Liverpool draw blank for first time as champions, as Newcastle earn point

Samuel Bannister
Mohamed Salah

Liverpool will end 2020 three points clear at the top of the Premier League after being held to a 0-0 draw at Newcastle.

The reigning champions had the chance to put daylight between themselves and Manchester United in the table ahead of the New Year. However, it was a game in which defences came out on top.

The last time the two sides met, Newcastle had taken an early lead. They threatened to do so again when Callum Wilson muscled off a challenge from Nat Phillips – who was starting for Liverpool in place of the injured Joel Matip.

However, Alisson Becker managed to save Wilson’s shot from a tight angle.

Liverpool’s best chance of the half came just after the half-hour mark. Newcastle keeper Karl Darlow made himself big to claw away an effort from Mohamed Salah in a one-on-one situation.

As the break approached, Darlow was called into action again. He tipped away a header from Roberto Firmino to retain the even scoreline.

Liverpool continued to up the pressure in the second half, although once aain they struggled to breach Darlow’s goal.

Salah sent a shot wide just after the hour mark, when he should have done better.

Moments later, Firmino – the man who had set Salah up for the last chance – missed a sitter of his own. All the Brazilian had to do was head the ball in at the far-post with Darlow off his line, but he could only divert the ball wide.

With just under 20 minutes to go, Liverpool were able to welcome Thiago Alcantara back for his first appearance since recovering from injury. He replaced another returning player, James Milner.

No way past for either side

However, it was Newcastle who went closest next. A free kick was curled into the Liverpool box, and Alisson had to push away a header from Ciaran Clark.

At the other end, his defensive partner Fabian Schar came to the rescue to keep Newcastle on level terms. Just as it appeared Sadio Mane was about to tap into an empty net, Schar got to the ball first in the nick of time and cleared it off the line.

Then it was Darlow’s turn to be a hero for Newcastle again, producing a strong right hand to keep out another Firmino header.

In the end, both sides had to settle for a point. Newcastle earned their first clean sheet of December, while Liverpool failed to score in a Premier League game for the first time since July.

Regardless, the Reds head into the New Year as league leaders. Newcastle are eight points clear of the bottom three, and now just four points off the top half.