It was another game where too many Liverpool players fell flat on Wednesday, as the Reds drew 0-0 away to Newcastle and dropped further points in the title race.
Liverpool huffed and puffed for a winner, with Mohamed Salah missing two glaring opportunities, but it never felt like it was going to happen.
Too often, the pace of the visitors’ play was slow and predictable, and Newcastle defended doggedly to earn a point in the end.
It is far from the ideal end of 2020 for Liverpool, but they are still three points clear at the top of the table.
As has so often been the case this season, Andy Robertson (6.8) was a standout figure for Liverpool and he earned the highest average rating.
It may not have been a vintage performance from the Scot, but he still gave his all and provided a threat down the left-hand side.
James Nalton handed Robertson TIA’s Man of the Match award, lauding “a number of crosses and passes into dangerous areas.”
In second place was Alisson (6.6), which considering how untested he was for large parts of the game, sums up Liverpool’s display.
The Echo‘s Ian Doyle praised the Brazilian’s “solid handling from a number of Newcastle shots,” also picking out a “good stop” to deny Ciaran Clark.
The 27-year-old enjoyed a 95 percent pass completion rate, according to FotMob, and also won six of his nine duels on the night.
It was Salah (4.8) who took home the dreaded wooden spoon, as the Egyptian not only missed two huge chances but offered little in his all-round game.
Nalton bemoaned the fact that Liverpool’s No. 11 was “unable to make the difference,” while Doyle said it was “not his night.”
The Reds have a tricky assignment up next, with Southampton hosting them on Monday night.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insisted he was not "overly frustrated" after seeing his Premier League champions held to a goalless draw at Newcastle.
The Magpies had goalkeeper Karl Darlow to thank for their point as two slipped from the Reds' grasp on a night when they created chances, but could not take any of them.
Klopp said: "Oh no, I'm not happy about the result, but I'm not overly frustrated. It's football, and if you don't use your chances then it's difficult to win a game.
"But you can have a draw with a bad performance or a draw with a good performance, and tonight was a draw with a good performance. We just didn't use the chances, and that's why I am OK with the game."Image: Jurgen Klopp was left frustrated after coming up against a resolute Newcastle
Three days after being pegged back by lowly West Brom to draw at Anfield, Liverpool found Newcastle, and in particular Darlow, in equally stubborn mood as he produced two stunning saves to repel Roberto Firmino headers.
However, it was Mohamed Salah who perhaps should have won it for the visitors, uncharacteristically missing the target either side of half-time with only the 'keeper to beat.
Klopp said: "If you keep creating, you will score. I know we will score again, that's how it is. It's not a problem in the moment.Image: Mohamed Salah reacts to a missed chance as Liverpool are frustrated
"We needed to show a reaction from the second half against West Brom because we lost the plot a little bit there, it looked in that second half like we were 1-0 down and not 1-0 up.
"Tonight was a very good reaction to that, without getting the result. Everybody knows if we win 1-0 then everybody is over the moon, and we should have won the game at least 1-0. But we didn't, and we have to accept that."
Liverpool would have gone five points clear of second-placed Manchester United with victory on Tyneside, but headed back to Merseyside knowing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men will be level if they beat Aston Villa on New Year's Day.
They will also be without any of their senior centre-backs after Klopp confirmed Joel Matip will be out for three weeks with an adductor strain sustained in the draw against West Brom.Image: Joel Matip will be out for three weeks with an adductor strain
The champions are already missing Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez with long-term issues.
"The normal stuff with these kind of injuries, [he will be out for] around three weeks," Klopp said.Bruce: I couldn't be more pleased 1:03 Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce was delighted to claim a draw against Liverpool and believes his side’s hard work is starting to pay off
For Magpies boss Steve Bruce it was not just the result which was a source of comfort, but the way in which it was garnered courtesy of a performance which was in stark contrast to some of those which have irked the club's supporters recently.
Bruce said: "Of course we need our goalkeeper to play well and we have to have a little bit of luck along the way, but the effort and the endeavour and the commitment they showed just shows you that it can get you a result.
"I couldn't be more pleased. There were signs against Manchester City, which I was pleased about, and to go back-to-back against Manchester City and Liverpool in the manner we've done, I couldn't be any more pleased with what we've done tonight."3:06 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Newcastle's draw against Liverpool
Darlow's heroics came as Martin Dubravka returned to the squad after long-term injury, but his wait looks likely to continue.
Bruce said: "I'm in a fortunate position. I've got two excellent goalkeepers, one who's just got back fit who was our player of the year last year.
"Karl has waited patiently for his chance because of the form of Dubravka, but at the moment, he's the number one because of the performances he's putting in."What's next? Sunday 3rd January 2:00pm Kick off 2:15pm Monday 4th January 7:00pm Kick off 8:00pm
Newcastle are back in Premier League action on Sunday as they host Leicester live on Sky Sports; kick-off 2.15pm. Liverpool travel to face Southampton a day later on January 4, also live on Sky Sports; kick-off is at 8pm.
James Milner rued the opportunities Liverpool missed as they were held to a goalless draw away at Newcastle United on Wednesday night.
The Reds took a point from their final fixture of 2020 after squandering chances in front of goal and being denied multiple times by stopper Karl Darlow at St. James' Park.
