Newcastle suffer heaviest defeat under Rafa Benitez
It was an unhappy Christmas for Newcastle United at Anfield '“ and it could be an unhappy New Year for the club.
Rafa Benitez's side were beaten 4-0 by the Premier League champions this afternoon.
They did well for spells, but not nearly well enough over the 90 minutes.
And a mistake and a bad call from the referee set them on their way to the heaviest defeat of Benitez's tenure at the club.
And the next month – both on and off the pitch – could make or break United's season.
There are more tough games on the horizon – and Benitez urgently needs reinforcements in the January transfer window.
Newcastle are 15th in the Premier League, but the five-point gap between them and the relegation zone could soon narrow.
Benitez, United's manager, made six changes to the team which failed to register a single shot on target against basement club Fulham, the team with the worst defensive record in the league.
This time they were facing the team at the opposite end of the table.
Yoshinori Muto was brought in for his pace, while Isaac Hayden replaced Asian Cup-bound Ki Sung-yueng in midfield.
United's manager had talked of "having a plan to beat" Liverpool, a team which had been unbeaten in its previous 22 home games against the club.
"If we do well and they make mistakes, we can do it," said Benitez.
However, a mistake from Newcastle was to change everything in the 11th minute.
The plan was a 5-3-2 formation. Benitez fielded three centre-halves, aided by wing-backs DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Ritchie, and played Yoshinori Muto up alongside Joselu, who was surprisingly recalled to the starting XI.
And Joselu had the first real chance of the game, which was watched by Alan Shearer and Kevin Keegan.
United worked the ball to Ritchie on the left in the 10th ninute, and he swung over a ball for Joselu at the far post. The striker, however, couldn't get his header on target, and Newcastle were behind a minute later.
Andrew Robertson crossed the ball after a short corner, and Jamaal Lascelles could only head the ball as far as an unmarked Dejan Lovren, who beat Dubravka with a superb strike from 15 yards.
It was a poor, poor goal to concede. Lascelles should have done better with his attempted clearance, and Lovren should have been marked.
Game over? Liverpool weren't going to settle for one goal.
Jurgen Klopp's side applied more pressure as the half wore on, though Newcastle were a threat on the counter-attack.
By the break, there was some frustration from the home fans that their team hadn't extended their lead given their domination of the ball, which kept coming back at Benitez's side.
Liverpool were trying their luck from any distance, and Dubravka did well to tip over a 25-yard free-kick from Xherdan Shaqiri in the 45th minute.
The second goal wasn't long in coming, though home fans had to wait for the second half – and a dive from Salah – for it to come.
Referee Graham Scott pointed to the spot when Salah went down all too easily under a soft challenge from Paul Dummett, and the striker converted the penalty to put Liverpool two goals ahead.
It was harsh on Dummett, who had made minimal contact with Salah.
Joselu glanced a header wide soon afterwards, and Benitez waiting until the 72nd minute to make a change. Benitez handed Sean Longstaff his Premier League debut at Anfield – he replaced the ineffective Kenedy – but the game was over by then.
And late goals from Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho capped a miserable afternoon for the club, which faces Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday in desperate need of a win.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Dubravka; Yedlin, Fernandez, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie (Murphy, 80); Hayden, Diame, Kenedy (Longstaff, 72); Muto, Joselu. Subs not used: Woodman, Schar, Rondon, Perez, Manquillo.