Steve McClaren handed major boost as Newcastle see off Liverpool
Steve McClaren was handed a major boost as his Newcastle side defied the odds to beat Liverpool and ease their relegation fears.
McClaren got the better of opposite number Jurgen Klopp, the man who beat him twice when they were in charge at Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund respectively, on a day when defeat was not an option.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at how a big day went for the respective bosses.
McClaren, who hugged Klopp as they met in front of the Liverpool dug-out with the game just under way, was quick to head into his technical area to bark instructions to his players as he urged them to press from the off. He celebrated both goals in delighted fashion, and no one could blame him after a torrid few weeks. Klopp, who had signed autographs and had his photograph taken with home supporters before kick-off, prowled his technical area for much of the game and was clearly frustrated as his side failed to turn possession into chances, but strode on to the pitch on the final whistle to console his beaten players.
McClaren could have walked into something of a bear pit with the home fans in open revolt after a dreadful start to the season, and his decision to make just one change to the team humbled at Crystal Palace did not impress many. However, an encouraging start on the pitch fuelled the atmosphere off it and the home fans were fully onside by the time the first goal arrived. McClaren was applauded warmly when, as is his normal practice, he went on to the pitch after the final whistle to thank supporters. The travelling fans sang throughout as they urged their side on, but it proved a thankless task as the Reds were unable to find the cutting edge which has served them so well in recent weeks.
Rather surprisingly, McClaren made just one change to the side thrashed 5-1 at Crystal Palace last weekend and even more surprisingly, it was striker Ayoze Perez who made way with the former Tenerife frontman one of the few bright spots so far this season. That left a back four which had shipped eight goals in its last two outings intact, although in McClaren's defence, the lack of depth in his squad left him with few genuine options. By contrast, Klopp was able to recall six men who were left out the 6-1 demolition job at Southampton in midweek as Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner, Jordon Ibe, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke returned.
McClaren stuck with his usual 4-2-3-1 formation with Siem de Jong playing centrally behind lone striker Cisse. However, his players pressed the ball at every opportunity in an attempt to deny Liverpool space and were able to find a cohesion they have lacked for much of the season to date. Much of the visitors' most dangerous play came down the right as Jordon Ibe repeatedly ran at Paul Dummett, while Roberto Firmino took up residence between the lines. However, the lack of a final ball cost them dearly with Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot having only one real save to make, and that in the 89th minute.
Newcastle remain inside the relegation zone, if only on goal difference. However, if they manage to summon up the same passion and organisation every week, it will not be long before McClaren will be able to breathe more easily. Klopp insisted after the game that he never considered his side to be title-contenders this season, but he will expect more from them as they attempt to bounce back from just the second defeat of his reign.