Eddie Howe’s £45m call vindicated as Newcastle face new questions after Liverpool shock

It is going to take some time to heal from what might just rank as the most disappointing result of the Eddie Howe era so far. Newcastle United somehow succumbed to yet another defeat against Liverpool, despite holding a one-goal lead and a man advantage for more than an hour.

Jurgen Klopp’s ‘no ceiling’ jibe and throwaway remark on ‘monopoly’ money last term proves the Magpies’ recent rise has rattled the Reds boss. Yet Sunday’s shock ending shows Liverpool remain a bogey team that even the new-look Magpies currently can’t overcome.

It is an old Premier League rivalry which has been revitalised by a feisty encounter at Anfield a year ago. Fabio Carvalho’s winner beyond added time broke Toon Army hearts, but this latest reverse may prove to be an even more bitter pill to swallow.

Perhaps the biggest call was selecting Anthony Gordon once again, with the January signing one of several to struggle against the treble winners. With Harvey Barnes waiting in the wings, the temptation for Howe to hand the former Leicester City star his first competitive start must have been strong.

Gordon more than repaid his manager’s faith, with a tenacious early dribble opening the door for a potential early dismissal for Trent Alexander-Arnold. The boyhood Everton fan then capitalised upon an error from the full-back to net his first St James’ Park goal.

Gordon was Newcastle’s best performer, terrorising Alexander-Arnold throughout and proving a constant menace both down the left flank and when he cut inside. The 22-year-old’s withdrawal alongside Alexander Isak and Sandro Tonali in a triple change is now the source of scrutiny, given the events which followed.

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In truth, Liverpool’s influence had been growing on proceedings was growing before Howe turned to his bench in the 72nd minute. The introduction of Barnes and Callum Wilson had proven deadly on the opening day, but on this occasion the changes which also saw Sean Longstaff enter the fray seemed to hinder the hosts.

Comparisons to Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone have often been repeated during Howe’s tenure so far, whether it be through the so-called dark arts and game-management tactics. It was a compliment repeated by Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville in commentary as Newcastle led, but this compliment did not match with what was to follow.

United’s inability to score a second combined with a slower pace in possession played perfectly into Liverpool’s hands. Klopp’s side were compact and had the clear intention of staying in the game before looking for a late suckerpunch.

Darwin Nunez of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the team’s first goal

A draw would have been a superb result, but victory for the away side was beyond their wildest dreams. Newcastle became disjointed and did not employ their often criticised game-management tactics, allowing the visitors to build momentum.

The disappointment stings deeper because it was a second-half display which stands as the complete antithesis to what has become the norm under Howe. The Magpies have developed an appetite of going for the jugular rather than sitting on a lead, but in this instance did neither.

It is by no means a crisis, and there should not be a strong overreaction despite the obvious pain of the Liverpool loss. But it is also fair to say Newcastle deserve to face these new questions as a result, and Howe and his side must prove it is a blip rather than a slip in the standards which have long been set.

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