This is painfully evident following Newcastle United's latest defeat
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And that’s easier said than done.
Liverpool won 3-1 tonight amid more postponements elsewhere due to Covid-19, but Eddie Howe and his players will feel that the result could have been different had it not been for a first-half decision from referee Mike Dean.
Newcastle were leading 1-0 thanks to Jonjo Shelvey strike when Dean opted not to stop play to allow Isaac Hayden, holding his head, to get treatment following a collision with Fabian Schar. Liverpool scored while Hayden was down – and United’s advantage was gone.
Observers said the game had the feel of the infamous Liverpool game at Anfield against Atletico Madrid in March last year. The fixture, the last major game to be played in England before the first lockdown, was later blamed for spreading coronavirus in the city.
Certainly, the Premier League’s festive programme looks set to be decimated by the latest wave of Covid-19 infections.
United fans can only hope they have something to celebrate on the pitch over Christmas, as there was no early present for them at Anfield.
Howe had left Callum Wilson, a booking away from a one-game ban, out of his starting XI at Anfield. Hayden, Jacob Murphy and Ryan Fraser were recalled to the team, which was set up in a 4-5-1 formation with Allan Saint-Maximin leading the line.
And Saint-Maximin was involved in the early move which led to Shelvey’s goal. The winger played the ball to Fraser on the left, and his cross was played out to Shelvey, in space, by Thiago. Shelvey had time to pick his spot, and Alisson remained rooted to his spot when the midfielder struck the ball from 25 yards with his right foot after taking two touches.
Howe then lost Jamal Lewis to a hamstring problem, and the game quickly, and controversially, turned against Newcastle.
Dean allowed the game to play on when Hayden and Schar were down holding their heads following a 21st-minute collision. The ball went to Mane on the right, and he crossed for Dioga Jota, who was being kept onside by the prostrate Hayden.
Jota’s header was saved by Martin Dubravka, but he netted from the rebound. Howe was incensed.
Liverpool went ahead four minutes later. Shelvey gifted the ball to Mane, who had a shot saved by Dubravka. Mo Salah, however, scored from the loose ball.
United got to the break without conceding again, and were fortunate that Dean didn’t penalise Jamaal Lascelles for a push on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the box early in the second half.
Fraser had a penalty appeal waved away at the other end of the pitch – he went down under a challenge from Trent Alexander-Arnold after Murphy crossed from the right – as the game swung from end to end.
Newcastle’s fans saw enough from their team to convince them that the club could take something from the fixture.
As it was, Alexander-Arnold ended hopes of an equaliser with a late strike.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Dubravka, Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Lewis (Ritchie, 15), Hayden, Shelvey, Fraser (Willock, 87), Murphy, Saint-Maximin (Wilson, 79), Joelinton. Subs not used: Darlow, Clark, Hendrick, Almiron, Gayle, Longstaff.