Gerrard 42' (pen)
Should have been better, could have been worse. Which, if I'm not mistaken, was the mantra of the 2011-12 season. That's not a pleasant memory.
On the whole, Liverpool were not good. Disjointed in attack, again broken in midfield, and sloppily, unforgivably beaten twice at the back. An international break hangover coupled with an early kickoff bears a fair bit of blame, but it's not as if Liverpool have been wholly fluent in any match this season.
Rodgers maintained the same formation, but with Johnson and Cissokho replacing Sterling and Enrique, the latter ostensibly injured. Lucas remained absent due to the birth of his second child.
Liverpool were reliant on set plays until Yanga-Mbiwa's 40th minute red card, spurning four free headers from Suarez, Skrtel, Sakho, and Toure. Which made it no surprise when Newcastle scored from its first opening, as Cissokho and Sakho let Cabaye waltz into the attacking third without closing him down, hammering in a perfect shot from 30 yards. I will probably never forgive Lucas' wife for not giving birth during the international break. Cabaye scored from exactly the zone where Lucas would have been, where either Gerrard or Henderson should have been but weren't, with both Sakho and Cissokho also guilty of not closing down the dangerous midfielder with a reputation from scoring from distance.
It took 17 more minutes before Liverpool finally created something from open play, a move which led to a penalty and dismissal. Finally, the Liverpool we're used to seeing: a quick transition from defense to attack, a sumptuous pass over the top from Sturridge to Suarez, the Uruguayan's trickery requiring Yanga-Mbiwa to pull him down rather than let him score a similar goal to last season's strike of the campaign in the 1-1 at Anfield. After two minutes of fruitless arguing from the home side, Gerrard stepped to the spot, tallying his 100th Premier League goal even though Krul guessed correctly.
But despite a man-advantage for nearly 50 minutes, despite dominating possession, Liverpool created exactly three good openings against a side they beat 6-0 in this fixture last season, needing half a hour and a substitution. The first led to a goal, the second saw Suarez hit the bar, quickly followed by Sturridge pushing the third wide.
But by that point, Newcastle had retaken the lead. No points for guessing that it came from a set play: a deep free kick, Toure and Skrtel both misjudging the delivery in while Cissokho ball-watched, allowing Dummett – on as a defensive substitute in place of Sissoko – to ghost in unmarked at the back post. That's so Liverpool. So unforgivably Liverpool.
And that it took Liverpool 30 minutes to create that first good opening after the dismissal was almost as infuriating as conceding a second. Almost. Rodgers, persisting with three at the back despite the man-advantage, bears almost as much blame for Liverpool's struggles as the players. Less than 10 minutes after Luis Alberto finally replaced Sakho, shifting to 4-4-2, Liverpool leveled matters. And again, it was lovely build-up starting in the defensive third and ending with the ball in the goal: six quick passes up the pitch, Moses taking on Williamson before feeding Suarez with an excellently weighted throughball, Suarez getting behind Debuchy before a byline cross to Sturridge between two defenders and a diving header that Krul had no chance at. That's what Liverpool are capable of. That's what we haven't seen enough of.
Newcastle were on tilt for the next five minutes, with Liverpool inches away from being able to take advantage. A narrowly offside Sturridge toe-poked Luis Alberto's low cross just past the post. Suarez blasted a half volley off the crossbar. Moses, somehow open at the back post for another Luis Alberto cross, cut the ball back for Sturridge, who could only push his shot wide, hitting Henderson rather than the back of the net. A game of inches, and Liverpool came up short each time.
From there, the final 15 minutes had just two half chances as Liverpool mostly failed to penetrate Newcastle's deep, determined 10 men. The first saw Gerrard's deep cross accurately finding Sturridge but the striker unable to hit the target, choosing to center with no Liverpool runners in the six-yard box instead. The second was Suarez's free kick at the death, saved by Krul, the rebound just eluding Sturridge just before Marriner blew the final whistle. The predominant theme was Liverpool giving the ball away in the attacking third countless times. The lone substitution, Sterling for Johnson, accomplished little and less. Liverpool were lucky they weren't exposed on the break, needing a wonderful tackle from Cissokho to stop Remy after yet another failed corner.
So, that Liverpool got at least a point when mostly not good is some small consolation. Against Villa and United, Liverpool got three points when being mostly not good, a point against Swansea when mostly not good. Sadly, mostly not good has been the dominant motif, even against the dregs of the league, winning easily but not fluently against Sunderland and Palace. Liverpool still haven't strung together an impressive full 90 minutes.
We're getting to the point of the season where results don't lie, where the table doesn't lie. Liverpool are still fairly high up that table, top in fact – at least for a couple of hours. But some credit for that goes to Liverpool schedule so far, six of eight matches against sides currently 10th or worse.
If Liverpool keep playing as they did today, we're going to see a lot more one points against Newcastle than three points against Villa and United.