Regardless, the reigning champions will end the year top of the Premier League and three points clear of second-placed Manchester United.
Read on for Liverpoolfc.com's post-match interview with Milner...
Couldn’t quite get it over the line tonight, but finishing the year top of the league and a lot of games to come, a… https://t.co/9UkPaZaLN4— JamesMilner (James Milner) 30th Dec 23:06
Is that a rare night where you just weren't clinical enough?
I think that's pretty spot on really. I think the performance was pretty good, bouncing back from the second half in the last game, which wasn't particularly good, and then putting in a pretty good performance tonight. We created enough chances, [were] solid at the back, any balls that popped out we were winning. But a mixture of good goalkeeping, defending, a bit of bad luck and maybe not taking our chances well enough was the difference.
If you were looking for areas of improvement from Sunday night – the fact you did create more opportunities here...
For sure, I think it was a big improvement. We've come up against two very stubborn teams, given everything to get the points. So at least we performed better, unfortunately it wasn't good enough for the three points but we've got to keep pushing and if we play like that [then] more often than not we'll get the three points.
From a midfielder's perspective, can you give us a sense how difficult it is to pick your way through when you're up against a five and a four and then just Callum Wilson on his own?
It's important that you just keep it moving, keep patient and make sure you have movement up front. It's easy to sometimes get frustrated and try difficult balls or too straight balls over the top and they get cut out. But then the important thing as well is that you've always got to be ready to react when you've got someone like him up front who's quick and is a good, quick player. Teams want to break out on you and you have to make sure you're disciplined and playing with good shape to break them down but you're not committing too many men forward and your protection is good when it breaks down. It's about getting that balance and I thought we did that tonight but we just couldn't get the ball over the line.
It was also key that you don't lose the game either, and Alisson comes up with a massive save towards the end…
We restricted them most of the game but Ali is top-class – everybody knows that. Especially on a night like tonight, it's going to be pretty cold for him I can imagine, standing at the back with not too much to do and then having to pull a save out like that towards the end. So that shows how good he is and what a big player he is for us.
Given how many problems you've faced as a group from the start of the season, is it still a positive that you can go into 2021 top of the table?
I think it's a positive but it seems to be at this moment in time that nobody wants to take it by the scruff of the neck. We've dropped points, everyone seems to be dropping points. United have had a good run and they're probably the only team who are putting a run together. It's important that we need to kick on now and try to get a few three-pointers. But the world is in a very strange place at the moment and it's the same in football. Everybody's lives are upside down, it's tough mentally for everybody and it's the same in football. Hopefully we can get out of this the other side and it's the same with football – we just need to keep plugging away. It is different, it's different times and that time where you maybe need the crowd to give you that lift and get it over the line. That might've happened on another day. But it's where we are and we need to keep working hard.
As you can see, we've given absolutely everything. The boys are doing well. The amount of minutes some of the lads have played, it's nice to see a few of the boys getting back – obviously Thiago getting on today and showing his quality. We'll stick together, we'll keep plugging away and we just need to get that final piece of the puzzle right. Like I say, I thought it was a good performance tonight, we just needed that final bit to get the goals. If we keep playing like that, hopefully we can go on a run and put some more points on the board.
When you talk about it being so different for everyone this season, is it something that's stopping any team getting that sequence of results or do you still feel there is that potential to go on the sort of run you did last season?
I think it is, but everything is different. The protocols at the training ground are different, travelling to games is different, travelling on the day. Everything is completely different but it's the same in all walks of life at this moment in time. So that's something we have to adapt to. Whether that is stopping teams putting on a good run and being fully comfortable, I don't know. But that's where we are and we have to deal with it the best we can and push on. I think where we are in the league we would have liked to have got more points on the board. There's points we've dropped this season where we feel we could have done better but to still be in the mix going into the New Year is good, especially with the problems we have. But we are a quality squad of players who have been together a long time and we are used to winning. We are disappointed not to get the three points but we want to get back on the winning track as soon as possible.
Jürgen Klopp rued Liverpool's missed chances in Wednesday's draw with Newcastle United but described the performance as one to build on.
The Reds played out a goalless stalemate with the Magpies at St. James’ Park, where home goalkeeper Karl Darlow made key saves, most notably to deny Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
The result inched Klopp’s men’s lead at the Premier League summit up to three points in their final outing of 2020.
And though the manager was disappointed his side were unable to convert the opportunities they created into goals, he was satisfied with the display and reaction from his players.
Read a transcript of Klopp’s post-match press conference below…
On whether he is content with the performance…
I’m not happy about the result but the game is already played. I’m not overly frustrated or something like that – it’s football, if you don’t use your chances then it’s difficult to win a game. But you can have a draw with a bad performance or you can have a draw with a good performance, and tonight we had a draw with a good performance. We just didn’t use the chances and that’s why I’m OK with the game. That’s it.
On the contrast with the 7-0 win at Crystal Palace…
Look, not scoring is a concern if you don’t create. That’s how it is. If you create, it’s just momentum, it’s for now. But if you keep creating then you will score, that’s it. I know we will score again, that’s not our problem in the moment. We needed to show a reaction from the second half against West Brom because in that game we lost the plot a little bit in the second half, it looked for me like we were 1-0 down not 1-0 up. Tonight it was a very good reaction on that, without getting the result. But we all know: you win this game 1-0 and everybody is over the moon. And we should have won it at least 1-0, but we didn’t. That’s what we have to accept. But I can work with this performance, that’s important. I can work with the things I saw tonight. We can build on that, we don’t have to now change massively in the next three or four days and say, ‘OK everything is going wrong, we have to try to compete another way.’ That’s why I’m OK, that’s it.
