Rafael Benitez returned to haunt his former side Liverpool as Newcastle managed to hold the Reds to a 1-1 draw at St James’ Park, with Jurgen Klopp’s men losing further ground to the Manchester Clubs in the Premier League title race in the process.
Manchester United had thrashed Crystal Palace 4-0 on Saturday while Manchester City issued a statement of intent to the rest of the league by outplaying defending champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge later in the day to open up a five-point gap over the rest of the chasing pack.
And as North London duo, Tottenham Hotspur (4-0 over Huddersfield on Saturday) and Arsenal (2-0 over Brighton) won their respective games, Liverpool were under pressure to beat their former manager’s side on Sunday.
And despite taking the lead on the hour-mark thanks to a golazo from Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool were unable to hang on to their advantage and their defensive frailties were once again laid bare.
Just seven minutes after going ahead, Liverpool found themselves back at square one.
Jonjo Shelvey, up against his former club, sent a through-ball between Liverpool centre-backs Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip for Joselu and the Spanish forward managed to beat Simon Mignolet, with some help from the back-tracking Matip.
The Cameroonian slid in to make the challenge but the ball ricocheted off Joselu’s leg and trickled past Mignolet into the back of the net, much to the dismay of the away side.
Newcastle were well-organised at the back, a trademark of Benitez’s defence first tactics and held on till the interval.
The second-half started with Liverpool going all-out in search of another goal to restore their lead but with Mohamed Salah having left his shooting boots at home, the Magpies held firm.
Liverpool will feel that it was not to be their day, as they hit the post once in the first-half and came close to scoring the winner on a number of occasions in the second but only have themselves to blame.
Meanwhile, the pressure is steadily building on Klopp, who completes two years in-charge of Liverpool in October. The German manager has precious little save an thrilling to watch style of play to show for in his tenure and a crunch game against in-form rivals Manchester United on October 14 awaits post the international break.
Liverpool, who is in seventh place after Sunday’s draw, are now seven points behind joint-leaders Manchester City and United after seven rounds and will have to fix their frailties at the back if they are to overhaul the league leaders in the coming months.
Newcastle, who had slumped to 1-0 loss to fellow newcomers Brighton last week, climbed back to 9th in the league table, two points behind Liverpool. Their draw on Sunday proves that Benitez is the right man for the job and the Spanish tactician will ensure his side makes life difficult for the top teams in the league this season.