Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to six points by beating Newcastle – because Manchester City, who started the day as their nearest challengers, lost at Leicester City.
Goals by Dejan Lovren, Mohamed Salah from the penalty spot, Xherdan Shaqiri and substitute Fabinho, ensured Jurgen Klopp’s side will start 2019 at the top of the table.
Newcastle wasted a great chance to take the lead at 0-0 when Joselu failed to connect properly with Matt Ritchie’s excellent cross and were punished when Lovren dispatched a half-volley into the roof of the net.
Salah’s penalty doubled the lead after referee Graham Scott judged that Paul Dummett had fouled the Egypt forward, before Shaqiri tucked home the third from an assist by Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool completed the scoring through Fabinho’s header and reach the halfway point of the season six points ahead of second-placed Tottenham, who were 5-0 winners against Bournemouth.
News of Manchester City’s demise at Leicester- their second straight defeat – was greeted with a huge roar at Anfield.
A week ago there was just one point between Liverpool and Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions, yet Klopp’s side will go into their final game of 2018 on Saturday against Arsenal with Tottenham their nearest challengers.
They have reached the halfway point unbeaten – just like City did on the way to the title last season.
The Reds secured a 12th top-flight clean sheet without too many scares, although Joselu’s headed miss when the game was goalless was a let-off.
Shortly afterwards Lovren found the roof of the net with a sublime finish, before Salah doubled the lead from the penalty spot and Shaqiri pounced for his fourth goal in as many games.
It was at this point news filtered through from the King Power Stadium that Manchester City were losing 2-1 – and with Liverpool fans in party mood, substitute Fabinho headed the fourth to wrap up a 16th win in 19 league games.
In addition, this was Klopp’s 100th win as Liverpool manager in his 181st match.
Before his return to Liverpool, the club he managed for six years from 2004, Rafael Benitez said it would be a “miracle” if his Newcastle side were to avoid relegation.
Despite a third defeat in six games, they remain five points above the bottom three in 15th spot.
Benitez might grumble at the award of the penalty that made it 2-0, when Salah and Dummett tangled and the referee pointed to the spot although the contact did not appear enough when the Egypt international hit the floor.
However, Newcastle have scored just 14 league goals this season and this was the eighth time in 19 top-flight games they have failed to find the net.
Joselu, one of six changes to the team, should have headed his side ahead when the game was goalless, while there will be questions as to why Salomon Rondon, leading scorer with five goals, was left on the bench and did not feature.
Newcastle have picked up lately after a poor start but they were distinctly second best at Anfield.
A response is required at Watford on Saturday, with matches against Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham on the horizon.
Jordan Henderson was immense in midfield. The Liverpool skipper produced a high-energy performance that included a string of key tackles on a big day for his club.
‘I didn’t like the start of the game’ – the managers
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp:”The start of the game offensively was very lively, defensively a bit in between. I didn’t like it too much.
“But apart from that the whole game was really good. We could’ve scored more; the chances were there with fantastic movements. Right to the end we wanted to control the game but still wanted to score.
“It’s difficult to break down Newcastle’s formation. They worked hard but the boys stayed in the game and did the job.”
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez:”We knew we were playing a very good team and knew staying in the game was crucial.
“At the start of the second half there was a light penalty – it’s hard when you’re 2-0 down. If you have chances and don’t take them or make mistakes it is difficult.
“The first goal is a mistake and the second is key in terms of confidence. Yes. You can see the difference between some teams. We have to carry on doing things right and we have to be better than three teams.”