For Newcastle, this simmering contest boiled down to a missed opportunity – both literally and metaphorically.
Without a win against Liverpool in eight years and leading 1-0 against 10 men, Miguel Almiron had them ducking for cover in the Gallowgate End when blazing over the crossbar from close range early in the second half.
But those same fans were hiding behind those same fingertips 40 minutes later as Darwin Nunez completed a stunning comeback with two goals from the bench. It felt more like 10 versus 10 during a close in which Eddie Howe’s side lost all control.
That is two weeks in a row now that Liverpool have played better when reduced in number, and from it have emerged two victories. Nunez had scored only once since the 7-0 win over Manchester United in March – and you get the feeling Jurgen Klopp enjoyed this even more than that demolition.
Nunez was devastating, twice surging clear behind a bedraggled backline and punishing the hosts, who were playing with a rank air of complacency given their numerical advantage. His winner came in the third minute of stoppage-time.
Darwin Nunez scored two brilliant late goals to hand Liverpool an unlikely win
Nunez fired two almost identical goals past Nick Pope as Liverpool came from behind
Nunez’s double stunned Newcastle as Liverpool came from behind to win away from home
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To think, the home crowd had bemoaned the signal for just five additional minutes, believing their team still had it within them to recover from Nunez’s 81st-minute equaliser and win the game. But when Bruno Guimaraes lost possession in midfield and Mo Salah slipped a pass in behind Dan Burn, Nunez won the foot race with yards to spare and clipped beyond Nick Pope for what, by now, felt like a deserved winner.
There will be questions over Howe’s substitutions – he took off scorer Anthony Gordon and midfielders Joelinton and Sandro Tonali and his team duly lost shape and purpose. And so they lost for the fifth time against the Reds under Howe. Given the needle that exists between the teams – and, more so, the benches – it was little surprise that Klopp celebrated by beating his chest with gusto. It had been a jungle out there.
Newcastle (4-3-3): Pope; Trippier, Schar, Botman (Targett 87), Burn; Guimaraes, Tonali (Longstaff 72), Joelinton (Anderson 82); Almiron, Gordon (Barnes 72), Isak (Wilson 72)
Manager: Eddie Howe
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip (Quansah 77), van Dijk, Robertson; Endo (Elliott 58), Szoboszlai, Mac Allister (Nunez 77); Salah, Diaz (Gomez 33), Gakpo (Jota 58)
Goals: Nunez 2
Booked: Alexander-Arnold, Nunez
Sent off: Van Dijk
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Indeed, it needed only a few minutes of red-blooded ferocity to realise that Stockley Park would at some point be scrolling through some red mist. That moment arrived with the sending-off of Virgil Van Dijk just before the half hour. But to fast-forward to then would be to skip by an opening that served as the proverbial advert for the theatre of the Premier League. Or, rather, Fight Night: Jurgen Klopp v Jason Tindall.
Their pearly whites were beaming back at one another through a pair of snarls on six minutes when Trent Alexander-Arnold was fortunate to avoid a red card. The defender had only just been booked for throwing away the ball when he stopped Gordon breaking clear in front of the dugouts close to halfway.
Without the first yellow, you suspect the offence – a deliberate nudge on Gordon – would have seen Alexander-Arnold cautioned. As it was, John Brooks decided not to show two yellow cards inside 60 seconds. Tindall believed he should have done and Klopp disagreed, barking at the Newcastle assistant to sit down.
Tindall responded by shushing the Liverpool boss and Klopp was certainly left speechless when Newcastle took the lead on 25 minutes. Salah was the creator, but only because his pass rolled beneath the boot of Alexander-Arnold and Gordon ran clear to slot between the legs of Allison.
Anthony Gordon had put Newcastle ahead in the first half at St James’ Park
Gordon capitalised on a Trent Alexander-Arnold mistake who was a little fortunate to escape a red card in the first half
Virgil van Dijk was shown a red card for fouling Aleksandar Isak when he was through on goal
Three minutes later and Van Dijk was off, taking man and ball as he attempted to mask some lazy defending with a last-ditch challenge on Alexander Isak on the edge of the area. Jamie Carragher said he wasn’t sure if it was a goalscoring opportunity – given Isak has scored far harder chances, you can be sure it was.
Allison kept his side in it with a blinding save from Almiron’s volley before the Paraguayan, on 50 minutes, skied the chance that, on reflection, felt like a turning point. Liverpool grew in confidence from that moment and twice, through Joelinton and Sven Botman, the Magpies needed heroic penalty-box interventions to deny Liverpool an equaliser.
But Botman went from hero to villain as he got himself in a tangle and was unable to cut out Diogo Jota’s throughball. Nunez did the rest with a clinical finish via the inside of the post for 1-1.
From that point, the 10 men looked the more likely winners, and so it proved.
Eddie Howe will wonder how his side let such a string position slip through their hands
Jurgen Klopp was delighted at the final whistle as he saluted Liverpool’s travelling fans
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