Video: Liverpool 2-2 Newcastle – Rafa’s happy return ends Liverpool’s top four hopes

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Liverpool threw away a two-goal lead to all but end their hopes of a fop four finish as Newcastle took another giant step towards their own Premier League survival.

Two wonderful first half goals from Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana set the Reds on their way, but Papiss Cisse and Jack Colback ensured Newcastle walked away with a point.

Liverpool made five changes from the derby win over Everton in mid-week. Kolo Toure replaced the under-investigation Mamadou Sakho in defence, Daniel Sturridge came in for the injured Divock Origi, and Nathaniel Clyne, Lucas, and Philippe Coutinho, were rested and replaced by Connor Randall, Kevin Stewart, and Joe Allen.

Rafa Benitez named an unchanged side from the one which drew 1-1 with Man City on Tuesday night.

Liverpool sprung out of the blocks and took the lead in 63 seconds. Andros Townsend gave away a cheap free-kick near the half-way line, and the quick-thinking Alberto Moreno picked out Sturridge on the edge of the area. The England international underlined his rapidly-improving form by chesting the ball down, spinning, and hitting a wonderful first-time shot into the bottom corner.

The Reds were thoroughly dominant and doubled their lead thanks to an exquisite Adam Lallana finish after half an hour. The former Southampton man looked like he had been in the mood all afternoon, and his curling finish into the top corner from twenty yards only served to highlight his growing importance to this Liverpool side. Roberto Firmino supplied the assist.

Moments later there was a massive penalty appeal from the hosts. Lallana got free down the left and tried to swing a cross into the area, but it was blocked by Paul Dummett’s arm. Replays showed that the Newcastle player’s arm was extended, and Benitez’s men were lucky to escape unpunished.

Newcastle were back in the game just moments after the break. Moreno failed to incept a pass and Simon Mignolet couldn’t get a hand on Vernon Anita’s resulting cross, allowing Papiss Cisse to head home at the back post.

The goal invigorated Newcastle and they had a couple of quick-fire chances, but poor finishing and an alert goalkeeper kept Liverpool’s lead intact.

Firmino briefly thought he had restored the home side’s two-goal advantage when Karl Darlow parried a shot into his path, but the linesman correctly ruled it out for offside.

Amazingly, Newcastle were level in the 65th minute. Jack Colback, who hadn’t scored a goal all season, took advantage of Lovren’s poor headed clearance to smash a deflected shot past Mignolet from the edge of the area. Klopp responded by introducing Coutinho and Lucas from the bench.

Liverpool threw bodies forward but were unable to create any clear-cut chances – though Coutinho, Lallana, and Kevin Stewart all went close.

The result leaves Liverpool four points behind Man Utd and eight behind Arsenal. Newcastle are on 30 points, level with Sunderland and one behind Norwich – though they have played two more than their local rivals and one more than the East Anglia club.

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Next up for Liverpool is the season-defining Europa League semi-final first leg in Spain against Villarreal. They then travel to Swansea next weekend.

Newcastle host Crystal Palace at St James’ Park next Saturday.

More Stories Adam Lallana Daniel Sturridge Papiss Cisse