Liverpool set another record on Sunday.
By beating Newcastle United 3-1 at St. James’ Park, finished up on their highest ever points tally for an individual campaign – beating last season’s best by two points as they finished up on 99.
The Magpies tried valiantly to thwart the Reds in the first minute of play, when a Virgil van Dijk foul near the center-circle to a quickly taken free kick from Jonjo Shelvey. The over the top pass found a sprinting Dwight Gale down the middle splitting the defenders and he easily slotted home past Allison.
It was 1-0 Newcastle before a minute had elapsed.
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But the young squad the gaffer fielded, that saw five changes from their final home match, kept their poise and managed to nab one back on a beautiful header against the run of play by van Dijk before the break.
Divok Origi gave the Reds the lead early in the second 45 with a powerful strike from the left edge of the 18 yard box as the youngsters managed to claw their way back into the tie and take an early second half lead.
Jurgen Klopp brought on the rested front three on 65 minutes. Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mo Salah were all introduced at the same time and immediately changed the pace and tempo of the tie.
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They spread and stretched the Magpie defense, which made Liverpool a constant scoring threat for the final half hour.
Mane rounded out the scoring with a beautiful strike from 10 yards out with his strong right foot, curling past the keeper into the far corner.
Newcastle never really looked threatening after that first goal flourish, only putting one shot on frame for the remainder of the opening period. Steve Bruce’s squad could not manage a shot on target in the second half.
The young lads had a good showing for the most part, the Neco Williams error playing Gale onside for the first goal notwithstanding.
Origi, Takumi Minamino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put in a solid effort as replacement starters for the notorious front three. James Milner put in his usual workmanlike shift, and Williams was more sturdy in defense as the first half progressed. Curtis Jones got to see some second half action as well, and didn’t disappoint.
Klopp will be pleased with the effort from his young charges. These minutes for these young lads since the restart are a vital component in their progress into first squad football. Expect to see more from them come fall.
Enough cannot be said here for the effect the starting front three of Mane, Firmino, and Salah had on the tie. It just cannot be overstated how differently Liverpool play with those men on the pitch.
Salah failed to score and missed his target of a third consecutive 20 goal season. He managed to drive one off the near post midway through the second half.
Van Dijk kept his unbroken streak intact, playing every minute of the season for the second campaign running.
Man of the match for me was Van Dijk. He more than made up for his defensive error in that first minute that gave Newcastle the free kick which led to their goal. He headed one in, and narrowly missed another, and his solid as a rock composure and class gave the younger players the confidence to take the tie to the Magpies for the remainder of the first half and into the second.
Milner was also a large part of keeping heads in the match as the old man on the pith for the Reds. Not enough can be said about his leadership on and off the pitch in Henderson’s absence.
He shepherded Williams through some tough spots defensively, where the Magpies spent the most of their attacks. It was obvious Bruce’s gameplan intended to exploit that side and the young right-back.
Overall a very solid performance from the Redmen.