In a heart-stopping night of football, Liverpool beat Newcastle 2-3 at St. James’ Park.
The win puts the Reds top of the league with an astonishing 94 points, ensuring that the title race goes through to the final day. What did we learn?
Winner: Trent Alexander-Arnold
He was left out of the Liverpool side to play Barcelona over concerns about his defensive ability, so Trent Alexander-Arnold’s display at St. James’ Park was an almost perfect riposte to his manager or anyone who doubted that he was an invaluable member of Liverpool’s XI.
First he bent a beautiful corner in, scything through all the Newcastle bodies to arrive perfectly weighted into a gaping chasm of space where Virgil van Dijk had the easy job of nodding home. Then after Liverpool were pegged back it was Alexander-Arnold’s outrageous cross, a first-time Beckham-esque beauty of a thing, which again evaded the Magpie defenders and fell to Mohamed Salah to finish.
Two assists puts him on 11 for the season, level with team-mate Andrew Robertson and level with Andy Hinchcliffe and Leighton Baines, who in 1994/95 and 2010/11 also notched 11 assists which is the most by any defender in Premier League history, England’s young star (and his Scottish team-mate!) now has one more game to make the record his own – at just 20 years of age!
The only four defenders to provide 10+ assists in a single #PL season:
🔵 Andy Hinchcliffe (11, 1994-95)
🔵 Leighton Baines (11, 2010-11)
🔴 Andy Robertson (11, 2018-19)
🔴 Trent Alexander-Arnold (11, 2018-19)
Two for Everton, two for Liverpool. https://t.co/hiQru1VhJk
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 4, 2019
Oh, and he did all this despite handballing Rondon’s header on the line, stopping it from going in. That’s a red card offence, but Alexander-Arnold avoided censure because when the ball rebounded off his arm, it was slammed home by Christian Atsu. That, according to the literal laws of the game, mean that there is no need to send him off. Although he did escape the booking he should have been given, but when your luck’s in, your luck is in.
Loser: Dejan Lovren
It’s remarkable to think that last season Liverpool made it to the Champions League final with Dejan Lovren in the XI, and moreover, with Dejan Lovren playing really well! The Croatian then made the World Cup final with his nation, and suddenly people had to confront the possibility that they could have been wrong about the centre-back.
No, no one was wrong. Lovren has spent this season either being injured or looking terrible. He has fallen in the pecking order, first behind Joe Gomez but then Joel Matip as well. Lovren would have looked at this game as a great chance to state his case again, but instead he spent the entire thing alternately being bullied by Rondon or simply having no idea where Rondon was. Whoops!
Winner: Salomon Rondón
The major refrain in Muddy Waters’ song Mannish Boy is Muddy exalting “I’m a mannnnnnnn!” as someone in the crowd yells “YEAH!” and to be honest that small sample needs to be looped and played over any and all highlight videos of Salomon Rondón. Because, to paraphrase Drax the Destroyer, “this is not a dude, this is a man. A handsome, muscular man.”
Salomón Rondón has now been directly involved in 17 Premier League goals this season, at least four more than any other #NUFC player.
⚽ 10 goals
🎯 7 assists
A man on a mission tonight. pic.twitter.com/Pad9Zyt6sZ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 4, 2019
Rondón is an almost absurd throwback to the 90’s. A burly powerhouse of a striker with a mountainous frame, terrifying aerial ability, seemingly limitless stamina and a shot like a Barrett .50 cal. The Venezuelan dominated Liverpool all evening long, forcing an illegal block on the line (that Atsu finished off anyway) to draw Liverpool level before doing so again in the second half with a rifled volley. This was an immense display from Rondón, the kind that proves he’s “the one” for Newcastle to build their attack around.
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Loser: Mohamed Salah
Last season, Mohamed Salah was playing obscenely well and fired Liverpool into a Champions League final. Then just minutes into that final a cruel foul from Sergio Ramos dislocated his shoulder and ended his magnificent season in tears. He left the field injured, unable to see things through to the end. It was a genuine shame to see such a special season end that way.
Well, has it happened again? In the second half against Newcastle, having pulled Liverpool ahead earlier with a lovely right-footed volley, Salah went up to contest a cross and got absolutely clattered by Martin Dubravka as the goalkeeper cleared the ball. It wasn’t a deliberate foul or anything, but Salah didn’t get up. He lay on his side looking woozy and had to be stretchered off the field.
Obviously it’s early to diagnose anything, but it looked very much like a concussion. If that turns out to be the case, that means he will play no part in the Champions League semi-final second leg nor next week’s final Premier League game against Wolves. That means that unless his team-mates do the impossible without him and come back from 3-0 down against Barça to make the Champions League final, Mohamed Salah’s season will once again end because of a cruel, cruel injury.
Winner: Divock Origi
Divock Origi was something of a forgotten man for Liverpool. The kind of player that only remained at the club because they couldn’t find someone to take him off their hands. Yet if the Reds win the title Divock Origi can definitively say that it would not have happened without him.
Not only did the Belgian stab home a stoppage time winner against Everton in an early Merseyside Derby, but he has just done it again. Liverpool looked finished in the North East. Their star forward was injured, their only star forward went off injured and their final star forward just looked bad. This was going to be where their title challenge faltered.
But then Fabinho very cleverly won a free-kick, Virgil van Dijk ordered Xherdan Shaqiri not Trent Alexander-Arnold to take it, and when the ball was whipped in Origi rose and threw his head at it. His header was askew but flew against the head of Jamaal Lascelles and bounced into the back of the net, giving the Reds a huge, colossal, gigantic win.
Loser: Manchester City
Origi’s goal, or the own goal that Origi caused (we’ll leave that for the dubious goals panel), means that for what seems like the tenth week in a row Liverpool have gone top of the league and left Manchester United one game behind and needing to win to reclaim their top spot.
Liverpool’s relentlessness has heaped so much pressure on Pep Guardiola’s men. They have been unable to let slip and now, when they were minutes away from a virtual coronation at home to Leicester, they now face yet another tense affair where any dropped points all but hands the title to Liverpool. Liverpool won, so yet again City have to win.
Over to you, Pep.