Liverpool post amazing stat and Salah signs off in style as Reds power past Newcastle to top the table
Liverpool stand alone at the top of the Premier League ladder after downing Newcastle United 4-2 at Anfield – and, according to one amazing stat, it could have been a lot more.
The Reds produced an astounding Expected Goals (xG) of 7.27 for the match, the most since records began in the Premier League, and will leave disappointed to have turned that into just four goals.
xG is the widely accepted number for how many goals a team ‘should’ have scored based on their number of shots and the locations from which they were taken.
Liverpool managed 34 shots, 15 of which were on target and nine of which, according to the numberkeepers, were classified as ‘big chances’.
That included a penalty miss from Mo Salah – though he scored one back later – as well as a hatful from Darwin Nunez, who did at least provide the assist for the Egyptian’s first, his 150th for the Anfield club, on his last game before departing for the African Cup of Nations.
Newcastle were battered throughout, yet also could have got more. Alexander Isak levelled the scores in the 54th minute with a well-taken goal that could not have been more against the run of play, and Sven Botman rose well to give the Magpies late hope.
Liverpool went in top on goal difference from Aston Villa but with a game fewer played, and having made that fixture up with this win, they are now three clear at the summit.
More pertinently, they are five clear of Manchester City – who have a game in hand – and Arsenal, who don’t. Goal difference could still be crucial, which is why it might irk Jurgen Klopp that those 7.27 expected goals couldn’t have been turned into real ones.
7-2, or even 7-0, as Newcastle’s xG was just 0.59, would not have been an unfair reflection on the run of play.
It was a minor miracle that the visitors from Tyneside made it to the break level. That required Salah to miss a penalty, then Trent Alexander-Arnold to produce what might have been an even worse miss from the rebound, as well as Nunez squandering multiple opportunities.
In the Uruguayan’s defence, it was he who was at the heart of the opener. It was Nunez’s control and turn that began a fast break, and his smart run that gave Luis Diaz the option to find him at the back post. Presented with the opportunity, he chose to roll in Salah for a tap-in.
Just five minutes later, however, lightning struck. Newcastle had done nothing in attack, barely able to break the Liverpool press, but were level as Isak latched onto a through ball and calmly beat Alisson.
It took another 20 minutes for Liverpool to break through, and again, it was a cutback that did it. Salah was the architect this time, sliding sub Diogo Jota to the byline. He might have shot, but picked out the midfielder.
Another bench player, Cody Gakpo, got a third after a stunning Salah assist but Newcastle were not to be put away.
Botman smashed home a header from a corner – Klopp aghast on the touchline at the ease with which he was able to rise to it – and created a momentary flutter of nerves, but Jota extinguished any doubt by winning a second penalty as he was felled attempting to round keeper Martin Dubravka. This time, Salah made no mistake.