Newcastle United held in to salvage a 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday afternoon but Miguel Almiron badly let Steve Bruce down with a wasteful performance from the engine room.
Bruce elected to keep his Paraguayan playmaker in the right-hand slot of a midfield three, having named an unchanged line-up at Anfield from the side that beat West Ham United 3-2 last week.
Having five defenders on the pitch failed to prevent Mohamed Salah from breaking the deadlock in just the third minute, when the Egyptian spun Matt Ritchie at the back post and drilled an unstoppable strike past Martin Dubravka.
Ciaran Clark will have felt he could have done more to prevent the ball from reaching Salah, with the Republic of Ireland international only able to make glancing contact as Sadio Mane’s delivery floated over the six-yard box.
Liverpool kept digging in search of a second and almost found gold through Clark again later in the first half, when the centre-back gifted possession to the Reds only for Diogo Jota to scuff his shot wide.
Clark thought he had equalised for a moment when he headed home from a corner, but he proved to be one of three players in offside positions with one of which Jonjo Shelvey, who blocked Allison’s path to the ball.
Bruce eventually saw enough from Clark, despite a reasonable recovery, to replace the defender with Joe Willock just after the hour mark, in a move that would pay dividends with the Arsenal loanee snatching a 90+4 goal to grab an unlikely draw.
Clark was an easy choice for Bruce to replace having offered no successful tackles while Paul Dummett had three, make no interceptions while Dummett and Federico Fernandez had one apiece, and win no aerial duels, having lost his only challenge, while Fernandez had one, per WhoScored.
Yet Almiron’s wasteful efforts in the engine room ensured he would let Bruce down to a higher degree on Saturday, and offer the Toon head coach an option to replace with Dwight Gayle nearing stoppage-time while a point remained in reach.
Almiron lost 75% of his duels at Anfield with success in one of one aerial challenges but just one of seven on the ground, per SofaScore.
Only Allan Saint-Maximin (12/24) lost more ground duels for the Toon than Almiron, while Jacob Murphy – behind the £14.5m-rated midfielder Kevin Phillips believes is “top quality” on the pitch – won nine of his 11, up against Jota (2/9), Mane (2/9) and Andrew Robertson (6/7).
Murphy also posed a greater attacking threat for the Magpies than Almiron with one shot attempted to the 27-year-old’s zero, and provided one of his side’s six key passes while the influential midfielder failed to carve out a single goalscoring opportunity for a teammate.
A lack of focus in the final third from Almiron had proven costly for Newcastle in the first half, as well, when a communication breakdown led to the former Atlanta United maestro crossing paths with Joelinton and Saint-Maximin as United sought to break forward.
Almiron is now without a goal in his last eight Premier League appearances and without an assist since the first game of the season, and would not have surprised Bruce to see that record continue with his efforts at Anfield.