Liverpool surge past Newcastle, six points clear at the top

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Mohamed Salah scored in Liverpool's 4-0 win over Newcastle (AFP Photo)
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AFP

Liverpool showed the form of champions as they increased their lead at the top of the Premier League to six points by hammering an abject Newcastle United 4-0 at Anfield.

Goals from Dejan Lovren, Mohamed Salah, Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho did the damage as Liverpool’s chances of a first English top-flight title since the 1989-90 season were boosted by Manchester City’s 2-1 defeat at Leicester.

Tottenham are now Liverpool’s closest challengers with City dropping seven points off the pace in third.

Even with Liverpool visiting the Etihad on January 3, their form as they extended an unbeaten home run in the Premier League that stretches back to April 2017 is beginning to make that lead in the standings look decisive.

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez – an Anfield idol himself after delivering the Champions League trophy in 2005 – has claimed that Newcastle surviving relegation this term would be “a miracle”.

And the gulf in quality on Wednesday was brutally apparent from the start.

Klopp made three changes to his starting XI whereas Benitez made an eye-catching six from Newcastle’s previous result – a goalless draw against Fulham that featured zero shots on target.

Yet if Benitez was banking on the new personnel to deliver a more clinical edge, he was to be disappointed.

Joselu missed a glorious opportunity after eight minutes, heading wide of Alisson Becker’s goal following a wonderful cross from Matt Ritchie.

Liverpool punished Newcastle’s lack of ruthlessness as three minutes later.

A deep ball into the area was woefully dealt with by Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles who headed it back into Lovren’s path and the Croatian defender fired an unstoppable shot past Martin Dubravka.

Liverpool remained the dominant side as Sadio Mane, Shaqiri and Roberto Firmino ran through on goal at will. The pace with which Liverpool raced forward represented an increasingly ominous challenge for Newcastle.

Yet it is to the visitors’ credit that they kept the scoreline to a single goal as the game flattened out towards half-time.

The closest Liverpool came to extending their lead arrived after 44 minutes when Dubravka did wonderfully well to tip over a rasping Shaqiri free-kick.

Not long after the interval Liverpool found a second as Salah doubled the lead from the penalty spot after Paul Dummett clumsily grabbed the Egyptian’s arm.

Salah’s 12th Premier League goal of the season took him briefly level with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as well as Harry Kane in the race for the golden boot.

He may be frustrated at not cashing in more as Newcastle tired and chances flowed for the hosts.

Instead, it was Shaqiri who was next on the scoresheet, turning home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross.

Newcastle were dead and buried but their afternoon then got worse in the closing stages as Fabinho was given acres of space at a corner and nodded in from close range for his first Liverpool goal.

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