Sunday’s victory over Newcastle United saw a return of Jurgen Klopp’s ‘mentality monsters’ to the highest degree.
Liverpool could not have been in a much worse place going into the half-time break a goal behind and having seen their captain, Virgil van Dijk, shown a straight red card.
But, having buckled in for the ride, Klopp’s side defended resolutely and gradually grew into the second half and then Darwin Nuñez was unleashed as the striker seized his chance.
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Nuñez was once again left on the bench with Luis Diaz, Mohamed Salah and Cody Gakpo all picked ahead of the Reds’ new number nine. Once Van Dijk saw red and Diaz was sacrificed for Joe Gomez, it looked like the Uruguayan would have to sit this one out.
Liverpool were on the ropes with 11 men in the first 45 minutes with Trent Alexander-Arnold picking up a yellow card inside the first five minutes of the action – despite clearly being fouled by Anthony Gordon.
A couple of minutes later, the St. James’ Park crowd were screaming for a second yellow and for the right-back to be dismissed after Gordon launched himself to the ground following a hand on the shoulder.
The referee was struggling with the occasion and the atmosphere and decided to give Alexander-Arnold one last chance.
Knowing he was a foul away from seeing red, the Reds number 66 struggled in the first half. His lack of concentration allowed the former Evertonian to race clear and slot into the Liverpool goal to make it 1-0 to the Magpies.
Disappointment set in.
The Reds faced a tough enough task without gifting goals. A terrible mistake to make in such a difficult game. Liverpool were all over the place at this point and Newcastle looked like adding a second and putting the Reds to the sword.
Disaster then struck with the skipper being harshly dismissed. At this point, it looked as though it might be about keeping the scoreline down for Liverpool.
Alisson’s world-class save from Miguel Almiron was as good as scoring a goal. It kept the Reds in it. At 2-0 it would have been game over, but that tip on to the cross bar left Liverpool with something to cling on to.
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All Liverpool fans will have been thinking the same thing as half-time approached: “Get into the break at 1-0 and stay in the game.”
That is what the Reds did.
With Newcastle failing to score in the second half and the home crowd growing frustrated, Klopp introduced Diogo Jota and Harvey Elliott to the action – two substitutes that pushed the tide in Liverpool’s favour.
Elliott’s cameo off the bench added much-needed energy to the action while Jota got hold of the ball at the top of the pitch and allowed his side the chance to move up the pitch.
Once again, Dominik Szoboszlai did not stop running as the Hungarian chased every ball and harried every Newcastle midfielder.
It was clear Liverpool would have to do this the hard way. The referee favoured the home side with certain decisions. Joelinton made four fouls in quick succession without being shown a yellow card. The Brazilian showed the referee the imaginary card gesture and escaped with nothing. Injustice. But, it was something the Reds coped with.
In the 77th minute, Klopp played his trump card. With the game still at 1-0, Nuñez was introduced in the hope that he could unleash some chaos on Tyneside.
After a defensive mix-up, Nuñez was through, but it was not straight forward. The Uruguayan knew he had to strike across Nick Pope with pace into the far corner to level the clash. That is exactly what happened. A fantastic finish and Liverpool were back on level terms in the 81st minute.
Nerves set in once again. Newcastle are going to come on strong now to push for that winner. No Van Dijk on the pitch. Youngster Jarell Quansah manning the defence alongside Gomez. It was set up.
Yes, set up for Liverpool to send their fans wild after enduring 90 minutes of pain.
Minute 93 and Nuñez is played in by Salah.
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The away fans high up in the Gods at St. James’ Park are sent into a frenzy as Nuñez secures all three points when it looked like the game would result in a first loss of the campaign.
With their backs against the wall, Liverpool stood up to the challenge and came away victorious. Seven points out of a possible nine with Chelsea and Newcastle away out of the way. You would have taken that at the start of the season!
‘Liverpool FC reloaded’, as Klopp named his new-look side, have shown signs of life.
If this strength and character continues then it could be an extremely exciting season.