Remember all the good results over the last month?
No, me neither. Games like this have a habit of bringing out all the pessimism. All I can remember is Sunderland and Southampton, not Dortmund, Stoke, or Everton.
It was all set up to continue the era of good feelings. A fine first half performance with two supremely taken goals from Sturridge and Lallana. Outstanding hold-up play and finish from the striker on the first, outstanding quick passing and a left-footed long-range curler on the second. Liverpool weren't rampant by any means, unable to consistently create chances and scoring from low-percentage strikes, but it still seemed comfortable and still seemed secure.
Multiple Liverpool changes to the starting XI in a different starting formation again didn't seem to diminish the performance that much, this time a 4-4-2 diamond, with Stewart keeping his place in the league, Randall at right-back again, and Toure needed due to Sakho's looming suspension. Liverpool controlled proceedings, Liverpool scored twice, and Newcastle had barely threatened.
Newcastle had scored two goals away from home just once in 2016: at Norwich, a match they still lost 3-2. Newcastle hadn't taken a single point away from home since December 13, losing nine straight.
Did Liverpool relax because they'd thought the game was won at halftime, especially given each side's respective form? Benitez's halftime change – Wijnaldum for Perez – made Newcastle better, but not that much better. Is Liverpool really that fragile? Still? After what we saw over the last month?
All Liverpool needed was for Mignolet to pull a Mignolet, then all hell broke loose. Late to leave his line, completely missing a punch at Anita's lofted cross, an easy header for Cisse up against poor Connor Randall. And from there, tilt. Newcastle, not Liverpool, looking the more likely to score next. The home side struggling to complete passes to each other in the opposition half, let alone the final third. Sturridge denied what appeared a fairly certain penalty, then Newcastle counter-attacking right down Liverpool's throat, failing to score from the opportunity solely because of Cisse's poor touch.
Aside from the penalty claim, Liverpool were unable to conjure anything except a goal rightly ruled out for offside, with Allen's header saved and Firmino a yard behind the last defender on the rebound. And that was in the 59th minute. Not long after, another horror show, another Newcastle fast break through Townsend, his cross headed out to an open Colback, and what should have been an easy save deflected by Lovren past Mignolet. One keeper error, one unfortunate deflection. Three Newcastle shots on-target, two Newcastle goals. It's the bad old days all over again.
Bringing on Coutinho and Lucas for Randall and Allen, then Ojo for Lallana altered little, as Newcastle went full Benitez, Liverpool wholly unable to break through an unsurprisingly compact defense. After 37 shots against Everton, Liverpool took just 13 against Newcastle – just five after Newcastle's equalizer, with only Sturridge's tame header on target. At least Liverpool didn't concede a third? At least it was Sunderland rather than Southampton?
I probably shouldn't be all that bothered about this result. Not after what Liverpool's given us over the last month. Liverpool are in the Europa League semifinals, a competition that's become much more important than the league. Liverpool remain two points off sixth, still capable of qualifying for next season's Europa League if they don't win this season's. Shit happens sometimes.
But shit still happens too often to this side. The defensive (read: goalkeeper) mistakes, the second half goals conceded, the dropped points against sides Liverpool should beat, the dropped points from winning positions.
And that, and today's result, along with the Sakho news, along with the injuries to Henderson, Can, and Origi, has taken an awful lot of the fun out of the last month. Now, Liverpool need to earn it back on Thursday.