Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo scored as Liverpool beat Newcastle United 2-0 at St James’ Park, with Nick Pope seeing red.
Liverpool breathed life into their top four hopes with a 2-0 win against fourth-placed Newcastle United, who had Nick Pope sent off to knock them out of the EFL Cup final.
Newcastle have lost just once in the past 12 months – to the Reds last April – at St James’ Park in the league, but they pulled away on Saturday thanks to some clinical finishing from the visitors.
Darwin Nunez’s first Premier League goal since November put Liverpool ahead before Cody Gakpo netted for a second successive game, but it wasn’t until Nick Pope’s 22nd-minute sending off that Newcastle looked doomed.
Even then, Eddie Howe’s men dealt 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.
Newcastle started brightly but were trailing in the 10th minute, Nunez beating Pope after superbly knocking down Trent Alexander-Arnold’s pass.
Shortly after, it was 2-0.
Another divine pass, this time from Mohamed Salah, sliced through the Newcastle defense and found Gakpo, who slotted under Pope.
Things quickly got worse for Newcastle when Pope ran out of his box and went down ball-first, earning him a straight red.
Newcastle responded well, almost pulling one back twice as Allan Saint-Maximin and Dan Burn hit the post.
But Liverpool went into the break unscathed and did not give much in the second half.
Callum Wilson should have halved the deficit later but failed to beat Alisson in a one-on-one as the Brazilian kept a clean sheet.
What does it mean? Heated race for the Champions League
It wasn’t that long ago that many were considering Newcastle’s Champions League certainty while completely writing off Liverpool for the top four.
The Reds still have quite a long way to go, especially given how inconsistent they have been this season, but Newcastle’s recent swing should provide plenty of encouragement.
If Liverpool win their game next weekend, they will be just three points clear of Newcastle. Hardly impregnable.
Liverpool player ratings (4-3-3)
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.