Liverpool were left frustrated as they failed to take advantage of Newcastle United being down to 10 men for more than half the contest and could only emerge with a 2-2 draw from St James’ Park. After Yohan Cabaye had put the hosts ahead midway through the opening period, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa was shown his marching orders and conceded a penalty for illegally denying Luis Suarez a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Steven Gerrard converted from the spot to get his 100th Premier League goal and an away win seemed in the cards.
But Liverpool failed almost throughout to replicate the stylish play that has enabled their fine start to the season. Substitute Paul Dummett delighted the home crowd with a close-range finish early in the second half. And, while Daniel Sturridge equalized in the 72nd minute, neither he nor Suarez were at their best. Liverpool may have gone on top of the Premier League, but manager Brendan Rodgers will surely see this as two points dropped.
At the same time, Newcastle deserve plenty of credit for their efforts. Even before going down to 10 men, the home side played with an effort and commitment that has been notably lacking on occasions this season.
Liverpool began like a side playing in an early kickoff after a couple of weeks when many of their players had been travelling the globe. Playing at a slow, sluggish tempo, the visitors only joy looked like coming from set-pieces as Newcastle repeatedly switched off allowing free headers.
Newcastle were having slightly the better of things with Hatem Ben Arfa playing as a false nine in between fellow-Frenchmen Loic Remy and Yoann Gouffran. Still, not a lot was being created by either side until a bolt from the blue 23 minutes in. After picking the ball up on the halfway line, Cabaye was allowed to drift forward and, with no defender stepping out of the back three to close him down, he hit a powerful strike from more than 30 yards that swerved and bounced just in front of the dive of Simon Mignolet to soar into the net. As good a strike as it was and despite the wicked movement on the ball, the Belgian stopper may still feel he could have got to it had he been quicker off the mark.
The goal hardly jolted Liverpool from their slumber, though as the half neared its conclusion there was just some signs of life. Suarez provided a warning with a first time strike across goal from an angle on the left of the box that Tim Krul did well to get down to. And in a similar position just moments later Newcastle were made to pay.
Sturridge again supplied the pass for his strike partner, which caught out Yanga-Mbiwa, who then tried to atone for his error with a reckless drag back of Suarez’s shoulder. The Uruguayan made the most of it, but there could be no debating the referee’s decision to award a penalty and send the French defender off. Captain Gerrard duly stepped up and side-footed low past Krul.
At that point, Liverpool will have been expected to go on and assume control of the contest. But, while Glen Johnson tested Krul early in the second half, things didn’t exactly go to plan. Dummett had been brought on to reinforce Newcastle’s defense at half time, but instead provided a wholly unexpected contribution. From an in-swinging free-kick, Liverpool, and Aly Cissokho in particular, completely switch off at the back post, allowing the Newcastle-born youngster to sneak in and stab the ball into the net.
Now chasing two goals to make their numerical advantage pay, Liverpool were still toiling and far from their best. As the half progressed they slowly began to make inroads when Rodgers switched to a 4-4-2 and their front two coming to life. An equalizer finally arrived in the final 20 minutes. Victor Moses freed Suarez down the left and he provided a perfect chipped pass across the six-yard box, over the prone Krul, and onto the head of Sturridge to level up the scores once more.
Liverpool’s strike partnership, so impressive since Suarez returned from suspension, really should have secured all three points for their side. First, Suarez clipped the cross bar with a fiercely struck half-volley. Sturridge proved to be even more profligate when dragging a shot wildly wide of the post and then striking a presentable chance on the volley from six yards back across goal. And when Suarez had a free-kick saved deep into injury time, Liverpool’s hopes of talking all three points had been extinguished.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.