On the amount of draws in the Premier League and his view on the reasons for it…
No, no idea. In our case, because we didn’t score often enough. I don’t know about the other games.
On what his New Year’s wish will be…
Traditionally, I’m now 53 and for around 30 years, I wish always at New Year only that my family stays healthy. That never happened with more conviction than this year because that is all I am concerned about. All the other problems we can sort, but this – what happened in 2020 – is a new experience for all of us. I didn’t need it, we all got it and now we deal with it and still have to deal with it. We have to stay disciplined. 2020 had one highlight and a lot of challenges – that was becoming champions and all the rest were big, big challenges. We will face a few more challenges in life, but I am quite happy that 2020 is nearly over now, to be honest. How I said, apart from becoming champions, it is not a year I will think a lot about in the future.
On the return of Thiago Alcantara as a second-half substitute…
We signed Thiago actually because we thought he was a good player, so you can imagine we would like to have him in the team. That’s clear. What the other boys did in the time he was not available is absolutely incredible. James Milner, for example, tonight played a super game in midfield. Really. So, yes, it’s good [he is back], he is a super player. I think of the 20 minutes, 12 round about were brilliant and then he felt the intensity, but that’s normal. He trained exactly twice with the team. There is still some physical work to do, still some rhythm to get. Shaq is back and that’s, by the way, the best news tonight – the boys are back and, as far as I know in the moment, nobody got injured tonight, which is a very important thing. That means we can probably go with the same squad to Southampton.
If the seven goals that Liverpool conceded against Aston Villa in October revealed a surprising vulnerability in last season's runaway Premier League champions, the seven goals that Jurgen Klopp's side scored in thrashing Crystal Palace looked to draw a line under it.
Virgil van Dijk or no Virgil van Dijk, that victory at Selhurst Park put Liverpool five points clear at the top of the table with an inviting festive fixture list that served up games against West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle. Remarkably, they have contrived to win neither.
Had they done so, the lead would now stand at seven points. As it is, Manchester United can move level on points if they win their game in hand against Aston Villa on New Year's Day. The title race is alive and Liverpool have given unexpected hope to their great rivals.
How has it happened? With some bad fortune, for sure. Karl Darlow was the man of the match at St James' Park, pulling off two impressive first-half saves from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino before riding his luck amid the ricochets after the interval.
But Klopp will have expected the shooting of Salah, in particular, to have been more decisive. Twice he ran through on goal in his favoured position in that right channel and twice he was unable to deliver the trademark finish. It was uncharacteristically sloppy.
How concerned should Klopp be? There does not appear to be anything fundamentally wrong with Liverpool's performances. The expected-goals data suggests the chances created against Newcastle would yield an average of 1.4 goals per game.
But it still feels like a bad moment to have failed to ram home the advantage. United are the team closest to Liverpool and that will be the story for now given the great rivalry between them. But Manchester City, lurking down in eighth, can move within a point if they win their two games in hand. That underlines how open this title race now is - and how much work is left for Liverpool to do.
The question of what Newcastle supporters want has already made its annual appearance on the agenda after the club's dispiriting Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Brentford at the quarter-final stage. It will be another year, a 52nd, without a trophy for the Magpies.
The anger of some fans intensified when Steve Bruce admitted following the 2-0 defeat at Manchester City that owner Mike Ashley told him his remit was to ensure survival rather than the top 10 finish he spoke about in pre-season.
But the team's performance in their hard-fought 0-0 draw with Liverpool was the perfect demonstration of precisely what supporters want to see. Had St James' Park been packed out for the final Premier League game of 2020, the locals will have arrived through the gates fully expecting their team to have around the 27 per cent of possession they achieved against the champions.
But the heart and fight shown by those in black and white to deny Jurgen Klopp's team victory will provide the Toon Army with plenty of encouragement heading into the new year. When asked if he will look to strengthen his squad in January, Bruce said: "We'll scour the market. We're already doing that. We've got one or two things that we might progress hopefully and if it improves us, we'll try and be in a position to act."
With Callum Wilson back leading the line following an ankle injury, Bruce already has his focal point and talisman, while Karl Darlow showed once more that he is a safe pair of hands as Newcastle kept their first Premier League clean sheet in 14 games against a side starting the day top of the table. A day short of his 60th birthday, Bruce provided fans with what they really want.
After their emphatic 5-0 win at West Brom, Leeds United have now won seven of their 16 games in the Premier League this season. Only six newly-promoted teams in the competition's history have picked up more victories at this stage of a season.
The three points at The Hawthorns continues Marcelo Bielsa's side's rise up the Premier League table. They now sit 11th with 23 points, but after another all-action performance, the question is how high can Leeds go?
Bielsa has urged caution. "We have only been in this league for 16 games and there are still many challenges and many tests we have to pass before we can legitimately say we belong. Every game in this league is a challenge, all the teams have secrets and capacities. There are few games you can think of where there are very few difficulties to resolve.
