Simon Mignolet

AP Photo/Rui Vieira

Three things from Liverpool’s frustrating day vs. Man Utd

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Let’s not beat around the bush: This is a game that Liverpool, at home, should’ve won.

Instead, Manchester United barely passed its first major test of the Premier League season.

[ MORE: JPW’s match recap | Player ratings ]

Let’s dig into the why.

Revolution No. 9, No. 9, No. 9

There are two positions that ail Liverpool, and they are the main reason the Reds will not challenge for a Premier League title this season despite their bevy of electric and dizzying attackers.

The first is a bit harder to digest if you take a myopic view of Saturday’s contest, because Romelu Lukaku was one of Manchester United’s more disappointing performers.

But if you plugged Lukaku or the starting frontman from any of the other main competitors into Liverpool’s lineup, the Reds win 2-0 or 3-0 Saturday.

Lacazette, Morata, Kane, Lukaku, they are all burying a biscuit or two on Saturday, to borrow a hockey term. And perhaps this is the main reason Liverpool’s Merseyside rival will also struggle to meet its goals. We can talk 3-5-2, or 4-5-1, or 3-4-3, but that Alan Shearer or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang type remains as important as ever in football.

De Gea, the king

Simon Mignolet is a fine keeper, and gets far more grief than he should due to his position as the backstop on an important world club in Liverpool.

But just like striker, this is one position where Liverpool lags beyond its competition. Lloris, De Gea, Ederson, Cech, Courtois… is there any doubt where Mignolet (or Loris Karius) ranks?

Let’s not make this just about Liverpool, though: De Gea was fantastic again on Saturday, assuring any voter who plugged him into the Ballon d’Or Top 25 that the right decision has been made regarding this year’s top keepers.

His leg save on Joel Matip in the first half was marvelous, but — warning: another hockey reference — De Gea reminds me of former USA and Buffalo Sabres backstop Ryan Miller in his prime, in that he is always in position to make extraordinary saves look routine. How often is a well-hit shot right into his safe arms, looking far less dangerous than it should? Often.

Disappointing Man Utd does Mourinho’s bidding

United is off to its joint-best points haul to start a Premier League season, and it could very well have had its best ever had one moment went its way.

Lukaku moved into the 18 during the first half and saw Mignolet make an excellent save on his hard shot toward the center of the goal.

While that point admittedly flies in the face of the above two things, the fact is Lukaku finishing that chance makes this result an essential pair to any number of Mourinho’s 1-0 defensive masterclasses at Chelsea.

Let’s face it: With respect to Phil Jones and Co., Mourinho is again producing clean sheet after clean sheet without impenetrable components. Eric Bailly has the chance to move into an elite class, but right now this is just vintage Mourinho.

Given the entertainment value, we have to add a ‘like it or not.’

Player ratings: Liverpool v. Man United

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Jose Mourinho will be the happier man as Manchester United struggled to get going in attack but ground out a draw at Liverpool on Saturday.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The 0-0 scoreline suggests how tense and tight the game was but there were still plenty of good individual displays in a massive rivalry game where United preferred to sit back and let Liverpool do the pressing.

Below are the marks out of 10 for the players on each team.


Liverpool

Simon Mignolet: 6 – Decent stop from Lukaku in the first half. Not tested apart from that.

Joe Gomez: 8 – Joined in the attack when he could and a solid display at right back. His promising form continues.

Joel Matip: 6 – A little shaky at time with the pace of Martial and Lukaku but held his own. Forced fine save from De Gea.

Dejan Lovren: 6 – Massive overreaction to the kick to his face from Lukaku but did okay apart from that.

Alberto Moreno: 7 – A really good display from the much-maligned Spaniard. Uncharacteristically solid defensively.

Emre Can: 6 – Missed a glorious chance early in the second half. It was a tough one but didn’t sort his feet out quick enough.

Georginio Wijnaldum: 6 – Pressed high and put Herrera and Matic under plenty of pressure.

Jordan Henderson: 5 – Sort of forgot he was on the pitch. Another sub-par display.

Mohamed Salah: 7 – Created problems for Darmian in the first half and should have scored but put his effort wide.

Roberto Firmino: 6 – Struggled to get into the game but did pull a great ball back for Matip’s chance.

Philippe Coutinho: 7 – Always lively on the ball and United were scared stiff of him.

Subs
Daniel Sturridge on for Coutinho (79th minute) – 5 – Tried to get in the right positions but didn’t have enough time
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on for Salah (79th minute) – 5 – Couple of decent crosses but that was it.
Dominic Solanke on for Firmino (87th minute) – N/A


Manchester United

David De Gea: 8 – Magnificent stop from Matip’s shot and a calming influence for United.

Antonio Valencia: 7 – Dominant display at right back as he kept Coutinho and Firmino largely quiet.

