Liverpool were held to a 0-0 draw with Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
Here are five things we learned from the game…
Liverpool’s attack lacked spark
This match against Newcastle was always going to be a tighter game than the 7-0 win over Crystal Palace in our last away clash. Steve Bruce had his team set up defensively and got as many men behind the ball as possible.
Liverpool’s front-three were too passive and uninvolved for large periods of the match. Mohamed Salah, in particular, was a peripheral figure all evening. He had two golden opportunities to win the match that were wastefully squandered.
Salah struggled to get on the ball, making just 31 touches all game in what was a rare off night from the Egyptian.
Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were more involved, but again, not enough bite or clinical edge in their attacking play was showcased.
The last time Fabinho and Nat Phillips started together, Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw with Brighton.
This evening they were far better and showed good understanding, working well in tandom to close down Newcastle attacks.
Phillips and Callum Wilson produced and enjoyable tussle as Liverpool’s back-four fought bravely to register their fifth league clean sheet of the season.
Fabinho in particular, was outstanding. He was strong in the air, read the game well, and was comfortable in possession.
A clean sheet without the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez or Joel Matip was a definite plus to take from this game.
Both players were also booked which demonstrated they were prepared to do the dirty work for their team.
Milner and Henderson set the tempo
It was back to basics in midfield following the disappointment against West Brom. Liverpool dropped their standards and were lacklustre against the Baggies – the decision to pair Milner and Henderson together was a big psychological statement from Klopp.
It showcased that Klopp wanted his two most-trusted midfield generals to set the standard from the off. The pair carried out the manager’s instructions to a tee.
They were constantly looking to get on the ball and make things happen. Their build-up play was exemplary and they kept Liverpool on the front foot.
Henderson’s stunning long-pass to pick out Mohamed Salah was the play of the first-half. The Liverpool forward should have converted but was denied by a fine stop from Karl Darlow.
In truth, both players were let down by the wastefulness of the front-three as Liverpool failed to score in the Premier League for the first time this season.
Bench finally has depth again
From the moment the team-sheet was announced, all eyes were fixated on Liverpool’s bench. For one, it saw the long-awaited return of Thiago Alcantara for the first time since October 17.
The Spaniard was back at Klopp’s disposal having finally recovered from a knee injury. He wasn’t risked in the starting XI but his return is a major boost.
Also, the fact Liverpool were able to hand Georginio Wijnaldum a rest was telling. The Dutchman has started all but one league match this season and was due a rare rest.
The likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino, Rhys Williams and Neco Williams completed a strong Liverpool’s bench.
In the end, it proved to be another opportunity wasted from an attacking sense.
It is difficult to be overly critical of an overall performance that was in large very impressive. Liverpool had their chances and will be ruing the fact they leave Tyneside with just a point.
Liverpool will end 2020 as they started the year, in top spot. However, the Reds only lead second-place Manchester United by three points and having played a game more.
The Reds cannot afford to drop points in their next match against Southampton on Monday. Three points is a must.