"We have to keep doing the same and keep doing it over a longer period of time. We have had a lot of highs and lows. Only two games ago we had an important defeat and our idea is to play in a consistent manner."Opta stats - Leeds march on...
Of course, Bielsa's side will face much sterner tests from now until the end of the season than they did at West Brom and he is right to urge caution, but if they continue to produce the kind of attacking displays that put Sam Allardyce's side to the sword, they are certain to add to their seven wins so far this season.
With the table very congested at the top, Leeds now find themselves just three points behind fifth-placed Aston Villa and a consistent run of results could see them continue their rise up the standings. How high will come down to consistency and whether Bielsa's side can last the pace.
But whatever happens, there will not be a dull moment along the way watching this Leeds side.
It was no surprise to see Mikel Arteta keep faith with the young players who shone so brightly in the 3-1 win over Chelsea for Tuesday's trip to Brighton. Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli went straight back into the fray at the Amex Stadium.
None of the trio shone in the first half, admittedly, with Arsenal fortunate to go into the break level having only had one attempt on goal. But Saka's second-half display earned him the man-of-the-match award and Smith Rowe was similarly impressive.
The highlight of Saka's performance, of course, was the outstanding run and cut-back to set up Alexandre Lacazette's winner. But there were plenty more eye-catching moments.
The 19-year-old's speed and movement caused problems for Brighton all night, with no player creating more chances. His form over the last two games is all the more impressive when you consider he has been playing in an unfamiliar role on the right flank rather than the left.
Saka appears capable of shining wherever he plays, a testament to his tactical intelligence as well as his undoubted quality, but Smith Rowe is busy establishing himself at No 10.
Arsenal's creativity issues are not over - their first-half performance was proof of that - but Smith Rowe has certainly proved he can help.
His willingness to run at defenders and take risks with the ball at his feet is something this Arsenal side has badly lacked this season. And, like his young team-mates, he offers plenty of energy and industry off the ball too. At the Amex, he covered more ground (11.4km) than any other Arsenal player.
The Gunners are still a long way from where they want to be. It has been a tumultuous year for them. But the future suddenly looks a little brighter.
Manchester United toiled away at Old Trafford but it did not look like the winning goal was going to come against Wolves. It did in the 93rd minute courtesy of Marcus Rashford.
The United forward has scored better goals on this grand stage and the player his left-footed strike deflected in off, Romain Saiss, was probably the man of the match. But there could have been no more fitting scorer than Rashford. In this most miserable of years, he has stood out for standing up off the pitch - and he has also grown as a footballer on it.
This was his 14th Manchester United goal of the season - joint-top scorer with the man who provided the pass for it, Bruno Fernandes - and his 20th for the club in the calendar year.
That combination of Rashford and Fernandes gives Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hope for the new year. Thanks to their late intervention on Tuesday evening, United are just two points behind leaders, rivals and defending champions Liverpool at the 15-game mark.
Improbably, they are in a title race. Despite falling behind in their first six away games of the season - and winning the lot of them. Despite failing to find their fluency here and leading for only a matter of seconds. They are finding a way and Rashford is helping them find it.
He has had many more remarkable moments than this one in 2020. But make no mistake, there would have been plenty among the stick-to-sport crew prepared to ungraciously and unfairly suggest he had neglected the day job had his form wavered for an instant.
Instead, he finished 2020 just how he finished 2019 - with a last-minute goal. A lot has happened in the 12 months in between, not a lot of it good. But Marcus Rashford MBE signs off with another reminder that he has so often been Manchester United's MVP too.
"I was shocked to see such a poor performance and we have to work hard to put it right," Sam Allardyce said after his West Brom side's big defeat to Leeds. "Consistency is everything for us. We can't seem to get a consistency of attacking and defending right. Life will get difficult if we can't get results quickly."
If Allardyce had any doubts as to how big a job he has on at West Brom, they have certainly gone now.
The 5-0 defeat to Leeds at The Hawthorns is the biggest Premier League home defeat of Allardyce's managerial career in the competition. He has now lost consecutive home games by three or more goals in the Premier League for the first time since November 2007, while in charge of Newcastle United (1-4 vs Portsmouth and 0-3 vs Liverpool).
West Brom have won just eight points in the Premier League so far this season - only in 1985-86 have they amassed fewer points after 16 games of a top-flight campaign.
Life is starting to get difficult for Allardyce and West Brom and time is certainly of the essence if they are to turn around their fortunes.
David Moyes clearly was not impressed with his side's diabolical first-half showing against Brighton and shuffled his pack with five changes to his starting XI at Southampton - albeit also resting players for their second game in 48 hours.
Notably, out went Jarrod Bowen and Mark Noble - the two who were hooked at the London Stadium two days ago at half-time when Moyes' side was fortunate to emerge with a point.
While their replacements, Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko, failed to assert the same influence this time out, the Hammers certainly found their groove after an uncomfortable opening 20 minutes.
West Ham remained inferior on the ball and often slipped into their all-too-familiar habit of retreating and inviting opposition without countering - but that changed as the second half progressed.
An injection of forward-thinking endeavour, fuelled by positive substitutions, drove the Hammers into opposition territory as they began to take the game to their hosts.
By the full-time whistle, the Hammers deserved three points, carving the lion's share of chances, while the return of Michail Antonio on 77 minutes from a hamstring injury also provided a noticeable lift.
