Liverpool frustrated as goal-friendly fixture ends scoreless at St James'

By Patric Ridge 31 December 2020 12
Liverpool frustrated as goal-friendly fixture ends scoreless at St James'

Liverpool and Newcastle United produce goals.

Across 50 prior Premier League encounters ahead of Wednesday's meeting at St James' Park, the ball had found the net 159 times.

Indeed, in Premier League history, only four fixtures – Arsenal v Liverpool (166), Liverpool v Tottenham (162), Arsenal v Everton (162) and Arsenal v Tottenham (161) – have provided more goals.

With Liverpool – who claimed their biggest ever top-flight away win in their previous game on the road, thrashing Crystal Palace 7-0 – aiming to respond to a Sam Allardyce special at Anfield, and Newcastle having failed to keep a clean sheet in their past 11 home league matches, the stage seemed set for another goal-fest.

Yet on a snowy night on Tyneside, the champions were held for a second successive game, as Newcastle and Liverpool played out a goalless draw for the first time since February 1974.
 

FESTIVE WOE FOR MO

Mohamed Salah scored twice in Liverpool's rout of Palace, but the league's leading scorer has failed to carry that form into the subsequent two fixtures.

Salah – who did not get any of his three attempts on target against West Brom on Sunday – had been involved in nine goals in his past six away Premier League appearances heading into this trip.

The Egyptian had also netted in each of his previous four starts against Newcastle, but Salah was shorn of his shooting boots on Wednesday.

Having seen Karl Darlow brilliantly save a close-range attempt in the 34th minute, Salah looked all set to break the deadlock after the hour, only to drill wide when one-on-one again. It was his second, and last, attempt.

DARLOW STAKES HIS CLAIM DESPITE DUBRAVKA'S RETURN

Liverpool were denied by a fantastic stoppage-time save from Sam Johnstone last time out, and they found a goalkeeper in similarly fine form this time.

Darlow had four saves to make in total, but three were of the highest quality.

His stop from Salah in the first half showed outstanding reflexes, though it was arguably bettered in the 88th minute, with the former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper somehow keeping out Roberto Firmino's header.

Wedged between those stops was another Firmino header he palmed clear, although Darlow was grateful to have Fabian Schar on hand to clear as he and Sadio Mane scrapped for the ball in the second half.

With the returning Martin Dubravka watching on from the bench, there was another nervy moment for Darlow when he flapped at a corner, yet Firmino was unable to make him pay.

WILSON PUTS IN THE WORK, BUT ALISSON HARDLY TESTED

At the other end of the pitch for Newcastle, Callum Wilson worked tirelessly to run Liverpool's line – after all, the Reds have conceded 20 Premier League goals in 16 matches this season.

Chasing his 50th Premier League goal, Wilson had two attempts – neither on target – and created one chance. He covered 10.28 kilometres and made 22 sprints, the most in the Newcastle team.

Newcastle's problem was a lack of support for their frontman, though Ciaran Clark did send a header too close to Alisson in closing stages.

In total, Steve Bruce's team had just three attempts fewer than Liverpool (11), the visitors limited to only four shots on target, and Newcastle are now unbeaten in their past five home Premier League games against reigning champions.

THAT'S A WRAP...

Though they bossed the possession (73.2 per cent), Liverpool were once again held by a side who sat deep and looked to play on the break.

Their frustration was evidenced late on when Andrew Robertson inexplicably lashed out at Federico Fernandez for clearing a loose ball.

Jurgen Klopp became even more animated when the board was raised to signal four minutes of added time – ultimately, it felt like a night on which Liverpool could have played on for another 90 minutes and not scored.

Against the five teams Liverpool have played this season that resided in the bottom six prior to Wednesday's match, the Reds have now taken just seven points of the 15 on offer.

While 2020 has been difficult, and unprecedented, it has been a superb year for Liverpool, who clinched their first Premier League title and currently sit top of the table heading into 2021, though only by three points.

However, two draws on the bounce to teams either in the bottom half will leave something of a sour taste for the Reds, who had previously won their final league game of the calendar year six times on the spin.

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Patric Ridge

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