Chris Smalling: 6 – A little bit shaky in possession but did okay. Booked for a foul on Coutinho.

Phil Jones: 7 – Another good display from Jones who showed great composure once again.

Matteo Darmian: 6 – Solid but had his hands fall with Salah, particularly in the first half. Couldn’t get forward.

Ander Herrera: 5 – Late into plenty of challenges and you can see why Mourinho has favored Fellaini over him.

Nemanja Matic: 6 – Not his best display but did a decent job of pushing high when he could and putting his foot on the ball.

Ashley Young: 6 – What you see is what you get from Young. Worked his socks off out wide but final ball was lacking

Henrik Mkhitaryan: 6 – Involved in the Lukaku chance but not much else. Unsurprisingly subbed out.

Anthony Martial: 6 – Looked lively in spells and helped set up Lukaku for his big chance. Subbed in second half.

Romelu Lukaku: 5 – A frustrated figure all game. Missed a really good chance just before half time and late on tackles with Gomez and Lovren. Isolated and first touch was all over the place.

Subs
Jesse Lingard on for Henrik Mkhitaryan (63rd minute) – 5 – Struggled to get involved in the game out wide.
Marcus Rashford on for Anthony Martial (65th minute) – 5- See above.
Victor Lindelof on for Ashley Young (90th minute – N/A

Liverpool 0-0 Man United: Stalemate at Anfield

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  • 1 win in eight for Liverpool
  • United remain unbeaten in PL
  • No win in 7 PL games v United for Liverpool 
  • 1 shot on target for Man United

Liverpool and Manchester United played out a tense, tight 0-0 draw at Anfield on Saturday as the home side had the better chances but failed to take them.

[ MORE: Klopp questions United’s tactics

For the first time in history there have now been four successive draws between these bitters rivals across all competitions.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things ]

David De Gea made a wonderful save from Joel Matip in the first half and Romelu Lukaku squandered a glorious chance for United just before half time.

Jose Mourinho and United will be happier with the point as they go top of the table, momentarily, and remain seven points ahead of Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool after eight games of the Premier League season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]  

Liverpool started the brighter of the two teams with Salah causing plenty of problems from the right flank but David de Gea wasn’t forced into anything other than routine saves early on.

United grew into the game and Lukaku finally started to get involved, especially down the right flank and Nemanja Matic spanked an effort which flew just wide from the edge of the box.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

De Gea made a stunning stop before the break as Roberto Firmino‘s cross found Joel Matip but his effort was wonderfully saved be De Gea’s outstretched left foot. The follow up fell to Salah who fired home but it was all about DDG’s superb reflex save.

Lukaku was lucky to escape a booking for a cynical hack on Joe Gomez and had a great chance just before half time but hit his tame effort straight at Simon Mignolet.

There was also another flash-point involving Lukaku where United’s striker appeared to clip Dejan Lovren in the face with his boot while Lovren was on the floor.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Liverpool were by far the better team early in the second half and Emre Can had a glorious chance to put them ahead but he hooked a lovely ball forward from Joe Gomez just over.

Mourinho sent on Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford with 25 minutes to go to try and create some problems for Liverpool’s defense and spark United into life.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

It didn’t work as Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain improved Liverpool after jumping off the bench but neither side could find a winner and they had to settle for a second-straight 0-0 draw at Anfield in their rivalry in the Premier League.

Three things we learned from Newcastle v. Liverpool

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NEWCASTLE — Liverpool and Newcastle played out an entertaining, tight 1-1 draw at St James’ Park on Sunday as Jurgen Klopp‘s men will once again rue a defensive mistake for handing the Magpies a point.

Philippe Coutinho‘s stunner was canceled out by Joselu‘s goal as Rafael Benitez got the better of the tactical battle.

Here’s what we learned as Liverpool were frustrated by the Magpies.


SAME OLD STORY FOR LIVERPOOL

Liverpool’s defensive issues are systematic. Not in terms of how Jurgen Klopp has his defense, or his entire team set up tactically, but due to the fact his defenders continue to make elementary mistakes.

He is not asking them to do anything out of the ordinary but it is the ordinary things they continue to get wrong. Especially for Newcastle’s goal.

It was as if Jonjo Shelvey was Moses as he picked up the ball 20 yards inside his own half. With a wave of his gifted right foot he parted the Liverpool defense as Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren were caught square. The fact that it was Joselu bearing down on Simon Mignolet‘s goal will have filled the hearts of Liverpool’s fan with hopes.

The Spaniard has been wasteful but to sum up the calamitous defending from Liverpool, just as it looked like Matip had done enough to put him off the ball bounced off Joselu’s shin via a tackle from Matip and dribbled into the net.

Klopp turned to his bench in disbelief as Liverpool had, once again, shot themselves in the foot. Their ability to go from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of minutes is as impressive as it is frustrating.