West Ham should be satisfied with the progress of mid-table standing at this stage and the glimpse of forward thrust suggests a positive trajectory - which almost paid dividends as the game petered out into a stalemate at St Mary's.
It has become a bit of a tradition for Burnley to pick up around the new year and a run of one defeat in six for Sean Dyche's side has carried that on into 2020/21.
That kind of upturn is becoming as routine as the image he has built his side in, which was on full display as they ground out a 1-0 win over hard-working Sheffield United.
It was not particularly pretty or free-flowing; it is not meant to be. Josh Brownhill and Ashley Westwood protected their back four manfully, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes chased everything and Ben Mee popped up when it mattered. Three points kept at Turf Moor.
"We offered a different kind of performance, I don't think we were as good as we were against Leeds, but we got the result with our shape and our work," said Dyche.
The Clarets are now five points clear of the bottom three, and looking firmly up the table.
That in itself is a positive, but the fact Dyche and his side are back to doing what they do best - despite a threadbare squad being tested to its limits - offers even more encouragement, especially with the club's takeover seemingly on the verge of completion.
Chris Wilder again shook off any solace of 'fine margins' contributing to Sheffield United's latest defeat at Burnley.
There was a case that his side had been unlucky, falling behind to a Ben Mee header from a corner in a game of few chances where they would have been easily worthy of a point.
"The reaction's always okay, when you lose 11 out of 14 by a single goal that doesn't show an attitude problem," was Wilder's one positive to take - but goal difference will be the least of his worries if the Blades' form does not pick up drastically.
Fine margins were often going in Sheff Utd's favour this time a year ago; seven of their 14 wins in 2019/20 were by a goal to nil.
Now the tide has turned and, while luck has not been on his team's side during their horrible run of two points from 16 games, there is no guarantee it will even out. Luck has no memory.
Even if it does, it will need a lot more than fine margins to bridge an 11-point gap in 22 games. The Blades have scored fewer goals than any other team this season.
Wilder was left frustrated with their final-third play at Turf Moor, with Nick Pope only forced into one serious save all night. It is going to take a major turnaround in January. The manager's targets are already "with the board". They might prove the final throw of the dice.
Just 48 hours after laying into his players following the 3-1 defeat at Arsenal, Frank Lampard went for a change of approach, publicly at least.
He used the post-match press conference from Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Aston Villa to insist he "couldn't ask for more" than what the players gave, but the six changes he made only brought a reaction in spurts.
"The changes were to try and keep a bit of balance in the team, and to try to freshen up. I was pleased, I'm not disappointed with anything tonight other than the fact we conceded that goal, and didn't score another."
But Lampard was being kind to his players in his assessment. Villa were first to everything at Stamford Bridge - in fact, Chelsea's duel success rate of 38 per cent was not only their lowest under Lampard, but their lowest since January 2017. With just 37 per cent possession, Chelsea made 16 fouls. Villa made just three.
Villa were very good value for their point, and though Chelsea did improve from Boxing Day, it was a low bar. Lampard's side could have done more to win the game, and the midfield battle was the key again.
They allowed man-of-the-match John McGinn to run the game - Jorginho was largely anonymous - and though Chelsea have an embarrassment of riches up front, their midfield three is susceptible to drifting too far apart to function.
Despite two games in three days, Dean Smith made just one change to his starting XI for the draw at Chelsea, and that was enforced as the suspended Tyrone Mings was replaced by Ezri Konsa.
Villa have the youngest average starting XI in the Premier League at 25 years and 165 days, they have made the fewest starting XI changes at 13, and have used fewer players than any Premier League side at 19.
In a season where more teams are suffering from a packed schedule and short pre-season, Villa have remained relatively injury-free - Ross Barkley aside - but Smith's side picks itself at the minute.
In Ollie Watkins they have a forward willing to run channels from minute one to 90, and despite not scoring since early November, the goals from him in particular are almost secondary in this well-drilled unit.
McGinn showed both his battery and cunning at Stamford Bridge, winning fouls at perfect times when Villa needed to settle, while Douglas Luiz is a classy operator just in front of the defence.
The fittest sides will prosper in the Premier League this season of all seasons, and Villa are clearly in fine fettle.
It was another positive display from Harvey Barnes, who is growing in his role in Leicester's attack. He was one of only four players to keep their places from the match against United, in which he also scored.
Barnes had a whopping six shots - double that of the next highest Leicester contribution. One of them made it home too, and it was a superb run across the top of the area with a low, hard finish. He has now scored eight goals in 21 games in all competitions this season - one more than he netted in 42 appearances for the Foxes last term.
He also provided for his team-mates, making superb, direct runs and sending in four crosses. Barnes racked up the same number for interceptions too as he took advantage of some slack Palace passing at times. In the absence of Youri Tielemans and Jamie Vardy from the start, it was Barnes who provided Leicester's attacking threat, along with Ayoze Perez.
However, the same cannot be said for Kelechi Iheanacho on only his second Premier League start of the season. His penalty was poor with too much hesitation allowing Vicente Guaita to save rather comfortably. Later in the half, he had a gilt-edged chance from close range but skewed his header.
He was replaced by Demarai Gray in the second half and despite having golden opportunities against a side who shipped 10 goals in their last two games, he did not take his chance.
