Coutinho beauty not enough as Reds' defensive woes strike again

Philippe Coutinho's superb opening goal was not enough to earn Liverpool three points as it was held to a 1-1 draw by Newcastle United.

Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho celebrates with his teammates after scoring in the 29th minute.   -  Getty Images

Liverpool's season so far was summed up in 90 minutes at St James' Park as Philippe Coutinho produced a spectacular opening goal before a defensive lapse allowed Newcastle United to salvage a 1-1 draw.

Coutinho's strike after 29 minutes epitomised the qualities that made him a target for Barcelona and while he continues to inspire Liverpool's attack this season, Reds fans may fear what a January departure would do to its side's potency.

The Brazilian is the Premier League's leading exponent of long-range goals, having scored 17 from outside the box since his Liverpool debut, but he is playing in front of a defence that regularly proves the Reds' undoing.

MATCHCENTRE

Joselu's 36th-minute equaliser was the ninth goal Liverpool has conceded in its last four league outings, which matches the total it shipped in its previous 12 games combined and Jurgen Klopp must find a way to eradicate its momentary lapses if it is to challenge for honours this season.

Liverpool has now won only one of its last seven games and, with Manchester United and Tottenham awaiting it after the international break, Klopp could find himself under considerable pressure by the end of October.

KEY OPTA STATS

  • Newcastle has lost only one of its last seven home Premier League games against the Reds (W4 D2).
  • The Magpies have only lost once at St. James’ Park in the Premier League under Rafa Benitez (W5 D3).
  • Liverpool hasn’t lost any of its last 24 Premier League matches in October (W13 D11), since losing 2-0 to Everton in 2010.
  • Liverpool has scored 295 Premier League goals from outside the box, 33 more than any other side.
  • Joselu is yet to lose a Premier League game in which he has scored (W5 D1).
  • Joselu has scored two goals from three shots on target at St. James’ Park in the Premier League this season.

Jonjo Shelvey's return to the Newcastle team had a galvanising effect and after 12 minutes he picked out Matt Ritchie, whose angled drive from the edge of the box forced a diving save from Simon Mignolet.

Daniel Sturridge should have opened the scoring three minutes later when he dribbled to within five yards of goal only to have his low shot blocked by Jamaal Lascelles, before Mohamed Salah's touch let him down when he had the chance to go one-on-one with Rob Elliot, allowing DeAndre Yedlin to recover and dispossess him.

Newcastle was let off the hook after 23 minutes when Georginio Wijnaldum struck the post from close range and both Dejan Lovren and Sadio Mane squandered opportunities to score as the ball bounced around the penalty area uncontested by anyone in a black and white shirt.

After almost half an hour of dominance, Liverpool capitalised through a moment of sheer brilliance from Coutinho, who collected the ball on the left wing and cut inside before curling a powerful right-footed shot into the top-left corner of the net from 25 yards, leaving Elliot no chance.

But Liverpool's defence has been its Achilles heel this season and so it proved when Shelvey's pass caught it napping after 36 minutes and Joel Matip, rushing back to try and tackle Joselu, kicked the ball against the Spaniard's shin before it rolled beyond Mignolet and into the corner of the net.

OTHER RESULTS

Arsenal 2 - Brighton 0

Burnley 1 - Everton 0


Ciaran Clark gift-wrapped a
chance for Sturridge after five minutes of the second half, slicing an attempted clearance on the edge of the box into the path of the England striker, who shot straight at Elliot before Salah blazed the rebound over the crossbar.

Just after the hour mark, Mignolet hesitated over a Ritchie cross that drifted all the way to the far post before eventually being cleared, and at the other end Elliot made a brilliant interception to prevent Sturridge from scoring, sliding out and snatching the ball away from the on-rushing striker's toes.

Newcastle sent on Dwight Gayle as they sought a late winner but it was Liverpool, rejuvenated by the introduction of Dominic Solanke and Roberto Firmino, which pressed hardest in the closing stages.

Shelvey headed a Lovren header off the line in the 77th minute to keep his former employer from snatching three points before Solanke went agonisingly close with a diving header that flew just wide seven minutes from time.

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