From St James’ Park – Liverpool claimed an impressive 2-0 win over ten-man Newcastle on Saturday night as England goalkeeper Nick Pope was sent off in the first half.
The game was all but decided during a remarkable opening 22 minutes in the North East as Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo struck before Pope received his marching orders.
Miguel Almiron had the game’s first big chance just four minutes in when found by Allan Saint-Maximin but Alisson was quickly off his line to make the save. That miss proved costly when the opening goal arrived in the tenth minute.
Trent Alexander-Arnold picked up possession in midfield and played a brilliant ball through the middle for Nunez, who controlled at the second time of asking before drilling beyond Pope.
Liverpool did not let up and just seven minutes later it was 2-0. Mohamed Salah, who looked back to his best on Tyneside, collected the ball 30 yards out and clipped a superb pass into the box for Gakpo to find the net. Newcastle were stunned but things would get even worse moments later.
Alisson collected a Newcastle corner and fired a brilliant pass to Salah. Pope came racing out of his box and attempted to head the ball but instead ended up using his hands, giving referee Anthony Taylor little option but to send him off.
That red card will rule Pope out of the Carabao Cup final.
The resulting free-kick almost saw Liverpool make it 3-0 but Gakpo’s header was straight at a relieved Martin Dubravka, who had his first touch after replacing Elliot Anderson.
Newcastle though kept pushing up and Saint-Maximin, now playing up front in a two with Anderson replaced, forced Alisson to turn a shot onto the bar.
The hosts found the woodwork again just before the break with Dan Burn smashing a header against the crossbar from just five yards out.
Eddie Howe re-organised his side at the break but didn’t make any changes as they looked to find a way back into the game.
Alexander Isak, who saw precious little of the ball in the game, was presented with a good chance minutes into the second half but curled a shot around the post. Fabian Schar then headed wide from a corner as the home side started to create.
But Liverpool were always dangerous with the extra player and Dubravka made a brilliant save to keep it at 2-0 as he pushed Nunez’s effort wide. That proved to be his last contribution as the visitors made four changes on the hour with James Milner, Roberto Firmino, Harvey Elliott and Diogo Jota all coming on.
Newcastle responded with a triple change of their own as Anthony Gordon, Callum Wilson and Jacob Murphy entered the fray.
It was Liverpool’s replacements who made the first impression with Jota firing just wide with his first touch of the ball.
The Reds should have made it 3-0 with 20 minutes left as Robertson and Jota combined on the left, but the Scot crossed the ball when it looked easier to finish.
Liverpool’s fresh legs spurned numerous chances late on to extend their lead as they collected a hugely valuable three points, becoming the first side to win at St James’ Park this season and also complete a double over Newcastle.
Jurgen Klopp’s men are now up to eighth in the table, just six points behind Howe’s side in fourth with a game in hand.
GK: Nick Pope – 1/10 – No doubt one of the worst days of his Premier League career. Two goals and then a misjudged header which means he won’t play at Wembley in the Carabao Cup final.
RB: Kieran Trippier (C) – 5/10 – Got forward at times but struggled to contain Nunez in the opening hour.
CB: Fabian Schar – 5/10 – Won’t be happy with either goal – got caught out behind.
CB: Sven Botman – 5/10 – Liverpool were playing off Schar but Botman could have helped more on the goals. Covering was poor.
LB: Dan Burn – 4/10 – Not his best day at the office. Did hit the bar but struggled with the long ball over him for Salah, which Liverpool looked for all game.
CM: Sean Longstaff – 5/10 – Worked hard but was up against it when down a player in midfield following the red card to Pope.
CM: Joelinton – 5/10 – Like Longstaff, found it tough going with a player deficit.
CM: Elliot Anderson – 3/10 – Bright start but sacrificed to make way for Martin Dubravka.
RW: Miguel Almiron – 6/10 – Worked his socks off as expected but had to play deeper after Pope’s dismissal.
CF: Alexander Isak – 4/10 – Disappointing, never really got into the game and curled his one real effort wide.
LW: Allan Saint-Maximin – 7/10 – Made some good runs but when he went up front after the red card. Impacted his natural game but he did work hard.
Martin Dubravka (24′ for Anderson) – 6/10 – Made some decent saves when he came on.
Callum Wilson (64′ for Isak) – N/A
Jacob Murphy (64′ for Trippier) – N/A
Anthony Gordon (64′ for Almiron) – N/A
Matt Ritchie (71′ for Joelinton) – N/A
Eddie Howe – 4/10 – Not much he could do once the red card came, but maybe should have made changes earlier.
GK: Alisson – 9/10 – Amazing. Made brilliant saves and launched numerous counter-attacks with his passing. Brilliant from the Brazilian.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8/10 – Made some great passes, including the crucial ball for Nunez to put Liverpool ahead.
CB: Virgil van Dijk – 7/10 – Very comfortable on his return. The rock this Liverpool team is built on.
CB: Joe Gomez – 7/10 – Comfortable and coped well with Isak and later Saint-Maximin.
LB: Andy Robertson – 7/10 – Constant work down the flank. On his way back to his best form.
CM: Jordan Henderson (C) – 6/10 – Worked hard and did what he had to do and what was asked of him. Helped shackle Newcastle when they showed anything.
CM: Fabinho – 6/10 – Protected the back four pretty well but his job was made easier by Newcastle going down to ten men.
CM: Stefan Bajcetic – 7/10 – Full of energy and almost created a goal early on. Rarely gave away possession – helped the away side take control.
RW: Mohamed Salah – 9/10 – Constant threat and didn’t give Burn a moment’s peace all night. His sublime pass for Gakpo goal was brilliant and he earned the red card for Pope.
ST: Cody Gakpo – 8/10 – Worked hard in a central role and got the goal he deserved.
LW: Darwin Nunez – 8/10 – Looked very good on the left, cutting in and creating chances for himself and team-mates. Grabbed his goal with clinical finish.
Diogo Jota (60′ for Nunez) – N/A
Roberto Firmino (60′ for Gakpo) – N/A
Harvey Elliot (60′ for Bajcetic) – N/A
James Milner (60′ for Henderson) – N/A
Jurgen Klopp – 8/10 – Liverpool looked like a proper Klopp outfit on Saturday night, with Nunez particularly promising on the left.