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article imageNewcastle leans to the right to humble Klopp's Liverpool

By Tyrrell Meertins     Dec 6, 2015 in Sports
Liverpool’s resurgence under Jurgen Klopp has witnessed the Reds record monumental road victories against through intense cohesive pressing and quick transitions, which left many to believe three points at Newcastle would be a formality.
However, rather than attempting to dictate the tempo of the match, Steve McClaren’s Newcastle retreated into their half, thus forcing the Reds to bypass their two solid banks of four. Similarly, both sides lack genuine creativity in midfield zones – the hosts rely on powerful running, while the Reds excel through quick direct attacks.
Once again, the Reds struggled to create chances in open play. Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva received space to play conservative passes from deeper positions, which partially limited Roberto Firmino’s influence on the match. The Brazilian’s productivity between the lines was scarce, and Christian Benteke’s stagnant movement proved beneficial to Newcastle’s centre-backs, as they easily outnumbered the Belgian around the box. Liverpool’s best chance of the half stemmed from a Dejan Lovren nod down that Benteke skied over the net from six-yards out.
Liverpool's inability to exploit space between the lines meant Jordon Ibe constantly attempted to create his own chances darting centrally from the right flank – on the opposite flank James Milner ensured Darryl Janmaat didn’t pose a threat going forward. Martin Skrtel and Lovren provided another alternative to bypassing Newcastle's midfield by stepping forward to play passes, and the former’s long diagonal to Alberto Moreno witnessed the Spanish full-back provide a promising cross that slid through the box.
The hosts equally struggled in open play throughout the first half, and it was odd to see Ayoze Perez on the bench as Newcastle were deprived of pace and guile upfront. But one notable aspect of their approach was the aim to play down the right channel. Several balls were played into Papiss Cisse in this zone, but the away side quickly pressed the ball-carrier to force Newcastle backwards.
Although the hosts targeted space behind Moreno, the passes were constantly over-hit, with Newcastle’s sole successful first half threat in this area resulting in a corner. However, it was evident McClaren identified Liverpool’s weakness down Moreno’s flank: Cisse varied his movement to effectively link play, Moussa Sissoko grew in prominence by isolating the Spaniard in 1v1 situations following an underwhelming first half display, and Georginio Wijnaldum’s late runs into the box from central areas led to both goals.
"We said at half-time, even the supporters are gradually growing into the game,” said McClaren.
"There’s always a plan, when you lose the plan goes wrong. We talked about the work rate, we kept compact and when you keep your discipline you get results.”
A misplaced Lucas Leiva pass in midfield saw Cisse and Sissoko combine in vacant space behind Moreno, but Wijnaldum couldn’t direct the latter’s pullback on target. The goal, however, followed Klopp’s decision to move substitute Adam Lallana to the left and Milner behind lone striker Daniel Sturridge.
Here, Janmaat pushed forward to create a 2v1, but with Lallana failing to track back into position, Sissoko was free to play a cross to the onrushing Wijnaldum – Moreno was reluctant to close Sissoko down due to Janmaat’s advanced positioning – which subsequently gave Newcastle the lead.
With 15 minutes remaining, Klopp turned to Divock Origi alongside Daniel Sturridge as Liverpool became a 4-3-1-2. Now, the Reds possessed natural pace to run beyond Newcastle’s defence, and Lallana received additional space to seek possession.
Within minutes of Origi’s arrival, the Belgian combined with Lallana to play Sturridge free on goal, but the England international flashed his shot wide. Then, Lallana cut infield from the right to play a heavy reverse pass into half space that evaded Origi – surely, the pass didn’t connect, but the play highlighted Liverpool’s improved threat upfront for that brief spell.
Nevertheless, apart from the two aforementioned chances, Liverpool’s attack remained insipid.
"Pressing was not good. Newcastle didn’t only play long balls, they did build up, but we were not there,” said Klopp.
"We were not compact enough. So a lot of things we didn’t do well. But better you lose a bad game than a good game, and it’s easier to make it better."
Wijnaldum’s injury time goal followed a similar pattern to the first, as McClaren’s approach exploited both Liverpool’s issue in-game, and the overall flaw in their attack. In a scrappy encounter lacking consistent quality play, Newcastle’s reactive approach showcased Liverpool’s non-existent creativity in deeper positions, thus preventing the Reds from comfortably defeating inferior opposition.
More about Liverpool, Newcastle, Wijnaldum, Cisse, Alberto moreno
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