Liverpool breathed life into their top-four hopes with a 2-0 win at fourth-placed Newcastle United, who had Nick Pope sent off to rule him out of the EFL Cup final.
Newcastle had only lost once – to the Reds last April – at St James’ Park in the league over the past 12 months, but they came unstuck on Saturday thanks to the visitors’ clinical finishing.
Darwin Nunez’s first Premier League goal since November edged Liverpool ahead before Cody Gakpo netted for the second game running, but it was not until Nick Pope’s dismissal in the 22nd minute that Newcastle looked doomed.
Even then, Eddie Howe’s men coped well with the disadvantage and had chances to reduce the arrears, but the crossbar and Alisson kept them at bay as Liverpool moved to within six points of the top four.
A big three points on the road #NEWLIV pic.twitter.com/typPxsawsx
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 18, 2023
Newcastle began brightly but were trailing in the 10th minute, Nunez beating Pope after exquisitely bringing down Trent Alexander-Arnold’s pass.
It was 2-0 soon after.
Another divine pass, this time from Mohamed Salah, sliced open Newcastle’s defence to find Gakpo, who stabbed home under Pope.
Things quickly got even worse for Newcastle as Pope rushed out of his box and fell on the ball hands first, earning him a straight red.
Newcastle responded well, almost pulling one back twice as Allan Saint-Maximin and Dan Burn both hit the bar.
But Liverpool reached the break unscathed, and they gave little away in the second half.
Callum Wilson should have halved the deficit late on, however, failing to beat Alisson when one-on-one as the Brazilian preserved his clean sheet.
What does it mean? Race for the Champions League heating up
It was not so long ago that many were considering Newcastle Champions League certainties while completely writing off Liverpool for the top four.
The Reds still have quite a long way to go, particularly given how inconsistent they have been this season, but Newcastle’s own recent blip should provide plenty of encouragement.
If Liverpool win their game in hand next weekend, they will be just three points adrift of Newcastle. Hardly unassailable.
Saint-Maximin offers plenty
If there was one Newcastle player who was going to inspire anything on Saturday, it would have been Saint-Maximin.
The Frenchman was a livewire throughout, his carrying ability relieving pressure on numerous occasions and even opening up opportunities. He had three shots – a team-high – and two key passes, bettered only by Kieran Trippier (five) among Newcastle players.
Alisson plays his part
Newcastle gave this a good go and were it not for Alisson’s performance, the home side probably would have scored at least once.
The Brazil international made four saves in total, including tipping Saint-Maximin’s effort on to the crossbar and thwarting Wilson towards the end.
Key Opta facts
– Newcastle are winless in their last 13 Premier League meetings with Liverpool (D4 L9) since a 2-0 home win in December 2015 under Steve McClaren.
– For the first time in their league history, Liverpool have avoided defeat in six successive visits to St James’ Park (W4 D2).
– Liverpool ended a three-game losing streak on the road in the Premier League, keeping an away clean sheet for just the second time this term (0-0 at Everton in September).
– Newcastle conceded as many goals in the opening 17 minutes of this game as they did in their previous eight Premier League matches combined (two).
– Pope’s red card was the fifth instance of a Newcastle goalkeeper being sent off in the Premier League, with only Liverpool and Aston Villa (six each) seeing more ‘keeper reds in the competition.
Liverpool are in Champions League action at home to Real Madrid on Tuesday before going to Crystal Palace in the Premier League four days later. Newcastle now turn their attention to the EFL Cup final against Manchester United next Sunday.
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