Eddie Howe was left with mixed emotions after seeing Newcastle succumb to a remarkable Liverpool fightback.
The Magpies’ head coach saw his players work themselves to within nine minutes of a first victory over Jurgen Klopp’s 10 men since December 2015 before they were floored by two late sucker punches to lose 2-1.
Howe admitted after the game that his players were hurting in the wake of Darwin Nunez’s last-gasp double, but sought to put a painful reverse a week after a narrow defeat at champions Manchester City into perspective.
The thoughts of Eddie Howe following this afternoon's defeat at St. James' Park.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) August 27, 2023
He said: “I’d want them to be hurting after that because we pride ourselves on trying to win first and foremost and if we can’t, then we do everything we can to draw the game. But that’s certainly a game we shouldn’t have lost.
“My role in this now is to calm everything down and try to see perspective. Results will always sway opinions, but from the first two games we’ve had, we’ve been very close to more points, we’ve been very competitive and there have been some really good signs.
“But we probably haven’t had the points that we deserve.”
Newcastle looked to be in cruise control when Liverpool skipper Virgil van Dijk was sent off for bringing down striker Alexander Isak three minutes after Anthony Gordon had fired the home side into a first-half lead.
Burt crucially, they were not able to build upon their advantage, due in large part to the heroics of keeper Alisson, who pulled off a stunning save to dig out Miguel Almiron’s goal-bound volley, and the post, which denied the same man before Nunez’s match-winning cameo.
Asked if he could learn more from a narrow defeat than he would have from a 1-0 victory, Howe said: “It depends how you view it. If we don’t take collective responsibility and don’t analyse the game properly, then no.
“But I think if you do those things and always take ownership of what’s happened – and that includes me along with the players – then I think you can come out of it stronger, and that’s what we’ll endeavour to do.
“I’m proud of the players in many ways for what they’ve delivered today, but we are kicking ourselves for sure that we didn’t get something out of the game.”
Howe, who replaced influential trio Sandro Tonali, Gordon and Isak with Sean Longstaff, Harvey Barnes and Callum Wilson, defended his substitutions amid suggestions they had cost his side the game, and headed home keeping his fingers crossed over an ankle injury to key defender Sven Botman which could yet prompt further transfer activity.
He said: “I don’t know how bad it is, but certainly we wish him a speedy recovery. We’ll have to wait and see. I’ll speak to the medical team and see how bad Sven’s injury is.”