Mehrdad Ghodoussi sums up big Newcastle United change as Jurgen Klopp notes 'mood' change on Tyneside
Mehdrdad Ghodoussi summed it up well.
Newcastle United’s co-owner posted a short message on Twitter after yesterday’s 1-0 home defeat to Liverpool.
“You know we’ve come a long way when we’re so disappointed not to beat Liverpool,” tweeted Ghodoussi.
Ghodoussi was right. There was disappointment at the result.
Yet a few months ago, a defeat to a title-challenging Liverpool side by that narrow scoreline would have led to a sense of relief more than anything given the gulf in class between the two teams.
However, this game, which kicked off after a stunning Wor Flags display, was seen as the toughest remaining Premier League fixture for Jurgen Klopp’s because of the turnaround at post-takeover Newcastle under Eddie Howe, whose side had won their six previous home games.
Everything, according to Klopp, was seemingly set up for a home win.
Klopp labelled it an “incredibly difficult” match for his team, which had played a Champions League fixture in midweek.
“Coming here (against a) team in form, six home wins on the bounce, great weather, everybody in a good mood,” said Liverpool’s manager. “Actually, pretty much everything was prepared for a home win. The only group who wanted to avoid that was my players.”
United, 10th in the Premier League and close to being mathematically safe from relegation, have come a long way under Howe, but there’s still a long way to go.
And this was underlined on the pitch at St James’s Park, where Liverpool were dominant.
Howe – who again fielded Allan Saint-Maximin up front, and named Chris Wood on the bench – needed his players, and especially his individual talents, to be at their best, but that wasn’t the case.
"Individually, I don’t think we hit our top levels, which meant collectively we didn’t quite hit the levels we have recently,” said Newcastle’s head coach. “We probably didn’t quite have that sustained pressure we were looking for. The second half was better without that big chance ever really coming.”
That said, the collective efforts of the team ensured that United – who conceded the only goal of the game when Fabian Schar was down needing treatment – stayed in the match until the last minute, though it was the visitors who were pushing in the final minutes.
That, at least, was a positive, as it would have been easy to capitulate to a team of Liverpool’s quality.
Newcastle didn’t, and the resilience on show was a positive ahead of next Sunday’s game against Manchester City, who retook the lead of the Premier League from Klopp’s side last night.
The game was a learning curve for United, a team which hopes to be pushing higher up the division next season.
Ahead of kick-off time yesterday, no team had taken more points than Liverpool (38pts from 14 games) and Newcastle (32pts from 15 games).
Ghodoussi also used the hashtag #nextseason on the end of his post-game tweet – and there’s hope that United will be able to give Liverpool an even tougher game next term.
The club faces a big summer, but, for now, the focus remains on the three big games it has left.