When you are still in the race for a league title, the pressure is of course on. At this late stage of the season, with a single point deficit and an away day to consider, one could be forgiven for feeling a little added pressure on your day job. When you are Liverpool, with the weight of the expectations of millions of fans across the globe resting heavily on your shoulders and facing an uphill battle to reclaim the crown once so familiar, an away day at Newcastle United is one of the last things you would fancy. That is not a knock on Newcastle at all, of course – but with such a rich history of clashes between the two sides, and with reining champions Man City watching on with interest, anyone connected with the Reds could be forgiven for feeling somewhat pressured.
After all, supporters of a certain tenderness of years will remember THOSE 4-3 nights at Anfield – two successive seasons where these two sides met on Merseyside and produced absolute masterpieces of football. Since then, only once – on 5th March, 2005, when Newcastle won at St. James Park 1-0 – has any meeting between these two teams yielded less than two goals. Newcastle, under the guidance of former Liverpool favourite Rafa Benitez, have looked far more assured in recent weeks and there was no chance they would rest on their laurels having only recently secured Premier League safety. They would be taking the game to Jurgen Klopp’s men – and Virgil van Dijk and co would need to up their game yet again if they were to continue pushing this title tilt to the final day.
When that man van Dijk headed Liverpool into the lead after 13 minutes, the eruption around Tyneside had a distinctly red tinge to it. Christian Atsu silenced those cheers just a few minutes later, however, when he restored parity from close range. Mo Salah would then put the visitors back in front just eight more minutes into proceedings, volleying his side in front in what by then had plenty of indication of another back-and-forth ding dong. When Salomon Rondon produced a fine finish early into the second half it was the home crowd’s turn to get on their feet and find their voice. A worrying injury to Salah caused a considerable delay, but the man brought on in the Egyptian’s place – Divock Origi – rose above Jamaal Lascelles to head in a late winner and send Liverpool back to the top of the table.
When two sides produce such a fine display of football it becomes an absolute pleasure for the fans, and neutrals alike, to savour. The result went the way one may have expected with Liverpool simply refusing to allow Man City any ground at all in what now looks to be a photo finish. The Reds knew any slip-up (pardon the pun) at all would all but hand the title to City, and they refused to give up. The number of games they have won late on is testament to their determination to keep fighting, and refusal to let go of their best chance of ending their title hoodoo in years.