The biggest cheer of the afternoon came following a Liverpool throw-in. Nathaniel Clyne had just replaced Andy Robertson and threw the ball into play close to the halfway line. Then the crowd jumped up. Choruses of ‘Liverpool! Liverpool! Liverpool!’ began and scarves were soon twirling. This was in the 83rd minute, three of Liverpool’s four goals had been scored but it was events outside of Anfield that had led to the sudden outpouring of joy.
Manchester City had just conceded a second goal against Leicester City, the scoreline now 2-1. The points difference between Liverpool and the reigning Premier League champions had increased to seven. Such indirect celebrations will only appear more often as Liverpool take control at the top of the table. The two meet on Thursday week which could see the gap extend further.
Klopp: Stop getting too excited
Against Jurgen Klopp’s public wishes, the Anfield faithful began to outwardly show the ‘hope that is in their hearts’ of which they sing about prior to every match. Liverpool’s position becomes stronger by the day, thanks to the displays from both themselves and their competitors.
Their next three matches are tough – at home to Arsenal and then away to City and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup – hence Klopp’s demand to remain levelheaded. The season is now half complete and Liverpool lead the way by a fair distance – six points.
There is no doubt that if Liverpool deal with their next opponents as well as they did with a measly Newcastle United, then they can truly begin to believe. It is on days like these where Premier League titles are won, or in City’s case possibly lost. In misty conditions amidst the heavy festive fixture schedule Liverpool clinically dispatched Newcastle with the style that Klopp has worked so hard to implement.
Liverpool rarely sweep sides away nowadays, but rather the mantra is minimal fuss and maximum flair; keeping control when in and out of possession and attacking quickly through intricate moves. A strong bedrock in defence and goalkeeper allows Liverpool to be more patient, there is no longer the need to score three or more goals to win a game – although they scored four here and made light work of their opponents.
Another four goals and another clean sheet
There is every reason for those on the Kop to be getting excited, this easy victory means that Liverpool have now gathered 51 points from 19 matches, remaining unbeaten. Although Klopp will need to shield his players from the growing hysteria, that is almost a given for any side that are challenging for a title. And will prove as difficult to manage as retaining the form that has taken them to this position.
City’s sticky spell has certainly arrived, but for all we know, Liverpool’s may arrive tomorrow. That first league defeat may come on Saturday. That won’t be an issue in itself, but as is the case anywhere in football, the confidence must remain high for the performances to also stay at this level. Managing these dynamics arguably carry title contenders over the line.
Here, though, Liverpool were not even at their best. They did not have to be against such limp opposition. The well-oiled gears were there and were increased when necessary, but their sheer dominance – albeit not in the scoreline until a Mohamed Salah penalty early in the second half – was apparent. It was a comfortable afternoon. In many respects, this was probably the biggest help that Rafa Benitez has offered to a Liverpool title-challenging season since he arrived in England.
Newcastle began in open fashion, possibly trying to prove a point that they can actually venture beyond the halfway line when up against a top team. But soon enough they fell into type and a formation of 5-3-2. Jamaal Lascelles presented the hosts with a present for the first goal in the 11th minute when he made a right mess of a straightforward clearance. The Anfield crowd were almost as surprised by how the chance had been created as they were when they realised it was Dejan Lovren who had fired it into the roof of the net.
Liverpool in control with measured performance
Following the early goal, Liverpool almost thrived playing patiently and probing as and when they felt necessary. It was measured and ultimately successful. The first half chances, however, did wrack up for the hosts: Sadio Mane almost converted Roberto Firmino’s through ball whilst Xherdan Shaqiri fired a powerful free-kick that was saved by Martin Dubravka.
Once Salah had converted the penalty early in the second half following a pull from Paul Dummett on the Premier League's joint leading goalscorer, which he exaggerated but was correctly given, Liverpool were more than on their way. Klopp made three changes to his starting XI from victory against Wolves, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Shaqiri and Georginio Wijnaldum coming in, and he was able to change yet more in the second half to preserve energy for another testing week.
Another reporter raised the question as to how and where Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will fit into this current Liverpool setup, but it must be remembered that Klopp is keen to swap and change this season. He has a plethora of forward thinking talent – and that’s not including Alisson – to chose from and is eager to keep things fresh and, more importantly following last season, unpredictable.
As Liverpool’s third and fourth goals were scored by Shaqiri and substitute Fabinho, the crowd were preoccupied…with events in Leicester. But the victory that had just been boxed off by their team was deserved of festive cheer in its own right. Another four goals scored, another clean sheet and another step in the right direction. Liverpool move on, quicker and slicker than the rest.