Manager Brendan Rodgers told his post-match press conference: "He's a boy that gives everything in training. He doesn't get too many opportunities, he's shown that in the Europa League where he's performed really well for us.
"It was a great opportunity for him [the penalty], but he just seemed a little bit hesitant with it. He had another good chance at the near post, but it just didn't quite fall for him today."
It had been a confidence-sapping week for Crystal Palace. Losing two games by an aggregate score of 10-0 is enough for even the best heads to drop. But Roy Hodgson made five changes - three of which came in defence - and Crystal Palace finally returned to some defensive solidity, on the cusp of a second clean sheet of the season.
Leicester dominated in terms of shots - having 17 to Crystal Palace's four - but only one made it through the Eagles' defence. James Tomkins made eight clearances, Nathaniel Clyne made four tackles - both the highest in the squad - while young Tyrick Mitchell did well on his return at left-back. Let's also not forget Vicente Guaita's good save from Kelechi Iheanacho's poor penalty.
Attack has not always been Crystal Palace's most fruitful area, but it was a moment of magic from talisman Wilfried Zaha that saw them score for the first time in two games. He started and finished a counter-attack against one of the Premier League's best counter-attacking teams, scoring with Crystal Palace's only shot on target.
There were bright moments in attack, the second-half performance was good and Hodgson's changes did what was needed. The signs of improvement are there.
But Crystal Palace have ultimately failed to follow up on their emphatic 5-1 win against West Brom, now drawing three games 1-1 and of course, those well-publicised defeats. Hodgson will be hoping another three points awaits them in 2021.
Jurgen Klopp employed the proverb of “if life gives you lemons, then make lemonade” as he assessed Liverpool’s back-to-back draws to end a strange and “difficult” 2020.
But it could have been more had two points not been dropped against West Brom at Anfield and Newcastle at St James’ Park respectively in the last two games.
Wednesday night’s 0-0 draw with Newcastle was less disappointing, but still frustrating as the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane all struggled to convert chances with Karl Darlow strong in goal.
As the Premier League maintain that there will be no break in the season despite to rising cases of COVID-19, Klopp pointed to the sombre mood of 2020 in general as he made light of a tough run of form.
“The last thing I think about is our position in the table at the moment. It’s nice, but doesn’t mean anything,” he told Amazon Prime, when told of Liverpool’s three-point lead.
“We drew the last two games but are still top of the table in a very difficult season, it just shows how difficult a season it is for everybody.
“Other teams won maybe last night and are now in a good mood; we are in a good mood, as good as possible.
“If life gives you lemons, then make lemonade – that’s what we try all of the time.”
There remains a likelihood that the Premier League will be forced into pause sooner or later, with three games now having been postponed this season so far, two of which came in the last three days.
A new strain of the virus has led to an increase in the severity of lockdown measures across the UK, and reflecting on Liverpool’s form on the backdrop of the current climate, Klopp insisted results were “not the worst thing in life.”
“When I think about football, these are the moments when we really enjoy life, but all around obviously it’s not that easy to enjoy,” the manager continued.
“For all of us, it’s really difficult. We all thought, or hoped, we were kind of through it. And winter came and the next wave came, so that’s in my mind.
“We will keep going, that’s how it is, the next game – Southampton, Aston Villa, United, all these kinds of things.
“That’s good, we know about our responsibility, we try to do everything right around and want to be ready for the games.
“The boys were ready tonight and didn’t get the result we wanted, that’s not the worst thing in life, there are more difficult things to do in the moment.”
Jürgen Klopp anticipates Joel Matip will be out of action for around three weeks.
The defender sustained an adductor strain during Sunday’s draw with West Bromwich Albion and subsequently missed the trip to Newcastle United on Wednesday.
Asked for an update on his fitness, Klopp told his post-match press conference: “The normal stuff with these kind of injuries, [he will be out for] around about three weeks.”
Liverpool reopened their three-point lead at the Premier League summit but they were held to a 0-0 draw by a valiant Newcastle at St James' Park.
Mohamed Salah missed two opportunities to turn the champions' advantage at the turn of the year into a more handsome one, but the hosts were inspired by goalkeeper Karl Darlow and his spirited Newcastle defenders.
Fabian Schar produced a goal-line clearance to deny Sadio Mane in the second period to ensure that Liverpool enter 2021 having failed to beat four of the bottom seven in their opening 16 games.
The year ends with Jurgen Klopp's side three points clear at the top of the Premier League from Manchester United, who have a game in hand, with Leicester third and Everton in fourth, but also with a game in hand.
Alisson kept out Ciaran Clark's header in the closing stages but the result is enough to move Newcastle up to 14th following the first goalless stalemate between the sides in 74 meetings, dating back to February 1974.Image: Mohamed Salah and Liverpool failed to get past Newcastle keeper Karl Darlow Player ratings
Newcastle: Darlow (9), Clark (8), Fernandez (8), Schar (8), Yedlin (7), Matthew Longstaff (7), Hayden (7), Ritchie (7), Joelinton (7), Wilson (8), Murphy (6).
Subs: Lewis (n/a), Almiron (6).
Liverpool: Alisson (6), Alexander-Arnold (7), Phillips (6), Fabinho (6), Robertson (7), Jones (6), Henderson (6), Milner (6), Salah (5), Firmino (6), Mane (6).
Subs: Wijnaldum (6), Thiago (6), Shaqiri (n/a).
