraging for new coach Howe.
Football, like society, will navigate the disruption by putting health and safety first.
However, the next few weeks will be difficult for everyone until more information about the new, clearly far more transmissible variant becomes available.
And it’s unclear when we’ll be able to reassemble at Anfield again.
Hopefully, it won’t be too long.