There remains only one answer for Klopp: he needs to get better defenders as soon as the January window opens. Between now and then it is likely defensive mistakes will cost his team any chance they thought they had at challenging for the Premier League title.


COUTINHO’S STUNNERS MASKS SUBDUED

The Brazilian magician was at it again. Coutinho scored his second stunner in as many Premier League games as he jinxed inside and curled home a powerful effort into the top corner to make it 1-0.

Yet apart from that he struggled to impose himself. Coutinho was asked to play out on the left hand side in the second half due to his inability to dictate the tempo of Liverpool’s attack and get on the ball.

It didn’t work. Klopp urged him to tuck inside and defend when Newcastle had the ball and although he trotted back into position, you could tell Coutinho’s heart wasn’t in it as he put his thumb up.

With Daniel Sturridge, Mohamaed Salah and Sadio Mane all missing glorious chances, Coutinho made something out of nothing but Liverpool needed more from their talismanic playmaker as their much-lauded attack again wasted opportunities and only had two efforts on target the entire game.

It’s easy to blame his failed move to Barcelona leading to a perceived lack of motivation early in the season, but Coutinho is certainly playing like a man who doesn’t care for too much other than adding to his already impressive highlight reel.


BENITEZ’S PLAN BACKED 100%

Sunday was a special day for Benitez. Facing the club he led to UEFA Champions League glory in 2005, Benitez was applauded by both sets of fans.

“Rafael’s Barmy Army” was the chant cascading down from the stands at St James’ Park for the final 15 minutes of the game as the home supporters showed their appreciation for his tactical plan and his players carrying it out to perfection.

Newcastle’s supporters went one better before the game as they unfurled a banner, which you can see below.  The general meaning of the message is that they will support him wherever they go, in spite of the lies. Reading between the lines they are quite simply backing their manager after many reported disputes with the hierarchy at Newcastle over their lack of transfer funds made available.

The home fans sung his name time and time and time again during the game and if the passionate Geordies are on your side, Benitez can push on knowing the unity he needs off the pitch is there, at least from the supporters.

With over 52,000 fans backing his team at home, Benitez will make St James’ Park a tough place to travel to all season.

His pragmatic, defensive approach got the best of his limited squad and they deserved their point against Liverpool, their second biggest test of the season so far after hosting Tottenham Hotspur back in August.

This isn’t a return to the heyday of Kevin Keegan and the entertainers era of the mid 1990s but it’s a start. After picking up 10 points in their first seven games back in the Premier League and sitting in ninth place heading into the international break, the newly-promoted side are proving they can first solidify themselves in the top-flight and then kick on.

Benitez’s clear plan is working and the Newcastle supporters are fully behind him. That much is clear. Now, he needs the board to back him and bring in three of four players with more quality, especially in the final third.

Newcastle United 1-1 Liverpool: Rafa frustrates former club

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Rafa Benitez took a point from his old pals Liverpool as the favorite Reds drew Newcastle United 1-1 on Sunday at St. James Park.

Liverpool rises seventh with 12 points, while Newcastle sits ninth with 10.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Rafa remembered his Liverpool roots, and there was certainly a pro-Benitez buzz from all four corners of the stadium ahead of the match.

Mohamed Salah led a lightning counter and sprung Sadio Mane on goal with a fantastic pass, but Magpies keeper Rob Elliot ended up rescuing the ball after several bobbles through the 18.

Ex-Liverpool man Jonjo Shelvey was back in Newcastle United’s lineup, and curled an early shot from outside the 18 into the arms of Simon Mignolet.

Shelvey cued Matt Ritchie up for a left-footed shot that wasn’t much of a problem for Mignolet.

The Reds grew into the game, and their fine attackers looked a cut above the Magpies back line (though Jamaal Lascelles stood tall at the back).

Liverpool’s mysterious finishing problems continued on a 23rd minute corner, with a post hit, a point-blank chance missed, and two more attempts off the mark.

But then, oh my, Coutinho. Given some room by Shelvey, Coutinho moved to his right and curled a near post shot past a flying Elliot and into the top corner.

Yet Newcastle leveled the score thanks to an outstanding through ball

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

A Ciaran Clark error gave Sturridge an amazing chance that Elliot saved, and Salah put the rebound well over the goal.

Liverpool dodged a bullet when Sadio Mane’s raking of a boot on Joselu went unheeded, and then another when Joe Gomez just saw yellow after clattering into Christian Atsu.

The Magpies had a decent series of chances around the hour mark, but couldn’t quite orchestrate a quality final shot.

Jurgen Klopp attacked the game by tossing on Dominic Solanke and Roberto Firmino, while Newcastle’s introduction of Isaac Hayden showed a desire to see out a point.

Still 1-1 in the 84th minute, Klopp injected Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The high-priced midfielder headed an Alberto Moreno cross over the frame in the 88th minute.

Dejan Lovren partially blocked a Mohamed Diame shot off a late corner.