Man of the match: Karl Darlow.Bruce's courageous approach rewarded
Steve Bruce described the "mass hysteria" and criticism received after Newcastle's defeat by Brentford last week as unjust, but following their now-annual loss to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Boxing Day, the Magpies were looking to extend their four-match unbeaten Premier League run in home fixtures against the reigning champions.
Nathaniel Phillips was handed only his third league appearance for Liverpool with Klopp's defensive resources having been further depleted by the loss of Joel Matip, and Newcastle started brightly with Callum Wilson forcing two saves from keeper Alisson inside the opening 12 minutes.Image: Mohamed Salah had a chance to break the deadlock but his shot was saved
However, Liverpool might have taken the lead 11 minutes before the break when Salah stabbed wide having seemingly done the hard work, and it took a fine reaction save from Darlow to deny Roberto Firmino in stoppage time and ensure the sides headed back to the dressing rooms with the scoreline still 0-0.Team news
Liverpool arrived on Tyneside unbeaten in 11 league games since the aberration of a result at Aston Villa, and they had a good chance to break the deadlock nine minutes into the restart when Mane rose to meet Trent Alexander-Arnold's set-piece but his header flashed into the side-netting.
Klopp continued to cut a frustrated figure midway through the second period when Firmino released Salah but the Egyptian could only direct his shot a yard wide of Darlow's right-hand post, and the Liverpool boss was perplexed again when Firmino headed wide himself after Darlow's misjudged the flight of another Alexander-Arnold corner.Image: Karl Darlow gets across to keep out Roberto Firmino's goalbound header
Thiago Alcantara was introduced by Klopp as Newcastle continued to tire, and it was through a familiar source that Liverpool probed. After Darlow was unable to claim Alexander-Arnold's cross, Mane's inadvertent effort was hooked off the line superbly by Schar.
It very nearly got much better for the Magpies 11 minutes from time when Clark met Matt Ritchie's free-kick with a downward header which Alisson had to turn away.
Darlow's heroics were called upon again with four minutes remaining as Firmino's thumping header was saved low to his right by the Newcastle stopper, who rose to his feet to complete the clearance. The hosts had ridden their luck, but their courageous approach was rewarded.What the managers said Image: Thiago was a second-half substitute for Liverpool at St James' Park
Newcastle boss Steve Bruce: "We rode our luck at times and my goalkeeper's made a few saves when you have to if you're playing one of the best teams in Europe.
"But their goalkeeper made one or two saves too. The players stuck at it and got their reward. We needed to improve on the ball and we gave it away cheaply late on but that's the tiredness and the fatigue setting in as they did one hell of a shift."
On Darlow: "The jersey's his at the moment. There's no disputing that his form has been fantastic all season."1:03 Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce was delighted to claim a draw against Liverpool and believes his side’s hard work is starting to pay off.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: "We created some big chances, but we didn't use them. But I liked the game. There are different draws and this is not one we are happy with result-wise but I'm happy with the performance. It's disappointing but it is how it is.
"Newcastle went down and Schar had a few moments where he felt something. It broke the rhythm, but they defended with all they had. We played super football. Mo had a chance and first half we already had big chances, so we will just have to respect the result.
"I have not a lot of wrong things to say about the performance apart from the finishing. In moments, we have to be better and then we will win more football games. The position in the table at the moment is nice but it doesn't mean anything right now as we've drawn the last two games. We're in as good a mood as possible. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade out of it and that's what we're trying to do at the moment."1:21 Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he was pleased with his side’s performance in the goalless draw with Newcastle United despite missing a number of chances to win the game. Man of the match - Karl Darlow Image: Darlow kept his first home clean sheet in three years
Liverpool's poor finishing combined with exceptional goalkeeping ensured Newcastle claimed their point. Darlow made a wonderful save in the opening half to deny Salah and he came up with the goods again as Firmino's late header was kept out.
With Martin Dubravka named on the substitutes' bench following his long lay-off, it was vital for the 30-year-old to produce a commanding display, and he delivered in style.
"It's a terrific effort from us," Darlow told Amazon Prime. "We've had Man City away and Liverpool at home. I felt we stayed in the game against City and now we've grinded out a point against the champions. Credit to the lads having played two top sides in four days.
"I'm just pleased to be out there doing what I can for the team. It's a clean sheet that I've been desperate for as I've only had a couple. Hopefully we can use this and take it into the game with Leicester next.
"Hopefully I can keep performing as I have been and if that gets me into England contention then I'd be over the moon. Leicester will be another tough game so we will need to recover in order to keep moving up the table."Spirited Magpies - Opta stats Image: Trent Alexander-Arnold contains Matt Ritchie during a goalless opening period
Newcastle are back in Premier League action on Sunday as they host Leicester live on Sky Sports; kick-off 2.15pm. Liverpool travel to face Southampton a day later on January 4, also live on Sky Sports; kick-off is at 8pm.
Liverpool head into 2021 with a three-point lead at the top of the Premier League after a goalless draw with Newcastle United on Wednesday night.
The Reds were held for the second successive top-flight match as Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino saw their most promising chances stopped by Karl Darlow in the Magpies net.
Thiago Alcantara made his comeback at St. James’ Park, entering the action as a second-half substitute for his first appearance since mid-October.
