Liverpool 4-0 Newcastle: Player ratings as the Reds go six points clear

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Liverpool players celebrate

Liverpool stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League table to six points after swatting aside Newcastle 4-0 at Anfield.

A sensational opener from Dejan Lovren set the tone with the defender thrashing home a sweet half-volley in the 11th minute.

Their second did not arrive until after the break, but the hosts didn’t have to wait long with Mohamed Salah scoring from the spot in the 48th minute.

An impressive Xherdan Shaqiri slotted a simple tap in for the third and substitute Fabinho glanced home a header from a Salah corner for the fourth.

With Manchester City losing 2-1 at Leicester, the Reds moved six points clear of second-placed Tottenham who handed out a beating of their own to defeat Bournemouth 5 0.

Here are our Liverpool player ratings from Anfield.

LIVERPOOL 4-2-3-1

Alisson 6 – Could have sat in with the jubilant Anfield crowd such was the ease of his day’s work. Tidy in possession and untroubled between the sticks.

Trent Alexander-Arnold 7 – Both Liverpool full-backs were instrumental. The 20-year-old offered bags of energy and delightful delivery. Did miscue one or two crosses but then got the assist for Shaqiri’s goal.

Dejan Lovren 7 – The self-anointed world’s best defender provided some justice to his rather bold claim. Opened the scoring with a vicious half-volley and was typically solid throughout.

Virgil van Dijk 7 – Another clean sheet and only two goals conceded at home in the Premier League all season for Liverpool. The Dutchman deserves credit for that, once again he was brilliant, even providing a threat in attack.

Andrew Robertson 8 – Could probably copy and paste an analysis of the flying Scot’s performance each week. Incredibly consistent and his deep lungs are matched by his full heart.

Georginio Wijnaldum 7 – An unsung hero for Liverpool this season. Sat at the base of the midfield with the captain and always looked to play the ball forward.

Jordan Henderson 7 – Very tidy performance from the skipper. Ideal in fixtures like this where he won’t be particularly pressured and is afforded the time to be measured, brilliant first-time pass in the lead up to Shaqiri’s goal.

Xherdan Shaqiri 8 – The guy could power a street of Christmas lights he’s that electric. His bulldozing pace on the counter was crucial and then his pinpoint diagonal balls were a big feature of Liverpool’s play. Deserved his goal.

Roberto Firmino 6 – Relatively quiet by his standards but then you must not neglect the work he does off the ball. Buzzed about the pitch constantly, dropping between the lines to link up play and then initiating the press.

Sadio Mane 7 – Must be more clinical. Mane is so dangerous with his piercing pace causing so much trouble. He was frequently found behind Newcastle’s line of defence but either took a touch when he should have shot early, or inaccurately tried to feed a team-mate.

Moahmed Salah 7 – Won the penalty, scored the penalty. Will come in for some criticism over the way he won the spot-kick, however, Paul Dummett put his hands on him and Salah gladly took that opportunity to hit the deck.

SUBSTITUTES 

Fabinho 7 – Came on just past the hour mark and was extremely comfortable on the ball. Headed in his first goal for the club from a stunning Salah corner.

Daniel Sturridge 6 – Given 20 minutes and could have scored only to see a header drift wide.

Nathaniel Clyne N/A – Arrived on the scene with 10 minutes to go for more needed minutes under his belt.

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Jurgen Klopp felt nothing when Man City handed initiative to Liverpool in EPL title race

Carl Markham 17:03 26/12/2018
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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he felt nothing when Manchester City handed the initiative to his side in the title race.

Crystal Palace pulled off a shock win over the defending Premier League champions on Saturday, less than 24 hours after the Reds had extended their lead at the top to four points with victory at Wolves.

Klopp was inundated with text messages from friends highlighting City’s slip – but he himself remained unmoved.

“Nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing. We are focused so far always on the next game. That hasn’t changed since Saturday,” he said.

“When people are not involved but emotionally involved, such as friends and people like that, see City lose 3-2 then I get all these messages saying, ‘Wow. Unbelievable. Blah, blah, blah’, and I don’t even feel it.

Only James Milner has experience of winning a Premier League title at Liverpool.

Only James Milner has experience of winning a Premier League title at Liverpool.

“Nothing is taken for granted. Don’t think because we have that amount of points and they have that amount of points (that Liverpool will win the title).

“If you think that, then that’s the moment when things go wrong. And they can still go wrong, that’s how life is.”

In the previous 10 years only twice has the team top on Christmas Day not gone on to win the title.

On both occasions it was Liverpool, in 2008 and 2014, but Klopp has no interest in history, fate or omens.

