Knowing that a win in the first Premier League game of 2024 would put his side three points clear at the top of the table, Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp was keen to make statement of intent for their ambitions of becoming champions by the end of the season as they welcomed Newcastle United on January 1.
LIV: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Gomez, Jones, Endo, Szoboszlai, Endo, Jones, Diaz, Nunez, Salah
NEW: Dubravka, Livramento, Schar, Botman, Burn, Miley, Longstaff, Guimaraes, Gordon, Isak, Joelinton
Liverpool rushed out of the gates as they showed their intent to bring the game to Newcastle, as Trent Alexander-Arnold’s shot in the second minute from the edge of the box was blocked to take it narrowly wide.
The onslaught of Liverpool pressure continued as only a fine Martin Dubravka save from a Darwin Nunez shot on the six-yard box denied the Reds taking the lead in the 12th minute before the rebound was blocked by the scrambling Newcastle defenders.
Liverpool were denied the lead in the 18th minute as they broke through the Magpies press with an incisive through ball from Curtis Jones to Nunez, but the Uruguayan was dispossessed only for the ball to fall to Luis Diaz, and the Colombian slotted home, but he was offside.
Yet, two minutes later, Liverpool were awarded a penalty for a clumsy challenge by Sven Botman on Diaz, but Mohamed Salah’s penalty was saved by Dubravka in the Newcastle goal, keeping the score level.
Nunez once again will be ruing the excellent performance that Dubravka was having, as he saved a one-on-one from the Liverpool striker after he ran onto a clearance from Alexander-Arnold in the 35th minute.
Dan Burn was denied giving Newcastle the lead in the 37th minute against the run of play as he headed home a cross as Alexander Isak was deemed to be offside in the build-up.
The post prevented Liverpool from opening the scoring two minutes later as Alexander-Arnold’s cross from the byline struck the Newcastle frame.
Klopp’s side were the quickest to get going following the interval, as Salah put Liverpool in front four minutes into the second half. Diaz expertly played the ball to Nunez inside the box before he squared it across the six-yard area, nullifying the seemingly unbeatable Dubravka in goal as the Egyptian placed the ball in an empty net.Embed from Getty Images
Liverpool then immediately pushed for a second, but Dubravka denied Nunez twice in quick succession, once from close range and then from a tight angle.
And the goalkeeper’s efforts paid dividends as Newcastle went up the other end and equalised through a clinical finish by the Swedish striker Isak in the 55th minute.
Dubravka once again denied Liverpool as he pushed away a Diaz effort from the edge of the box after the Colombian worked the ball past two Newcastle defenders.
Moments later in the 64th minute, Dubravka was helpless in goal, but thankfully for him, Nunez’s header whizzed narrowly past the Newcastle goal as the score remained 1-1.
Dubravka continued his man of the match display in goal as he denied substitute Cody Gakpo a corner, as the ball fell to the Dutchman, but his strike was repelled by the Slovakian.
Klopp’s men restored the lead once again in the 74th minute with a Jones goal. The academy graduate tapped the ball home into an open net after an expert move orchestrated by Salah and Diogo Jota down the right-hand side of the Newcastle box before the Portuguese squared for Jones once again, denying Dubravka the chance to deny the Reds.
Liverpool doubled the lead four minutes later, making it 3-1, through Gakpo touching home a Salah cross with Dubravka hapless to deny the Dutchman.Embed from Getty Images
Yet Newcastle refused to lay down as Howe’s side halved the deficit through a Botman header. The defender rose highest at a corner to plant his effort into the corner of Alisson’s goal in the 81st minute.
But as Newcastle looked to apply pressure to Liverpool, Jota broke through the heart of the Newcastle defence and was brought down by Dubravka, resulting in a penalty.
Salah wouldn’t be denied this time by the Slovakian, with the Egyptian slotting the penalty into the corner of the Newcastle goal in the 86th minute, bringing the score to 4-2.
Liverpool would see out the game and extend their lead to five points at the top of the Premier League before turning their attention to the FA Cup.
Newcastle will be worried about their recent form, having lost five of their last six league fixtures. Howe will be thankful for the break to give players a rest in the FA Cup and hope reinforcements could be signed in the January transfer window and some injuries return before their next league fixture in two weeks at home to Manchester City.