Sunday’s tie between Liverpool and Newcastle at Anfield will have Brendan Rodgers frustrated once again with his side’s inability to convert imposing possession play into goals. With Liverpool once again profligate in front of goal despite their 65% possession, and Newcastle failing to create consistent chances, it took moments of individual brilliance from Yohan Cabaye and Luis Suarez to end the game at 1-1.
Liverpool were unchanged from their match last weekend against Everton, employing a 4-3-3 with Suarez as their sole natural striker.
The Reds built attack almost exclusively down the left side of the pitch. Liverpool missed Glen Johnson enormously as the Spaniard squandered possession and failed to contain Hatem Ben Arfa. Despite this, Jose Enrique’s influence over the match was markedly greater than that of rightback Andre Wisdom:
In attacking wide play, Raheem Sterling cut in from the left to play balls into the box, leaving Suso wide right in attack as an outlet from the cluttered penalty area. Suso showed prowess dribbling into the box late, and showed the potential to be a regular threat to goal.
It was Sterling, however, who provided the greatest threat from width. The young winger ended the match with 80% pass completion with forward passes, and drew a total of six fouls, five of which were in Newcastle’s half.
Once again, Suarez was the liveliest Liverpool player in attack, drifting into channels and attacking the penalty area with controlled dribbles. Suarez alone created 6 chances as well as attempted 15 attacking dribbles over the course of the match.
While Liverpool created chances, Newcastle efficiently stopped them. Newcastle ended the match with 58 clearances, and Liverpool only managed to complete 1 of their 26 attempted crosses.
Without the midfield pressure of Chieck Tiote, Newcastle lacked strength in the center of the pitch and were left overrun by Liverpool’s three central players. Papiss Cisse frequently dropped deeper into midfield due to his lack of service in central attack, leaving Newcastle lacking up front at times.
When attacking the final third, Demba Ba drifted inward from the right side of the pitch to form a traditional pair of strikers with Cisse. Ben Arfa operated behind the two, drifting wide to find spaces and frequently using his pace to beat Enrique down the right of the pitch. Ben Arfa created two good chances during the match, and beat his man twice within Liverpool’s penalty area.
Most of the match was a cagey affair for Newcastle, who frequently attempted through balls from deep to either Ba or Cisse. Few of these passes ever found their mark, and their chances to break on the counter were limited by Liverpool’s possession. Newcastle had only 26 passes completed in the final third compared to Liverpool’s 132. Their eventual goal was coolly constructed by Ben Arfa, but very much against the run of play.
Traffic went straight toward Newcastle’s goal the majority of the match, with Liverpool winning 14 corners to Newcastle’s 2. By the end of the day, Liverpool had over twice the total shots as well as shots on goal of Newcastle.
However, it was ultimately Newcastle that struck first on the break as Liverpool failed to convert lasting possession into any tangible results.
Yohan Cabaye’s goal in the 43rd minute illustrated an alarming lack of width from Liverpool’s backline. As Hatem Ben Arfa beat Enrique and Sterling down the right, he cut inward into the penalty area and knifed down to the byline. Agger, Skrtel, Allen, and Wisdom all formed a line along the six yard box to deny Cisse and Ba space to receive a cross, but by doing so left Cabaye completely unmarked some distance off the far post. Ben Arfa’s cross stood up well for Cabaye, who hammered his volley into the roof of the net after a deft controlling touch.
Andre Wisdom perhaps should have provided pressure on Cabaye’s first touch, but was understandably marking Cisse on the far post. Suso’s reticence to track back and provide auxiliary defense is partially to blame, as the winger stayed far too high to provide any support for the fullback.
A win on the day would have been a lucky result for Newcastle, and indeed a magnificent moment of control from Suarez sealed a point for Liverpool in the 67th minute. For all of Liverpool’s controlled, short passing, it was a hopeful 35 yard pass from Enrique that found Suarez near the penalty spot. His control was reminiscent of Dennis Bergkamp as he took the ball of the shoulder and around the keeper in two touches before calming tapping it away.
Despite losing Fabricio Coloccini in the 84th minute for a late challenge on Suarez, Newcastle clung onto a point as Liverpool missed more chances. Substitute Jonjo Shelvey had at least three promising looks on goal within the penalty area, but failed to capitalize.
Newcastle will feel happy with the result while Liverpool will once again be frustrated that they dominated a home match without grabbing three points. Liverpool’s chances of a successful campaign will hinge on their ability to bring in another striker, as evidenced by this match where goal scoring ability failed to match ample penetration.
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