Liverpool 3 Newcastle 1: Reds keep pressure on Man City as Jota, Salah and Alexander-Arnold cancel out Shelvey stunner

THERE will soon be a time when they will be welcoming Kylian Mbappe or some such Galactico to Tyneside.

For now they have to make do with the more unpredictable delights of Jonjo Shelvey. 

Newcastle’s former Liverpool midfield man whipped home a glorious early opener in front of The Kop, only to gift his former club the decisive goal through Mohamed Salah.

With football careering towards lockdown, the first half threatened to conjured up a glorious throwback to the days when these two clubs served up classic seven-goal thrillers.

Those days may return once Geordie Arabia starts reaping the rewards of becoming the wealthiest football club on Earth.   

The question now is whether Newcastle can reach those heights without having to endure a return trip to the Championship. 

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp lost Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones to positive Covid tests on the morning of this match. 

But his side still had enough to defeat Eddie Howe’s strugglers – a controversial Diogo Jota equaliser and Salah’s winner soon overhauling Shelvey’s gem of a goal before Trent Alexander-Arnold added a late screamer.

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The Reds are just a point behind Manchester City and with Chelsea continuing to slip, we may be looking at Klopp and Pep Guardiola going head-to-head relentlessly for title as they did three seasons ago.

As for Newcastle, well they now face both Manchester clubs, knowing that two defeats would leave them with just ten points at the halfway stage of the season – and no Premier League team has ever survived from that position.

Not that any relegation-threatened club have ever undergone quite such a transformative mid-season takeover. 

The Toon would surely prefer for the Premier League to have a Covid ‘circuit breaker’ until February 1. 

And, of course, it would have been madness for Liverpool to ask for this fixture to be called off for those Covid absences, given that it could be rescheduled after the January transfer window, when Newcastle will have splashed their wonga.   

Klopp has been right to urge transparency over the postponement of matches and Liverpool took the unusual, but welcome, step of naming those who had tested positive. 

Most clubs asking for cancellations, refuse to divulge how many players are affected – leading to murkiness and accusations of favouritism. 

Howe dropped his leading scorer Callum Wilson – imagine the uproar if Steve Bruce had done the same – and it soon Diogo Jota was twisting his marker and forcing a smart stop from Martin Dubravka.

But then, a minor sensation as Newcastle grabbed a seventh-minute lead. 

Allan Saint-Maximin – a Champions League player in a bottom-three squad – led a break, Ryan Fraser played a poor centre but Thiago Alcantara botched an attempted clearance, teeing up Shelvey to score home a delicious long-ranger, with some serious whippage. 

Liverpool were soon level, though, in controversial circumstances.

From a corner, Isaac Hayden collided with team-mate Fabian Schar and stayed down, clutching his head, while Sadio Mane centred to the far post where Jota’s downward header was brilliantly saved by Dubravka, only for the Portuguese forward to stab home the rebound.

Howe and his staff were fuming but there did not appear to be any clash of heads and Hayden was soon up and running again.

It was the 32nd consecutive match in which Liverpool had scored – a club record. 

Newcastle almost reclaimed the lead after another shocking pass from Thiago allowed Saint Maximin to run clear – his shot well saved by Allison. 

The bedlam – and the errors – continued at a rapid pace, though, and Liverpool were in front after 25 minutes.

Shelvey made his peace with The Kop by producing a dreadful back-pass to send Mane clean through. 

The Senegalese forward stumbled under a challenge from Schar – which might have seen a penalty awarded – only for the ball to cannon off the shins of Dubravka for Salah to score with ease.  

It was the Egyptian’s 22nd goal of an extraordinary campaign but soon he stunned Anfield by missing a glaring chance, shooting wide across goal from a glorious volleyed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pass.

Liverpool might have had a penalty straight after the restart when Jamaal Lascelles shoved over The Ox in the box and Dubravka made an outstanding save to keep out a close-range Mane header.

Newcastle were barking for a penalty when Trent Alexander-Arnold challenged Ryan Fraser but the England full-back had won the ball cleanly.

Shelvey pinged a free-kick narrowly wide after Brazilian keeper Allison had shown a wonderful use of the Anglo-Saxon invective in trying to shape his defensive wall.

Liverpool were going flat and Klopp sent on Roberto Firmino for Salah, while Howe introduced Wilson. 

And as the hosts upped it, Alexander-Arnold sent an absolute rip-snorter into the top corner from 20 yards – a strike even as good as poor old Shelvey’s.

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