Premier League pacesetters Liverpool produced another rampant Anfield performance to tear injury-hit Newcastle United apart 4-2 in a one-sided New Year’s Day clash.
Liverpool’s last five competitive matches in 2023 fluctuated between various outcomes, but they signed off in style, netting either side of half-time to topple Burnley 2-0.
Kicking off 2024 in a similar vein was imperative for Jurgen Klopp’s side after Aston Villa drew level on points with the Merseyside outfit courtesy of a 3-2 home triumph against Burnley.
Buoyed by a sublime home form, Liverpool flew out of the traps and nearly took the lead only two minutes into the game.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s thunderous effort from the edge of the box took a slight deflection and almost found its way past Martin Dubravka, only to finish a whisker wide of the far post.
Numerous injuries and a dreadful run of form at the tail-end of 2023 seemingly left Newcastle in distress, as they barely stayed afloat in the opening 15 minutes.
Eddie Howe had to thank another erratic piece of finishing from Darwin Nunez for not seeing 1-0 on the board in the 13th minute.
Mohamed Salah dispatched the Uruguayan one-on-one with Dubravka, but his poor finishing let him down again, throwing the Magpies a lifeline, at least temporarily.
The ex-Benfica forward was a fraction offside in the 19th minute, leading to the disallowance of Luis Diaz’s opener.
Newcastle barely kicked the ball back into play and were already on the ropes again, with Diaz zig-zagging past several defenders before Sven Botman’s mistimed tackle brought him to the ground inside the box.
Referee Anthony Taylor had no doubt as he immediately pointed to the spot, only for Dubravka to thwart Salah’s attempt.
While taking nothing away from the Slovak’s save, it was a poorly-taken spot-kick from the second-best Premier League forward.
Arnold failed to tap the ball home on the follow-up as the Magpies weathered another storm.
Howe’s side regrouped for a moment but needed Dubravka to make another stunning stop to keep them alive, with the 34-year-old denying Nunez in another one-vs-one in the 36th minute.
Inches separated Arnold from spectacular as his incredible half-volley from an impossible angle rattled off the far post soon after Taylor ruled out Newcastle’s deadlock-breaker for a clear offside.
Liverpool unleashed 18 shots in the first half, including five on target, generating a staggering 2.87 xG but still headed into the break scoreless thanks to Dubravka’s once-in-a-lifetime performance.
But the writing was already on the wall for Newcastle. It was only a matter of time before Dubravka capitulated.
What they couldn’t do in the opening 45 minutes, Liverpool did only three minutes after the break after an intricate build-up play.
Diaz cut the Magpies’ backline in half with a delightful through ball for Nunez, who laid it off for Salah. Alone in front of an empty net, the Egyptian couldn’t miss this time.
The Reds could’ve and should’ve doubled their lead almost momentarily, but Dubravka made impressive back-to-back saves to fend off profligate Nunez.
One foray into the opposition half was enough for Newcastle to punish Liverpool for their wasteful finishing.
Alexander Isak received the ball in his stride and showed his Reds counterpart how it’s done. With only Alisson to beat after slipping the home side’s rearguard, he calmly slotted the ball inside the far post.
Liverpool continued to waste chances at a bizarre rate.
Diaz forced Dubravka’s routine save from the edge of the penalty area before Nunez’s flying header flew agonisingly wide.
It was Cody Gakpo’s turn to get frustrated by Dubravka’s unbelievable night. Unmarked around the penalty spot, the Dutchman drilled a powerful effort goalwards, but the Slovak was there again.
However, even the almighty veteran couldn’t do anything in the 74th minute. It was like a video game.
Arnold launched a lightning-fast pass exchange with a defence-splitting through ball for Diogo Jota, who turned it past Dubravka first time for Curtis Jones to guide it home into an empty net.
Liverpool thought they had landed a knockout blow when Salah’s inch-perfect cross with the outside of his boot found Gakpo unmarked inside the six-yard box.
But only three minutes after the Dutchman’s strike, Botman connected his towering header with Sean Longstaff’s corner-kick delivery to put the game back in limbo.
It proved a futile effort as Jota drew another penalty for the Reds in the 86th minute. Despite being denied at the first time of asking, Salah wanted another duel with Dubravka, and this time, he won.
In addition to hitting a 150-goal landmark in the Premier League, tonight’s brace saw Salah haul back a two-goal deficit on Manchester City’s Erling Braut Haaland in the Golden Boot race.
And while Liverpool moved three points clear at the top of the table after completing a third straight top-flight double against Newcastle, the visitors’ freefall continues.
Condemned to a third consecutive league defeat, the Magpies trail fourth-placed Arsenal by a whopping 11 points.
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