Newcastle vs Liverpool result: Five things we learned as Reds held in stalemate

Liverpool were held to a second successive draw in the Premier League in a 0-0 stalemate at Newcastle United.

The Magpies had the best early chance after Callum Wilson beat Nat Phillips for pace in behind the defence, but Fabinho recovered to make a block inside the six-yard box – before Mohamed Salah was denied by a good Karl Darlow save when through one-on-one.

Roberto Firmino went close to opening the scoring with a header in the last minute of the half, also stopped by Darlow, before the Brazilian freed Salah just after the hour mark – and he steered a shot wide when it seemed likely the net would bulge.

READ MORE: Premier League fixtures and table – all matches by date and kick-off time

Liverpool continued to miss the few chances they created and Ciaran Clark had a header saved by Alisson with 10 minutes to play, while Darlow again frustrated Firmino in the final minute to preserve the point.

Here are five things we learned from the game at St. James’ Park.

A glimpse of the future

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Not in a good way, sorry. As 2020 comes to an end in the Premier League with this final game of the year, the hope and short-lived restart of getting football fans back inside stadiums still seems a long way off.

There has been progress in that regard, with several matches seeing 2,000 in over the past month or so, while the League Cup final has been moved back to hopefully allow some supporters into Wembley – but the last remaining sides allowed fans were Liverpool and Everton, both of which have now seen Merseyside placed into Tier 3.

We’ll start off the new year with optimism in some regards, but not for improving atmospheres and a gradual increase in fans back from the outset: the soulless night air at St. James’ Park is set to be replayed throughout the land once more even after bidding a not-so-fond farewell to this year.

Darlow facing a fight

He has played every game this season, but Karl Darlow has a big battle on his hands to remain Newcastle’s first-choice goalkeeper.

Up until the end of last term, Martin Dubravka was the No. 1, but injury has ruled him out of any involvement in the Magpies’ first 15 league games. Here he was on the bench, reinforcing to Darlow the task ahead of him – so the Englishman would have been heartened by his impact here.

There was a moment or two where hesitation might have cost him, but two big saves from Salah and Firmino kept Newcastle level and another stop from Darlow denied Firmino in the last minute.

The former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper has never really been a first pick at this level and won’t want to give up his spot easily, so now Steve Bruce’s trust in him and his form will begin to be revealed.

The wing-back battle

Perhaps the most intriguing direct clash of this game was the one which occurred down the Newcastle right, Liverpool left: DeAndre Yedlin against Andy Robertson.

Both were the primary outlet for their respective teams and both had the drive, pace and attacking intent required to lift the tempo of the game which dropped alarmingly at times.

Robertson is an elite performer and showed his real qualities in both halves at times, while American wide man Yedlin was the catalyst for Newcastle’s early openings and helped keep them a threat on the counter.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s best form continues to elude him, however, and the right-back’s delivery was below-par on this occasion again.

Fabinho importance highlighted

Without Joel Matip now as well as their regular defensive duo, Fabinho’s importance to Liverpool continues to be enormously elevated.

He was the best defender on the pitch on this occasion once more, despite not actually being one by normal considerations.

Nat Phillips played a fine role at times for the Reds, but also saw his limitations with pace and passing exposed, and there are only other inexperienced youngsters to pick from now for Jurgen Klopp.

The Reds may go into the transfer market in January to boost their ranks, but until then Fabinho is arguably the most important player in the squad.

Title talk

Liverpool go into the new year top of the table, but nowhere near as many points clear as they would have hoped for.

Draws with West Brom and Newcastle were unexpected, four points dropped from matches they’d usually expect to win in some style.

Three points is the lead at the top – plus a healthy goal difference boost which will keep them above Manchester United, should they win their game in hand.

Perhaps more pertinently, the lead would still be one point from Man City, if they win their extra games. There’s much more of a title race this season than there was this time a year ago.

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