Trent Alexander-Arnold impressed, but Jonjo Shelvey was inconsistent as Liverpool beat Newcastle United 3-1 on Thursday.
Liverpool began the match in solid fashion despite missing key players Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho, with Diogo Jota having an early effort well saved by Martin Dubravka. However, Newcastle United broke the deadlock through a brilliant long-range strike by Jonjo Shelvey in the seventh minute. That was one of only three shots on target by Newcastle on the night.
The rest of the game was thoroughly controlled by Liverpool, and the Reds were back on level terms in the 21st minute, albeit in controversial circumstances. That is because a Newcastle defender was on the ground after smashing into his teammate. However, that did not stop Jota from scoring after having his initial effort saved by Dubravka.
Shortly after, Liverpool went ahead through Mohamed Salah, who scored from close range after Shelvey had gifted the ball to Sadio Mane. After that, Liverpool remained in total control of the proceedings but had to bide their time to round off the win, which Trent Alexander-Arnold did spectacularly.
With three minutes left in regulation time, Trent Alexander-Arnold unleashed a fiery long-range driven shot that Dubravka had no chance to stop. With that, Liverpool claimed three points from the game, keeping pace with Manchester City, who had beaten Leeds United 7-0 on Tuesday. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over both sets of players.
Alisson Becker: 6/10
There was nothing that Alisson could have done about saving Jonjo Shelvey’s effort after being left wrong-footed. However, he made one big save to deny Allan Saint-Maximin, ensuring Liverpool did not concede another cheap goal.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 8/10
The standout moment for Alexander-Arnold might have been his fiercely driven shot that earned him a goal, but the Englishman also shone with his defensive output. In particular, one tackle on Ryan Fraser stood out, and he is showing that his game is constantly evolving.
100+ chances created in the last five calendar years:
◉ 2017: Özil (114), Eriksen (111), KDB (110)
◉ 2018: Hazard (101)
◉ 2019: KDB (103), Maddison (101)
◉ 2020: KDB (107)
◉ 2021: TAA (101)
There’s only one defender on that list. 😉 pic.twitter.com/8IqkUmlmSZ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 16, 2021
Joel Matip: 7/10
The leader at the back on Thursday, Matip kept the backline organised for the most part and was not at fault for Shelvey’s goal. The Cameroonian defender was imperious when called into action, winning seven duels while completing three tackles. He faces a big outing against Tottenham this weekend.
Ibrahima Konate: 6/10
Back in the starting lineup, due to Virgil van Dijk’s absence after testing positive for COVID-19, Konate did not have much to do on the night. The Frenchman defended well enough when called into action and completed most of his attempted passes, which is all he had to do all game long.
Andrew Robertson: 6/10
Thursday night was a rare instance when Robertson has not been in top form, as far as the recent weeks are concerned. The Scot did not carry much threat in the final third despite being a constant outlet down the left flank. Some of his touches were sloppy, and this seems like a rare blip.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6.5/10
Oxlade-Chamberlain was given a chance to impress from a midfield role against Newcastle, and he did well for the most part. His first-time pass towards Mohamed Salah deserved to be converted, and he generally passed the ball well. The Englishman is finally getting into his stride.
Jordan Henderson: 7/10
With Fabinho sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19, Henderson was the obvious choice to sit at the base of the midfield. And the Liverpool captain held the fort well, with his only shortcoming being his slow reactions in closing down the space for Shelvey. However, he pulled the strings smartly, with only a few of his trademark first-time passes going awry.
Thiago Alcantara: 5/10
Thiago was one of the few Liverpool players who did not impress on Thursday, as it was his tame clearance that went straight to Shelvey before he unleashed his long-range curler. Another poor pass gifted a chance to Allan Saint-Maximin before Alisson saved his blushes. This was a rare game when he was not on point with his efforts.
Mohamed Salah: 7/10
Mo Salah scores for Liverpool.
In other news, water is wet. pic.twitter.com/2v1C3AClCg
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 16, 2021
Salah was in his element right from the word go and found Diogo Jota smartly early on, only for Dubravka to stand firm in the Newcastle goal. He had his moment under the spotlight midway through the first half, when he showed tremendous awareness to score from a rebound after the Newcastle goalkeeper denied a tumbling Sadio Mane.
Diogo Jota: 7/10
Jota was the Player to Watch in our Preview, and he justified our decision with elan. While he only gets a 7/10, the Portuguese international was a major presence inside the Newcastle box. He could have even celebrated a hat-trick on another day, with Dubravka denying him with two top saves while Isaac Hayden blocked one of his efforts.
Sadio Mane: 7/10
Mane might not have scored a goal or provided an assist. However, as is the case more often than not, he was the most potent outlet for Liverpool, putting Javier Manquillo under tons of pressure throughout the game. He had an effort brilliantly saved by Dubravka.
Naby Keita: N/A
Keita replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain and kept Liverpool in control for the final quarter of an hour. He should get a start soon.
Roberto Firmino: N/A
Firmino was a bundle of energy in the final 15 minutes of the game and is inching closer to making his first start in weeks.
James Milner: N/A
A late introduction, Milner helped see the game out.
Martin Dubravka: 7/10
Dubravka was by far the best Newcastle player against Liverpool. The Slovak stood no chance of denying Jota, Salah or Alexander-Arnold. However, he made a string of top-class saves to keep his side in the game till the dying embers of the proceedings.
Javier Manquillo: 5/10
Manquillo had a busy night against a bustling Sadio Mane. While the former Liverpool defender did well enough to keep the Senegalese at bay in some moments, there were a few instances when his defending left a fair bit to be desired.
Fabian Schar: 5/10
Schar was caught flat-footed when Shelvey played a loose pass towards him in the build-up to Salah’s goal. Apart from that one forgettable moment, he was generally solid, making seven clearances and three interceptions.
Jamaal Lascelles: 5/10
The Newcastle captain was fortunate not to give away a penalty, but he did well enough to marshall his troops while making six clearances, three interceptions and two blocks. Alas, that did not matter in the end.
Jamal Lewis: N/A
Lewis’s night did not last long, as he was forced off the pitch inside the first 15 minutes.
Jacob Murphy: 6/10
Other than a couple of moments, Murphy did not get the chance to put Andrew Robertson under pressure. Instead, he spent the night defending and supporting Javier Manquillo, doing a decent job with four tackles, two interceptions and two clearances.
Isaac Hayden: 6/10
Hayden defended diligently throughout the game and even dropped right down to the goal-line to make a big block to deny Jota. However, as was the case with every Newcastle player, his output on the ball was sub-par, thanks to the relentless Liverpool press.
Jonjo Shelvey: 6/10
Liverpool have conceded a goal at Anfield for the first time since October 30th.
Jonjo Shelvey ends the Reds’ 481-minute shut-out at home. pic.twitter.com/adUlgTeFtr
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 16, 2021
Shelvey started the game with a bang, scoring a wonderful long-range curler to break the deadlock. However, he went from hero to zero less than twenty minutes later, as he gifted the ball to Liverpool before Salah scored. Otherwise, he tried to keep his team organised and frustrated the hosts in parts of the game.
Ryan Fraser: 6/10
Fraser sent in the cross that Thiago Alcantara tamely cleared before Shelvey scored. Other than that one moment, the Scot did not get a chance to influence the game in the final third, and he was closer to his box instead. His wastefulness on the ball did not help matters much either.
While Joelinton was supposed to play off Allan Saint-Maximin, Newcastle’s outlook in the game meant he could not get a chance to showcase his abilities high up the pitch as he spent most of the game behind the ball.
Allan Saint-Maximin: 5/10
Saint-Maximin was put in a difficult position of being the sole striker, which meant he did not see the ball as much as he would have liked. However, the Frenchman played his part in stretching the Liverpool defence in the build-up to Shelvey’s goal and had a shot well saved by Alisson.
Matt Ritchie: 6/10
With Lewis injured, Ritchie was introduced early on, and he held his ground decently against the enormous threat of Salah. The 32-year-old also made a big block and two interceptions to boot.
Callum Wilson: N/A
Sent into the game in place of Saint-Maximin, Wilson barely saw the ball and could not even complete a single pass in the final ten minutes.
Joe Willock: N/A
A late introduction in place of Fraser, Willock had no chance to script a turnaround, as Alexander-Arnold scored shortly after he came on.