Player ratings: Newcastle 2-3 Liverpool

Origi-heads-ball-into-goal
Another nail-biter at St. James’ Park yesterday and one of the first times this season that I’ve seen our team look a bit ‘leggy’. That’s totally understandable however, given the gruelling fixture schedule we’ve had recently. Regardless, these lads just keep finding a way to get the job done. Let’s see how they got on.

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Alisson (7) - Nothing he could really do about either of Newcastle’s goals. Another couple of dodgy moments with the ball at his feet which never fails to give me the fear but one thing about Alisson is that he deals with all the basic goalkeeping work effortlessly. You know he’s not going to chuck it in his own net, he rarely spills shots that are straight at him and he dealt well with a couple of crosses. Probably busier yesterday than he was against Barca midweek.

TAA (8) - Part of a defence that looked ragged at times but grabbed himself a couple of assists, with what is becoming his trademark excellent delivery. That’s seven assists in his last seven games in all competitions for Trent and he and Robbo are now neck and neck in their own personal battle, on eleven assists each. That really is ‘outstanding’ from the two most devastating fullbacks in world football.

Lovren (5) - A poor performance from Dejan I thought, further demonstrated why he is now our fourth choice CB. Rash, poor positioning and it was a dodgy pass back to Alisson from Lovren  that started the passage of play that led to a Newcastle goal. Carragher mentioned in commentary about him getting too involved in personal battles and I’ve long thought that’s been a problem in Dejan’s game. He gets involved in a fight with the opposition which invariably leads to him getting pulled out of position and making bad decisions. I wouldn’t be sad to see Dejan moved on in the summer and a De-Ligt-ful replacement brought in.

Van Dijk (7.5) - Even Virgil didn’t look completely comfortable yesterday as Rondon probably caused our defence as many problems as anyone has this season. Popped up with the ever important opening goal and demonstrated his leadership by instructing Trent to leave it and Shaq to take the free kick that resulted in the winner. It was a big call considering Trent already had two assists to his name but he got it bang on as it resulted in a goal. I still think he should be captain. That’s not meant as a slight in Hendo in any way, I just don’t think there is a more obvious captain in world football than Virgil.

Robertson (7) - Steady if unspectacular display from Robbo. Bailed the defence out on a couple of occasions and was a constant outlet on the left. Couple of decent deliveries into the box but nobody able to get on the end of them. Both Robbo and Trent will be desperate for assists in the final game, given they’re currently tied in their assist competition. That probably spells bad news for Wolves.

Fabinho (7) - Fab is probably the best in the league now at shielding the back four. He breaks up opposition play countless times a match. Also brings a real physical presence in midfield. Won the free kick that led to the winner with some intelligent play. Passing remains a little sporadic though.

Wijnaldum (6) - Gini started well and was carrying out his much vaunted dirty work but gradually faded to anonymity as the game wore on. Gini has been looking fairly burnt out in recent weeks I’ve thought. Understandable though as it’s been a long old season for Gini, who has played more minutes than anyone else in our midfield.

Henderson (6.5) - Not a bad game from Hendo but we struggled to maintain any level of control throughout the game and were creating very few chances, especially second half as the game seemed to be slipping away from us. Will be interesting to see if he starts against Barca midweek. I suspect he will but this wasn’t a display to match the levels he’s produced in recent weeks.

Salah (7) - More poor decision making in the opening stages but got himself on the score sheet with a very well taken, first time finish from Trent’s cross. Went off second half with a worrying looking head injury, which may well rule him out of the Barca game. That would be a nightmare scenario for Mo, especially the way last year’s final went for him. Hopefully he’s fine.

Sturridge (6) - Started brightly as he sprayed a few nice passes around and did well to set up Trent for the cross for Salah’s goal with a lovely back heel. Faded quite quickly though. Just doesn’t have the work rate in him to be a regular in a Klopp team. That may be because he physically can’t any more but either way, he’ll be gone at the end of the season. There will always be a question of ‘what could have been’ hanging over Sturridge’s time with us. A brilliant talent, never fully maximised.

Mane (6.5) - Should have done better when one on one with their keeper but another solid display from Mane who constantly probed and tried to make something happen. Wasn’t quite happening for him yesterday though. Probably saving himself for the hat trick he has planned for Barca.

Subs:

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Shaqiri (7) - Superb delivery from the free kick that resulted in the winner. His goal/assist ratio to his minutes played, stands up to anybody’s. We should have seen more of Shaq this season in my opinion.

Origi (7) - Origi was going to be on the receiving end of a bit of a pasting here as he was infuriating me with poor decision making during his cameo but then he did what Origi does and popped up with a dramatic late (and fortunate) winner. He actually made a bit of a mess of the header and I think it went in off the Newcastle defender but who cares, it went in. If the miracle happens and we win the league, Origi will have played a pivotal role between yesterday’s winner and his now infamous winner against Everton.

Milner (6) - Brought the experience on to the pitch that Klopp was looking for. Couple of tactical fouls and helped see the game out.

Klopp-watch (9) - We didn’t play particularly well yesterday but I agreed with his team selection on the whole and a manager must be delighted to see one of his substitutes assisting another for the winning goal. Not at our best but Klopp has got a winning mentality instilled in this team and we just keep finding a way.

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Summary:

So as I said, far from our best display of the season, as Newcastle really had us on the ropes for large periods of the game. I somehow still expected us to score and win though, even when we really didn’t look like it and both game and title seemed to be slipping away. I just have confidence in this team now to get the job done and once again, they didn’t disappoint. I think that’s twenty four goals now in the last fifteen minutes of games. We’ve had some good fortune with some of them but a figure like that shows it’s down to  a lot more than just luck.

We’ve done all we can in terms of taking City all the way to the final day. It’s been a gargantuan effort from the boys and our points tally is absolutely outrageous, especially considering we’re not even favourites for the title. We can definitely be proud of our boys this season though, no matter how the season finishes.

I sign off this week with a question. Should the unthinkable happen and Leicester take points off City, given the mountain we have to climb against Barca, should we just rest the entire first team for the game against Barca and give them a rest before Wolves? I say we should. The season is starting to take its toll physically, you can see it in the boys now and the monumental effort required trying to overturn a 3-0 deficit against Barca, could see our players burn out before the Wolves game.

If City beat Leicester then fair enough, we continue as normal but if they don’t? That would leave us with a big decision to make ahead of the Barca game. Come on the Foxes!!
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