After Newcastle swept Liverpool aside, Alan Pardew was celebrating nine points from the last three games; while Liverpool are left twelve points behind league leaders Chelsea.
This time last season Liverpool had twenty points from ten games dropping only ten points, but worryingly this season sixteen points have already been lost and there was no sign of any goals during a lacklustre performance at St. James Park.
Liverpool started the game brightly keeping possession and moving the ball around with intent with very little reply from Newcastle. However, Liverpool never seemed to produce the end product needed to kick-start their game as well as the team’s confidence.
It was disappointing to see that Rodgers didn’t start with two strikers up front instead opting for a 4-3-3 formation with Balotelli the lone striker supported by Sterling and Coutinho on the flanks; a tactic many Liverpool fans were texting and tweeting disapproval. Many were expecting Borini and Balotelli to start up front giving Liverpool a wider front line with Sterling and Coutinho cutting in with dangerous runs and using the wings to stretch the Newcastle defence.
The other option would have been to give Lambert a start with Balotelli. Disappointingly Rodgers went with a combination many Liverpool fans already know never seems to be the answer to striker problems at the club.
As expected Liverpool’s formation was set up to keep possession of the ball. Rodgers’ plan worked with Liverpool only allowing the home team to see thirty-six percent of the ball for the entire ninety minutes. Nonetheless, when Liverpool were in possession the players lacked creativity.
Balotelli was disappointing again as he failed to make an impact on the game leaving many resigning to the fact we are never going to replace the quality of Suarez. Although Balotelli didn’t have a bad game, his contribution played a small part in what was overall a poor team performance all round. The Italian striker was lacking in any kind of supply, and in general the team is still not sure how to cope with the endless list of games with the Champions League added to Liverpool’s fixture list this season. It was obvious this was a tired Liverpool side far from last season’s impressive attacking form.
There were few goal scoring opportunities with Martin Skrtel coming close with a header and Philippe Coutinho forcing a brilliant save from the Magpie’s keeper; Tim Krul. Balotelli has a free kick, but Krul was in the right position and held onto the ball confidently.
In the end Liverpool paid the ultimate price as Ayoze Perez came off the bench to net a seventy-third minute goal leaving Liverpool stunned. After the re-start, Liverpool fans were hoping a Newcastle goal might rattle the team forcing them to step it up. Again, the team disappointed as the last twenty minutes produced more chances for Newcastle than Liverpool.
With ten minutes to go Rémy Cabella right footed effort from just outside the penalty box narrowly screamed past the right hand corner of the goal which had it been on target would have left Mignolet stranded. Moussa Sissoko was also close as he slides one just past the left of the goal shooting from an awkward angle but did well to give Mignolet another scare.
Substitutions from Rodgers also seemed to be ill timed as he waited until the sixty-sixth minute before realising Allen nor Henderson were able to provide Balotelli any kind of service that gave the Newcastle defence much to worry about. Even the quality of Sterling and Coutinho in support couldn’t muster up a chance worthy of any kind of praise. As a result, Allen came off and finally Borini came on to give Liverpool a more direct route on goal.
Within four minutes of being on the pitch Borini linked up with Sterling and managed to get a shot off from outside the box just nipping wide to the left. However, Borini rarely threatened after leaving Rodgers’ patience wearing thin and having little choice but to put a third striker on the pitch. In the eightieth minute Lambert came on to replace Coutinho rather than risk taking off a defender and getting caught on the counter attack.
Lambert and Balotelli showed some good link up play and maybe a hint of a partnership that could work. Ten minutes wasn’t enough time for Lambert shine. He had one opportunity from inside the box but the ball dropped awkwardly leaving him with a difficult shot.
Overall, Liverpool lost to a side that also lacked creativity, but it was Newcastle’s Ayoze Perez who was the quickest player on the pitch to react and finish at a critical moment in the game. From a Liverpool fans prospective, a better starting eleven and quicker changes to deal with the obvious lack of conviction would have at least given Liverpool a more attacking focus on what is not an impossible to break down Newcastle defence.
All credit to Newcastle though as many of Liverpool long range efforts were immediately shut down and blocked containing any long distance threats from the likes of Johnson, Sterling, Henderson and Coutinho. Now the problem is Liverpool are left with two tough fixtures, and the possibility of two more defeats as the Reds go in as under dogs versus Real Madrid on Tuesday and then host league leaders Chelsea at Anfield on Saturday.