On April 27th 2013 Newcastle produced one of their most inept Premier League displays against a Liverpool team which was allowed the freedom of St James’ Park to comfortably win the match 6-0. It was a one-sided affair and double figures would have been possible had the Reds not eased the pressure later in the match. Just six months later, the teams met again at the same stadium but the outcome was so much different.
This weekend, Newcastle showed a real act of defiance in a display which bore little resemblance to the meek submission in April, and at the finale, they fully deserved the point from the 2-2 draw. With last season’s debacle still in the memory of many supporters there was understandable nervousness among the black and white faithful, especially with club captain Fabricio Coloccini ruled out by injury.
Whereas the first fifteen minutes were dominated by a rampant Liverpool last season, the opening stages of Saturday’s match were more evenly contested offering hope that Newcastle would at least compete with their illustrious opponents. When Yohan Cabaye opened the scoring for Newcastle, supporters sensed a real shock was on the cards but those hopes were dashed before just before half-time. Steven Gerrard converted a penalty following a challenge by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa on Luis Suarez which correctly earned the Magpie defender a red card.
With only 10 men, supporters once again feared the worst and another drubbing by Liverpool with Suarez and Daniel Sturridge leading their attack. It was a tribute to the resilience of the home team that they stood firm against the expected onslaught and even regained the lead at one stage via a well taken finish by substitute defender Paul Dummett.
Sturridge did equalise and the Newcastle defence did survive some threatening moments but they earned their point through some determined and steadfast defending, a feature so sadly lacking in April’s corresponding fixture.
None of the Newcastle players could be criticised for effort, but two players are particularly worthy of mention. Cheick Tiote was named captain for the day and his performance was reminiscent of his earlier days in a black and white shirt when he marauded the midfield with intent. The pale shadow of a midfielder of last season was unrecognisable in his role as captain and midfield general, winning nearly every tackle without being booked.
Special mention is also warranted for French forward Yoan Gouffran whose not stop running and general covering play earned many plaudits as Liverpool intensified their efforts in the second half.
Newcastle have produced some wretched displays in recent months but this 2-2 draws proves that they are capable of competing with the better Premier League teams. There is renewed hope that the relegation threat of last season will not be repeated during this campaign.