Newcastle 2-3 Liverpool - Incredible display of heart by The Reds to clinch 5-goal thriller! - Match Review
The title race will be decided with the final game of the season as Liverpool move into top spot with 94 points following a thrilling victory against Newcastle. Following a hard defeat at the hands of Barcelona midweek and with Roberto Firmino likely to miss the action this trip to Newcastle had become a bit more daunting than it may have looked on paper, and after twice giving away leads in the game and losing star player Mo Salah during the game through injury it seemed that maybe this could be the game Liverpool finally lose ground on their title rivals Manchester City. But Jurgen Klopp's men showed the hearts of champions, they continued to battle until the very end and were rewarded with the win after Divock Origi stepped up to score another crucial winner.
Roberto Firmino was left out of the squad altogether despite being on the bench against Barca, Jurgen Klopp seemed downbeat before the game when talking about the striker and his injury may be more of a problem than initially thought. The Liverpool manager made a few changes to his lineup Trent Alexander Arnold returned to right back in place of Joe Gomez while Dejan Lovren replaced Joel Matip in the centre of defence. Gini Wijnaldum moved back into his preferred midfield role after being utilised as an attacker in Spain, he was joined by Fabinho and Jordan Henderson who replaced the injured Naby Keita. Liverpool's two top scorers Mane and Salah started in their prefered wide attacking roles and it was Daniel Sturridge who was chosen to fill in for the absent Firmino making it back to back league games for the forward. Rafa Benitez set his side up as expected with Rondon up front as a lone forward supported on the wings by Perez and Atsu, former Liverpool midfielder Shelvy missed out with Ki Sung-Yeung taking his place in central midfield and Jamaal Lascelles recovered from an illness to play in defence.
Liverpool began the match brightly and Daniel Sturridge seemed to be dropping quite deep while Salah and Mane played narrow, in the early moments of the game Sturridge played a brilliant low pass forward for Mane but he was disposed inside the box before he could make much of it. It didn't take too long though for Liverpool to capitalise on their positive start and took the lead inside the opening 15 minutes. It came from a corner taken by Alexander Arnold who swung it into the danger area inside the box, Virgil van Dijk seemed to shake off his marker and easily nodded the ball in past Martin Dubravka in goal for Newcastle. It was all too easy for the Player Of The Year and not the kind of defending you would expect from a Rafa Benitez team but Liverpool weren't complaining as they took the 0-1 lead.
After the goal, Newcastle responded well and it wasn't long before they were back on level terms with a rather controversial goal. A ball had come over from the right side of the pitch and fell to Ritchie on the left side who drilled a low ball back across the face of the goal. Salomon Rondon was lurking at the far post just yards out and struck a shot towards goal, Alisson had no hope of stopping it but Alexander Arnold had got back onto the goal line where he blocked the shot with his arm before it crossed the line. Whilst Rondon and a few other Newcastle players all raised their arms to appeal for the penalty Christian Atsu followed up and tucked the ball into the back of the net. Having scored the goal it could no longer be deemed that Alexander Arnold denied a goalscoring opportunity making it a rare case of a side actually benefiting from conceding a goal. Had Atsu not scored it surely would have resulted in a Newcastle penalty and the Liverpool right-back receiving a red card.
The home side was fired up by grabbing the equaliser while Liverpool seemed to be feeling the effects of Wednesday nights game. Ritchie continued to cause problems with balls in from the left almost setting Manquilio up for a header, Ayoze Perez had a shot which hit the woodwork while Ki Sung-Yueng drilled a long-range shot right at Allison in the moments following the goal. Liverpool managed to keep them out though and inside the half-hour mark managed to score a second goal to put them back out in front. Following a throw-in, Sturridge seemed to be going nowhere pinned into the corner but cheekily hit the ball past Ritchie and Lascelles with a back heel. It was picked up by Alexander Arnold who hit a first-time cross into the box where Mo Salah guided it into the bottom corner of the net. The Egyptian had been going through a poor patch not too long ago but has well and truly found his eye for goal once more making it 22 in the league this season.
Early in the second half, Liverpool had a chance to double their lead following some brilliant build-up play between Robertson and Mane on the left wing. Robertson had won the ball by pressuring Newcastle high up the pitch and then had taken it forward with some intricate passes between himself and Mane. Wijnaldum got involved too and it ended up getting played into the box where it seemed to fall perfect for Sturridge to finish the move off but he blew the chance and hit it high over the bar. Newcastle made them pay for squandering that big chance and on the 54th minute got their 2nd equaliser of the night. Ki Sung-Yeung took the corner which was cleared by a Liverpool defender, the clearance only got as far as the edge of the box though before being headed back in where it fell for Rondon to smash into the net with his left foot.
Just after the hour mark Jurgen Klopp made a change which he hoped would add more creativity as he introduced Shaqiri into the game who came on for Wijnaldum, a few minutes later the Liverpool manager was then forced to make an unwanted change. As a ball was played forward into the box for Mo Salah, Dubravka rushed off his line to clear it and as he punched the ball clear his hip collided with Salah's head sending the Liverpool man to the ground. After being treated on the pitch for several minutes he was eventually carried off the pitch on a stretcher receiving respectful applause from the Newcastle fans. Liverpool really needed this win but were now going to have to do it without two of their star attackers, there was a glimmer of hope though as Origi came on to replace the injured Salah reminding the fans of his historic late winner against Everton earlier in the season.
As the clock ticked on towards the end of the match there seemed to be a few Liverpool players panicking resulting in Klopp bringing on James Milner in place of Lovren hoping his experience would have some influence. On the 86th minute, Fabinho picked up the ball out wide and went down following a slight touch from Ritchie much to the frustration of the Newcastle man. Alexander Arnold stood over the ball but it was left to Shaqiri who played an inswinging cross at pace, it fell perfectly for Origi and the Belgian headed it towards goal where it took a slight deflection from Lascelles and over the head of Dubravka into the back of the net for a Liverpool winner. Origi was already a hero in this seasons title race after his goal in the Merseyside derby but he rose to the occasion once again with another late strike to seal the points for his side.
Manchester City takes on Leicester City on Monday Night Football and Liverpool will be hoping another former manager in Brendan Rodgers can give them a helping hand by denying City the points which would see them retake the top position. Regardless of what happens in that game, this win against Newcastle ensures the title race will go right down to the wire. Liverpool has the 2nd leg against Barca on Tuesday before meeting Wolves on the final day where they hope a victory taking them to 97 points in the league will be enough to see them crowned champions.