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.