But a winner did not materialise, though the champions nevertheless conclude their schedule for the calendar year sitting at the summit of the division.
Jürgen Klopp made two changes to his starting XI at St. James’ Park, with one enforced: Nathaniel Phillips replaced the injured Joel Matip in central defence.
James Milner was deployed in midfield against one of his former clubs, with Georginio Wijnaldum dropping to a bench that also included Thiago, who is back after a knee injury.
The home side began brightly and carved out the first serious scoring chance on 12 minutes.
Matthew Longstaff’s clipped pass over the top into the left channel invited Callum Wilson to chase past Phillips and line up a close-range shot as he broke into the penalty box.
But Fabinho covered across and the intervention of his foot was perfectly timed and placed to divert the effort away from Alisson Becker and the Liverpool goal.
At the other end, Milner drew a comfortable save from Darlow when he moved onto a loose ball 25 yards out and sent it back with a low, first-time left-footer.
Andy Robertson was able to continue after requiring treatment due to a collision with DeAndre Yedlin and the left-back picked out a free Firmino in the 32nd minute.
His sweeping cross from the flank matched the Brazilian’s surge into the area, only for Firmino’s touch to let him down and allow Newcastle to clear.
The finest opportunity of the opening 45 minutes for the Reds soon came for Salah.
Jordan Henderson arced a lofted pass into the Magpies box for the No.11, who evaded an offside call by a small margin and controlled the ball sufficiently to create a one-on-one situation with Darlow.
Salah tried to thread his finish between the opposition goalkeeper and the left post but was thwarted by the outstretched fingertips of Darlow, which sent the strike wide.
In added time, the hosts’ stopper denied the visitors again, this time repelling a Firmino header from Sadio Mane’s spun delivery into the centre. And so it was stalemate at the break.
Liverpool settled into a dominance of possession as the second half ensued and Mane nodded Trent Alexander-Arnold’s near-post corner narrowly wide when it was nine minutes old.
The hour mark arrived with little suggestion a breakthrough was forthcoming at either end, yet it could have done for the Reds with back-to-back chances midway through the period.
First, industrious work from Firmino around the halfway line preceded a careful pass forward for Salah, in space to the right, to bear down on Darlow.
Having stepped inside a defender, he opened up his body and attempted to shape a shot across the ‘keeper and into the opposite corner, only to guide it the wrong side.
Next, Robertson’s deep, swerving corner from the right sailed over Darlow and reached Firmino at the back post with a sizeable segment of the goal unguarded – but his header drifted wide.
Klopp opted for changes in between those opportunities, with Wijnaldum and then Thiago introduced from the bench in the quest to prise Newcastle open.
Alisson was forced into a vital save as the contest approached its final 10 minutes, the No.1 reacting quickly to push away Ciaran Clark’s header across goal from a free-kick.
Within moments, the home team were indebted to Fabian Schar, who hooked the ball off the line before Mane could tap in after Darlow pawed Alexander-Arnold’s cross against the Reds forward.
The Magpies custodian clawed out another Firmino header in the final minutes – and followed up to prevent a rebound, too – and Liverpool had to settle for a point to sign off 2020.
The Champions travel to the North East, St James’ Park is the venue. We’re live to bring you the latest.
Kickoff at St James’ Park is 8pm (UK), the referee is Paul Tierney.
Newcastle: Darlow; Schar, Fernandez, Clark; Yedlin, Hayden, M.Longstaff, Ritchie; Joelinton, Murphy, Wilson
Subs: Dubravka, Krafth, Lewis, Hendrick, S.Longstaff, Shelvey, Almiron, Gayle, Carroll
Subs: Kelleher, R.Williams, N.Williams, Thiago, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaqiri, Minamino, Origi
Our coverage updates automatically below:
Liverpool head into their final game of the year top of the table, but now only two points clear of second-placed Man United having dropped two at Anfield at the weekend.
The onus is on the Reds to pick up a win at St James’ Park, therefore, against a Newcastle side who have improved of late, but are still struggling to secure results having taken just seven points from their last six games.
Klopp is buoyed by a relatively positive injury list, despite the absence of Joel Matip tonight with an adductor problem that is expected to rule the centre-back out for weeks.
Callum Wilson has returned to the starting lineup for Newcastle, with ex-Liverpool duo Jonjo Shelvey and Andy Carroll among Steve Bruce’s substitutes.
Newcastle: Darlow; Schar, Fernandez, Clark; Yedlin, Hayden, M.Longstaff, Ritchie; Joelinton, Murphy, Wilson
Substitutes: Dubravka, Krafth, Lewis, Hendrick, S.Longstaff, Shelvey, Almiron, Gayle, Carroll
Substitutes: Kelleher, R.Williams, N.Williams, Thiago, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaqiri, Minamino, Origi
Nat Phillips comes into the starting line-up for Liverpool’s encounter with Newcastle United tonight.
He replaces the injured Joel Matip at St. James’ Park as the Reds make two changes from the weekend draw with West Bromwich Albion.
James Milner also starts in midfield in place of Georginio Wijnaldum, while Thiago Alcantara is named on the bench after returning to fitness.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson, Milner, Henderson, Jones, Mane, Salah, Firmino.
Subs: Kelleher, Wijnaldum, Thiago, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Shaqiri, Origi, R. Williams, N. Williams.