Liverpool: Reds Finally Get The Better Of Rafa
Former manager Rafa Benitez's Newcastle United comfortably beaten at Anfield...
Liverpool extended their unbeaten home league run to 17 matches on Saturday evening with a routine 2-0 victory over Newcastle United.
The win made it 22 successive league meetings without defeat to the Magpies at Anfield, setting a new Premier League record in the process by continuing their run of scoring in each contest.
A somewhat cagey opening indicated Newcastle would be a tougher nut to crack than many a recent visitor to L4, although Sadio Mané would have had a simple opportunity to open the scoring early on had he controlled a dangerous cross that Geordies captain Jamaal Lascelles misread.
Bar a couple of ambitious Mohamed Salah strikes, that was fundamentally it in terms of goalmouth action inside the opening 25 minutes.
Set-pieces looked an increasingly likely route to goal thereafter with Florian Lejeune bringing Loris Karius into the game from distance and Dejan Lovren being denied by Martin Dúbravka with a downward header from a corner.
Newcastle's defensive organisation was proving tough to break down from open play with their back four well supported by a deep-lying midfield five.
With half-time approaching the visitors' regimented organisation and hard work was suddenly undone when a direct running Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain released Salah to score through Dúbravka's legs. The Egyptian scoring for a seventh consecutive match to take his tally for the season to 32 in 38 appearances.
The 40th minute goal briefly changed the complexion of the game as the hosts upped their tempo and repeatedly began to threaten a second.
The half did finish in a rare moment of danger for the Reds when Mohamed Diamé forced an excellent diving stop out of Karius with a curling effort from the edge of the area.
Liverpool zipped the ball around brightly at the start of the second half and were rewarded for their positivity in the 55th minute when fine link-up play between Roberto Firmino and Mané ended with the latter firing into the corner of the net.
A lull followed as the visitors made a couple of substitutions in the hope of repeating last year's trip to Anfield when they came from two down to snatch a point.
The alterations changed little however, despite coinciding with Liverpool taking their foot off the gas, and in attack Joselu merely took up the isolated frontman role previously occupied by Dwight Gayle.
Adam Lallana's introduction helped the hosts get back on the front foot in the final 15 minutes but no further goals were forthcoming.
The game did end in a contentious manner however as referee Graham Scott decided to ignore Salah being blatantly pushed over from behind by Lascelles with just the keeper to beat.
The Magpies defender was the last man and should have received a red card regardless of whether the incident took place inside or outside the box.
It mattered little in the grand scheme of things however as Liverpool bettered former manager Rafa Benitez for a first time at the sixth attempt.
Although happy with the result, current Kop boss Jürgen Klopp, who was an animated presence on the touchline at times, felt there was plenty of room for improvement.
"I very often forget the result during the game," analysed the German at his post-match press conference. "So even though we were 2-0 up I did feel we have to control the game better.
"But then when you step out on the pitch, you realise the wind, so it was difficult to do the right thing in the right moment.
"We could've controlled it better but I'm happy with the rest of the game.
"We scored two wonderful goals and for sure should have had a penalty but didn't.
"It's my job to keep my players awake and alive, if I see good moments then I don't have to get up and shout but in the not so good moments I do."
The three points move Liverpool up to second in the Premier League standings, although rivals Manchester United will go back ahead of them should they win at Crystal Palace on Monday night.
Next up for Klopp's men is a third consecutive home fixture when FC Porto visit Anfield on Tuesday night to fulfill the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, which the Portuguese side trail after a 5-0 drubbing at the Estadio do Dragão.
So that's what both we and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below...
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