Newcastle 0 Liverpool 2: Disaster for Toon with Pope sent off and Joelinton injured ahead of Carabao Cup final
ONLY Newcastle could pull off something like this.
Within sight of a first domestic trophy since 1955, only Newcastle would end up with their keeper suspended for the final after being sent off in the previous Premier League game.
Only Newcastle – defensively brilliant all season – could deliver an absolutely atrocious first-half performance just eight days before their Carabao Cup scrap against Manchester United.
Not that many of the club’s success-starved fans will have been surprised by this absolute disaster so close to a first final for 24 years.
Many will have been expecting something like this to happen. So little wonder the Toon supporters left St James Park’ looking pretty p***ed off.
Nick Pope, having kept 12 clean sheets in the Premier League this season and looking forward to the highlight of his career at Wembley after a tough scrap through the EFL, will miss the final after a red card in the first half for a handballoutside the area.
Yet even the situation for a back-up keeper is comically bad.
With second-choice Martin Dubravka cup-tied, your third-choice keeper to play at Wembley would probably not be someone who has failed to feature in a competitive football for two years and last played for an English side when he suffered a horror in the 2018 Champions League final.
But now, incredibly, it seems that former Liverpool keeper Loris Karius will be the man who must try and keep out United.
He will certainly be on a mission to prove a point.
This was an awful night for Newcastlemanager Eddie Howe’s team and it is now four League games without a win.
But while his hopes of a Champions League spot have taken a wobble, Liverpool – like 2021 – are on a mission to end a poor domestic season by still finishing in the top four.
Although helped by Pope’s dismissal, Liverpool were already cruising to a win with two goals courtesy of Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo.
Sluggish in their previous few matches, Newcastle appeared to be playing with much more energy and looked extremely dangerous.
Miguel Almiron should have put them ahead in the fourth minute but took a heavy first touch and Alisson saved.
And then, it went horribly wrong for Newcastle.
Klopp was unhappy with his team’s start and gave it both barrels to Gakpo and Nunez for not working hard enough defensively.
Maybe it was just a coincidence but a minute later, Nunez stuck the ball past Pope after Trent Alexander-Arnold threaded a clever pass between Kieran Trippier and Fabian Schar.
Trippier was guilty of not playing to the whistle and immediately appealed for handball but the ball hit Nunez’s chest before he confidently put the ball past Pope for his tenth competitive Reds goal.
Things got worse for Trippier when he played Gakpo onside for the second.
The £37million Dutchman took one touch to control Salah’s ball over the top before registering goal number two for the club, five days after his first in the win against Everton earlier in the week.
So, 2-0 down after 17 minutes. Could anything else go wrong for Newcastle? You become skeptical.
Pope, normally such a safe, level-headed keeper, will spend the next few days wondering why he tried to use his head after rushing out of his area to stop Mo Salah from connecting to Alisson’s long kick.
A simple clearance would have done – but he panicked.
When Alisson gathered the ball from a Newcastle set-piece, the home bench were screaming at the defence that the Brazilian would kick the ball long to Salah.
This is exactly what happened and Pope charged off his line and ended up stopping the ball with his arm.
Referee Anthony Taylor immediately showed a red card even though Newcastle’s players felt he did not stop a goalscoring opportunity as the ball was going away from goal and there were defenders covering.
Elliot Anderson’s first Premier League start lasted 23 minutes for Newcastle and was replaced by sub keeper Dubravka.
At least Newcastle showed some guts and they were denied by the woodwork twice before half-time.
Alisson pushed a shot from Allan Saint-Maximin, Newcastle’s best player, on to the bar while Dan Burn also saw his thumping header smash against the framework of the goal.
Near the end, sub Callum Wilson also had a great chance but forced another good save from Alisson.
But ultimately, Liverpool were pretty comfortable purely because of the two-goal cushion.
And what a week it has been for Klopp just as everything seemed to be falling apart.
There was a first game since January 2 for Virgil van Dijk and while he has not been great this season, Liverpool are still better when he starts in central defence.
Roberto Firmino was also handed another run-out after his long spell on the sidelines.
So, life looks a bit brighter for Klopp.
There is now a quick turnaround as Liverpool are now preparing for the visit of Real Madrid on Tuesday.
What seemed like an easy win for the Spaniards in a repeat of the Champions League final could be a bit closer than many have expected.