As the manager of Liverpool in 2005, Rafa Benitez won an unlikely Champions League title for the Reds. Fourteen years laster, the Spanish coach nearly helped deny his former club the prize it covets most: its first English title in three decades.
Benitez’s current team, Newcastle United, almost dealt what could have been a death blow to Liverpool’s dream on Saturday. Twice the Reds took the lead at St. James’ Park. Twice the Magpies roared back to even the score.
But just when it began to look like the contest would end in a stalemate — all but assuring Manchester City of its second Premier League triumph in as many years — second half substitute Divock Origi headed in Liverpool’s winner with just four minutes of the match remaining.
Reds defender Virgil van Dijk had opened the scoring in the 13th minute, but Newcastle’s Christian Atsu answered soon after. Mohamed Salah then put the Reds back in front again with the third goal of the match before a half-hour had elapsed. Salomon Rondon flipped the script once again nine minutes into the second half, and it stayed at 2-2 until Origi’s late heroics.
The victory sent Jurgen Klopp’s team back in front of City by two points, at least temporarily. On Monday, the Sky Blues will travel to take on 2016 champ Leicester City. On May 12, Pep Guardiola’s men will host Brighton, which narrowly secured its survival in the top flight when Cardiff City lost to Crystal Palace earlier Saturday, to close out the 2018-19 campaign.
Liverpool’s latest win ensured that City will need to keep pace en route to the final round of matches next weekend. Klopp and Co. close their slate against Wolves next weekend at Anfield, but not before they welcome Lionel Messi and Barcelona to Merseyside on Tuesday in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal.
If that task isn’t daunting enough, the Reds might play both games without arguably their best player in Salah, who had to be stretchered off the field Saturday after colliding with Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
Saturday, May 4