Joe Willock is worth his weight in goals to Newcastle United
Newcastle United can’t compete with Liverpool off the pitch these days, but they gave as good as they got on the field at Anfield this afternoon.
And Steve Bruce’s side deserved the point they claimed from a remarkable 1-1 draw which saw Arsenal loanee Joe Willock score a 95th-minute equaliser two minutes after Callum Wilson had agonisingly had a goal ruled out for handball.
The result further edged the 15th-placed club towards Premier League safety.
The build-up to the game had been dominated by the short-lived European Super League. The widely-condemned project would have all but ruined the Premier League – and given the likes of Liverpool blank cheques.
Newcastle fans, of course, can only dream of a new owner – and a brighter future.
But, for the moment, at least they’ve got Allan Saint-Maximin to keep them entertained.
The winger was outstanding on the ball. Time and again he twisted, turned and tormented the home defence on a bright afternoon at Anfield, and the home side resorted to some crude tactics to stop him.
Fans, understandably, are concerned that the club could lose Saint-Maximin in the summer – even if if it stays up. The 24-year-old is unplayable at times, and he made life hard for Liverpool after they took an early lead through a Mohamed Salah strike.
Bruce had resisted calls to start Willock and Wilson, and named an unchanged team at Anfield, where Newcastle last won in 1994 when Kevin Keegan was manager.
That season, the club was pushing for a European place. Times have changed since those heady days, and Newcastle went to Anfield looking for the win which would all but secure their Premier League status.
Unfortunately, United got off the to the worst possible start. A third-minute Sadio Mane cross from the left was headed on by Ciaran Clark to Salah at the far post, and the striker turned and shot past Martin Dubravka.
Newcastle reacted well to the setback. They pressed for an equaliser, and Saint-Maximin unsettled Liverpool whenever he took the ball.
The best chance of the half fell to Sean Longstaff. Jonjo Shelvey played in Longstaff with a clever ball down the middle, but the midfielder took too much time, and his low shot was stopped by Alisson.
United kept on creating chances, but they struggled with the ball, and Martin Dubravka had to be alert at the other end of the pitch. Newcastle’s goalkeeper denied Salah a second goal after a quick break forward, and also dived at Sane’s feet before the break.
Bruce sent out an unchanged side for the second half, and Joelinton, showing some welcome urgency, forced a save from Alisson after bursting into the box.
That was Joelinton’s last opportunity, as he was replaced by Wilson for the last half-hour. Willock was also sent on – Ciaran Clark’s withdrawal meant a stint in defence for Shelvey – but he didn’t get the chance to score another late goal.
Liverpool controlled much of the half, and Dwight Gayle replaced Miguel Almiron late in the game.
Driven on by Saint-Maximin, they pressed for an equaliser, and Wilson had a 93rd-minute goal ruled out for a handball.
United, however, weren’t done, and Willock reacted to a flick-on from Gayle to claim a deserved point.