“We have to be focused. Not nervous. I’ve heard how many times in the last 10 years that when you’re first at Christmas you win the title, but only Liverpool won’t,” he added.

“Wow, you (the assembled media) are afraid to say it because you think I know it.

“What is it? What does it mean? It’s a different team, a different time, everything was different. It’s not interesting.

“If you want to be sure that in May it will be something really special – but you don’t want to see the way to that day – then make a holiday.

“I don’t know where the Premier League is not broadcast but find a little country where it is not and go there.

“If you want to enjoy the ride, and want to try everything you can to be as successful as possible, then welcome, let’s go for it.”

Liverpool are top of the tree at Christmas.

Liverpool are top of the tree at Christmas.

Liverpool’s lack of experience – only James Milner has won the Premier League before with City in 2012 and 2014 – is one of the rare things that can be held against an unbeaten team who have enjoyed the best start to a season in their history.

However, Klopp, a Bundesliga title winner with Borussia Dortmund in 2011 and 2012, believes they have other experiences to draw on.

“For the second half of the season, yes we are greedy. We smelled a bit of it last season, how it could be.

“You cannot be successful in any sport in the world without any kind of hunger.

“We were close a few times and we are not silly. We know we are not bad and can go there so let’s try it again, let’s try to be as successful as possible.”

Klopp is also unsure how much his winning of titles in Germany will actually help this time around.

“It worked out pretty well in 2012 but in 2013 (it was) not that good. I’m far away from being perfect but my experience will not be key,” he added.

“And City has the biggest advantage because they were champions last year and they know that if they do it again, it will happen.”

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Why being top at Christmas means nothing for Liverpool

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Jurgen Klopp

The festive period is a time for giving and where Liverpool are concerned, their gift unexpectedly arrived a little earlier than expected.

Indeed, Jurgen Klopp’s unbeaten side are top of the (Christmas) tree with four points separating the challengers from the champions after Manchester City dropped the bauble – promise that is the final festive pun – against Crystal Palace.

It means they lead the way on December 25 for the third time in the Premier League era and on paper, it largely appears to be a positive omen.

After all, only twice in the last 10 seasons has the team top at Christmas failed to go on and claim the league title. It’s only one team, too, but guess which side that happens to be? Yes, that would be Liverpool.

In 2008/09 Rafael Benitez’s tremendous Liverpool iteration was a point clear of Chelsea with 39 accrued in total, only to then lose out on domestic dominance to Manchester United. At the time United were nine points back in fourth spot.

Then came Brendan Rodgers’ galloping group of free-scoring maniacs in 2013/14.

Only goal difference separated the Reds and Arsenal with the two on 36 points each through 17 games. Neither would go on to win with City, a point back in third, tasting success.

So, what does this information tell us? Nominally, that there’s a five-year cycle where Liverpool are concerned but most notably, that being top at Christmas matters very little.

A sizable gap coming into the turn of the year is what has seen previous sides go on to secure honours.

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However, on both occasions Liverpool’s lead has been slender and once again that is the scenario which faces Klopp as the Reds saddle up for a very testing fixture pile up.

In nine days the league leaders host Newcastle (December 26) and Arsenal (December 29) before travelling to City (January 3). Transitioning from the hunter to the hunted is a difficult mentality switch.

You may say this season has a different feel to it for the Reds given in 2008/09 Benitez’s side couldn’t always score while in 2013/14 they struggled to keep clean sheets.

This term, their success has been built on defensive rigidity – they’ve conceded only seven times in 18 games, the only side not to be in double figures for goals against – and across the park, it’s difficult to find holes to exploit. They can score and protect a lead to combine two traits from their previous challenges.

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk

Yet, there is one narrative which joins those two campaigns with the current one, and it’s that Liverpool are being challenged by a supremely gifted, and most importantly, title-experienced team.

United in 2008/09 were hallmarked by prime talents like Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. It was arguably the last truly world class United team and they thrived in the final few months of the season, dropping points only three times at the turn of the year.

In 2013/14 it was a similar story. City scored a ludicrous 102 goals and the squad under Pep Guardiola’s management right now is far better.

Liverpool’s best versions haven’t been enough and being top at Christmas is simply not enough. It’s become a festive tradition for them to be crippled when leading from the front and Klopp’s New Year’s resolution will be to try and change that.

City won’t panic and even Tottenham are in the mix. It’s not Liverpool’s trophy to throw away per say, but they’ve been capable of dishing out late gifts in the past. Ignoring the table at Christmas is perhaps their wisest move at this point.

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