Jurgen Klopp said he “loves the goals” Mohamed Salah is scoring after his Liverpool side consolidated their place in the Premier League top four with a comfortable victory over Newcastle.
With five minutes left of a wasteful first half for the Reds, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain drove through the away side’s lines and played in Salah for his 24th goal of the league season.
With no real outlet in attack, the Magpies were under constant pressure at Anfield and they buckled again when Sadio Mane swept the home side further ahead from Roberto Firmino’s pass – the 200th top-flight goal under their German manager.
Salah might have added a late third, too. As he broke clear in injury time, it looked like he was shoved in the back by Jamaal Lascelles. Klopp said it was a “special view” not to give a foul and “definitely a red card” as the forward went down with just the keeper to beat.
“I love the goals he’s scored, I love his assists. I love this player,” he added of Salah.
“He’s doing so well, but all the others have exactly the same importance and he knows that.”
Saturday’s win moves Liverpool above Manchester United into second place – at least until their rivals play at Crystal Palace on Monday.
The gap to leaders Manchester City is 15 points, with Pep Guardiola’s side in action at home to Chelsea on Sunday.
Newcastle, whose best chance saw Mohamed Diame denied by Loris Karius’ fine save just before half-time, drop to 16th after Swansea’s 4-1 home win over West Ham.
Rafael Benitez’s side are two points above the relegation zone with nine matches to play.
Salah just keeps scoring
This was Egypt forward Salah’s 32nd goal in 38 games in all competitions for Liverpool this season, and the 26th competitive match in which he’s scored.
By comparison, the entire Newcastle squad has managed 31 goals in total this term.
His finish – left-footed, of course, and through the legs of on-loan keeper Martin Dubravka – had a slight element of fortune in that it ricocheted in off Dubravka’s calf, but there was no doubt it came with the run of play.
Newcastle had been camped in banks of five but after Oxlade-Chamberlain, again impressive, pounced on a turnover in possession and opened up space with a determined run and Salah drifted into the perfect spot to put his side ahead. From there they never looked back.
In the context of Champions League qualification, Liverpool are now seven points clear of fifth-placed Chelsea, who have a game in hand, but first comes Tuesday’s last-16 second-leg with FC Porto in this year’s competition. They lead 5-0 lead from the first leg.
Bigger days to come for Newcastle
In recent matches at Manchester City and Bournemouth, Newcastle started games as they did here – stubborn and hard to break down.
But just as in their 3-1 defeat at City, and their 2-2 draw at the Cherries (after leading 2-0), resilience washed away.
The strategy appeared to be to keep Liverpool at bay for as long as possible and take any chances when they came.
Maybe if Diame’s curling shot – destined for the top corner – had not been brilliantly matched by Karius’ glove, the second half would have told a different story.
Regardless, this defeat at Anfield will not define how Newcastle’s season ends. There are more important games to come.
Three of their nine remaining league matches are against other teams threatened by relegation – and games at home to Southampton and Huddersfield are two of their next three.
Analysis: Eye-catching Henderson
Former Liverpool and England midfielder Danny Murphy on Match of the Day
Jordan Henderson caught my eye because he showed off his passing range. Sometimes he has been criticised for not being positive with his passing but we saw the full range of his passing against Newcastle.
When it comes to England, you think Eric Dier an Jack Wilshere but in terms of defensive capabilities, Henderson is the best.
Man of the match – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool).