Liverpool 2-2 Newcastle: Rafa Benitez's side earn Anfield point
By James Walker-Roberts
Last Updated: 24/04/16 7:27am
Rafa Benitez's Newcastle fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Liverpool and earn a potentially vital point in their fight against Premier League relegation.
The hosts were without defender Mamadou Sakho following the pre-match announcement that he is being investigated by UEFA for a possible anti-doping violation.
However, they looked to be on their way to a comfortable victory as Daniel Sturridge scored after just 68 seconds and Adam Lallana added a fine second on the half-hour mark.
But Newcastle battled back impressively after the break, with Papiss Cisse heading home a few minutes after the restart and Jack Colback equalising with a deflected shot after 66 minutes.
While the Magpies could not go on to grab a winner, the point moves them level with Sunderland and one point behind 17th-placed Norwich.
Although Sunderland have two games in hand on the Magpies and the Canaries have one, Benitez will be buoyed by his side's battling display after they looked to be out of the game at half-time.
The Spaniard received a warm reception on his return to Anfield, where he won the Champions League and FA Cup during a six-year spell in charge from 2004-2010.
Liverpool are also gunning for European glory this season and perhaps with one eye on the Europa League semi-final against Villarreal on Thursday, Jurgen Klopp made five changes to his side, with Philippe Coutinho dropped to the substitutes' bench.
Newcastle stuck with the same starting XI that drew against Manchester City in midweek, but they found themselves behind after 68 seconds as Sturridge chested down a long ball, turned and then fired into the bottom corner.
Having scored four goals in their previous three matches at Anfield, the hosts were brimming with confidence and Roberto Firmino had a shot blocked before Sturridge fired over from distance.
Newcastle offered little at the other end and they fell further behind after half an hour when Lallana curled home a fine shot from just outside the box.
It could have been worse for the visitors had Chancel Mbemba not made a good recovery tackle to deny Firmino a shooting chance before penalty appeals for handball against Paul Dummett were waved away.
But Newcastle halved the deficit in the 49th minute as Simon Mignolet could not claim Vurnon Anita's hanging cross, leaving an empty net for Cisse to head into.
Cisse then made a mess of a promising opening on the break as Newcastle pushed for a second.
After Firmino saw a goal chalked off for offside at the other end, the visitors equalised in the 66th minute when Andros Townsend's cross was nodded down inside the box and Colback's first-time shot deflected past Mignolet.
Neither side could grab a winner, with Lallana's low cross going untouched in the six-yard box and Coutinho having a shot blocked inside the box.
Matt Le Tissier's Soccer Saturday verdict
"It was a brilliant finish by Sturridge to put Liverpool 1-0 up after 68 seconds and Lallana made it two with an equally good goal. At that point, you could not see any other result.
"Wijnaldum came on at half-time, so Newcastle changed it a little bit then. And they got an early second-half goal, which really geed them up a bit, because they were looking a bit down-hearted heading into half-time.
"I'd probably say Mignolet was a little bit at fault for the Cisse goal. I think he must have been bored in that first half because he decided to try and come for the cross and never got near enough. It went over him and Cisse was at the far post.
"Colback then made it 2-2 with a shot that took a little deflection, and Newcastle scrapped and fought from that moment on to the final whistle. They defended really well and ground out a point. As unlikely as it seemed, it might just be a very important one."
Liverpool: Mignolet (5), Randall (5), Lovren (6), Toure (6), Moreno (7), Stewart (6), Allen (7), Milner (6), Firmino (6), Lallana (7), Sturridge (7).
Subs used: Coutinho (5), Lucas (5), Ojo (5).
Newcastle: Darlow (6), Anita (7), Lascelles (6), Mbemba (6), Dummett (6), Tiote (5), Colback (7), Townsend (7), Sissoko (5), Perez (5), Cisse (6).
Subs used: Wijnaldum (5), Shelvey (5), Mitrovic (5).
Man of the match: Alberto Moreno