dAnother weekend in the books. After winning six in a row at home, Newcastle endured their first loss in the Premier League this year—in St James’ Park or away from home—dropping yesterday’s lunchtime game. Liverpool’s talent alone made the biggest difference, though the Magpies played way better than Everton and Villarreald did against Pool in the past week and lost by just a measly goal all things considered.
Here are your Top-3 players of Match Day 35, along with some quotes from the very own protagonists of the weekend.
There were two approaches to this game: sitting deep on a low-block defense and trying to minimize damage, or going down fighting. Head coach Howe opted for the latter—to the extent Liverpool allows you to do so—instead of following the Evertonian and Villarreal-esque gameplans of anti-football their way toward a defeat... and lost by a tiny margin of just one goal against that came on a dubious play in which a controversial action by James Milner could have been called for a foul and swing the game’s outcome. This type of game, even with Newcastle’s offense limited in their runs forward, put the spotlight on goalkeeper Dubravka, who was absolutely phenomenal at stopping everything going his way. Dubby finished the day with nine saves on 10 shots on goal by Liverpool, all of them on inside-the-box attempts. Yes, he got lucky in a couple of plays when Liverpool’s player shot straight at him, but even then he was rock solid and saved the Toon for what could have been an easy three-goal loss.
Howe talked about Targett leading up to yesterday’s game stating that there is still nothing resolved on the full-back’s future in Newcastle. The Villa loanee, though, must stay in Tyneside for a good bunch of years after his current loan deal expires by the end of the season. Targett got caught a bit by Naby Keita’s run on his way to scoring, but that was a little blip in an otherwise extraordinary performance—one more—by the wide defender. Targett finished with the most tackles (6) of any player logging minutes yesterday for any side, blocked a shot, intercepted one ball, and became Mohamed Salah’s nightmare late. Targett had enough fuel in him to run parallel to Liverpool’s super-sub forcing him into a missed chance on a breakaway play, and he also broke up a cross that was half a goal had it gone past him and into Salah’s position.
It’s hard to pick a third-best player from the side yesterday, not because they were all atrocious—they were not—but mostly because they were all pretty much on balanced terms when it came to actual production. Good as he’s been since arriving in Toon Turf, Bruno put on another great outing against Liverpool yesterday. He made a few mistakes here and there, a product of a high level of pressure during the final portion of the game in which the tension was sky-high and Newcastle was running out of time. That doesn’t mean too much, though, as Bruno didn’t hand Pool any clear-cut chance while completing 85% of his 33 attempted passes, also succeeding at his lone two long-ball attempts for a perfect score on that front. Unsurprisingly, Bruno led all Magpies in touches with 66 (followed by Targett’s 62 and Dubravka’s 53) while also completing the most passes among players not donning red threads in St James’ Park yesterday.
In Their Own Words
Pulling some quotes dropped after the game at St James’ Park.
NUFC manager Eddie Howe, speaking about the sliding tackles from both Fabian Schar and James Milner that lead to the Reds' goal:
If VAR doesn’t intervene, I assume we have nothing to complain about. We were obviously disappointed. In the heart of defence we were light on bodies.
About the injury picked up by Schar on that action that eventually led to his substitution:
I don’t know [what the injury is]. It was related to the tackle. I don’t know what it is. I haven’t spoken to him or the medical team yet, so we hope it isn’t serious, but, obviously, it was enough for him to come off.
About Liverpool getting away with the victory:
It is difficult to it consistently against Liverpool as they have the quality to produce a counter-attack out of nothing. We were much more aggressive in the second half but did not have any concerted pressure in the game.
I think Liverpool were probably not at their best but we weren’t either and when you play these games you have to be. We competed well but lacked the quality that could have got us a goal.
On what’s ahead of Newcastle:
There’s been progress, but it shows there’s a gap we have to bridge to the top teams. We have work to do. The biggest disappointment was individually, but the team was OK.
We were not at our best today but we were still in the game right to the end, so there are positives to take. But we set our standards very high and next week we have to do much better.
Speaking of Chris Wood’s absence from the starting XI:
Chris has been fantastic but it was an opportunity to look at something else.
Moving on to the players, Bruno accepted defeat and gave a humble opinion on the game against Pool:
We did not play well with the ball, it was difficult. What I can say to you was that Liverpool were another level. We have to work to get to that level. We have to work more and try to play with more of the ball. We have to try to work with the space and get in behind, we didn’t do it. We did not deserve the win today.
We still have confidence. Today was difficult but we tried to have the opportunities. But we didn’t deserve to win today. That is what is clear to me.
Perhaps the best of reactions came from NUFC Co-Owner Mehrdad Ghodoussi, who tweeted a couple of reflective and encouraging messages after the game.
Expecting a big turnout….make sure you’re there https://t.co/KGJ1tNQf0K— Mehrdad Ghodoussi (@ghodoussi) April 30, 2022
Truth be told, the Toon was fighting to save their lives until the end of January. In all honesty, and while the gap is still huge between Newcastle and the likes of Liverpool, this game came to prove that the club has made incredibly big steps forward if only because of the hopes around the Geordie faithful before kick-off time. Fighting a leveled bout against the Reds and losing just 0-1 to the Quadrupool is surely something to be proud of. Not many teams out there can say they held the red tide to such a tiny margin, all things considered.
Howay the Lads!