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ROBERTO FIRMINO put in a game-changing performance to help Liverpool maintain their perfect record at the top of the Premier League.
The striker was named on the bench having spent the International break with Brazil in the United States, but was called upon towards the end of the first half following an injury to Divock Origi.
The home side were shocked when Jetro Willems gave Newcastle an early lead. Christian Atsu sprinted forward on the counter-attack, timing his pass perfectly, giving Willems the space to blast right-footed past Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian.
Jurgen Klopp’s side equalised when Andy Robertson set up Sadio Mane, who finished as convincingly as Willems before him.
Firmino entered the fray in the 37th minute and made an immediate impact, sliding a ball through for Mane who finished on the second go after Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka managed to get something on the first attempt.
It meant Liverpool were ahead at half-time and the outlook of the game changed, as did the feeling around Anfield.
It was almost exhibition football from Firmino in the second half, but with his usual high work rate.
He played Robertson in with a delicate pass lifted beyond the defence, but the Scotsman couldn’t take the chance.
His one-two with Mohamed Salah was the move of the game, and the flicked pass into his teammate’s path while facing in the opposite direction produced the third goal.
“He’s a very important player for all of us,” Virgil van Dijk, speaking to BT Sport, said of Firmino.
“I know how difficult it is for a centreback if the striker is dropping [deep], you don’t want to go as a central defender. He is making life difficult for any defender in the world.
“He is so good and I’m very happy he’s in my team.”
Newcastle had no answer to him. Their manager, Steve Bruce, a former central defender himself, explained why he’s so difficult to play against.
“He drops into those areas where he’s difficult to pick up,” said Bruce.
“That’s the class they have. You’re a bit relieved when he’s not starting. But when he came on, he changed everything.”
Manchester City’s loss at Norwich means Liverpool are now five points clear at the top of the table. It’s early days, but they look set to give the defending champions a run for their money.
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