Watch: Dejan Lovren scores screamer to help Liverpool go six clear as Manchester CCity slip
Dejan Lovren scored a sweet strike to help Liverpool thrash Newcastle 5-0 at Anfield on Boxing Day.
The result was enough to send the Reds six clear at the top of the table as Manchester City were beaten 2-1 at Leicester and drop behind Tottenham into third care of Spurs' 5-0 win over Bournemouth.
The Croatian centre-half came up for a corner and when it dropped after a poor headed clearance, he lashed a perfect half-volley into the top corner.
It's a goal any striker would be pleased with let alone a defender. Have a look:
Mo Salah made it two for the league-leading Reds just three minutes into the second half before Xherdan Shaqiri continued his good form and Fabinho completed the rout with his first Premier League goal.
City, whom Liverpool face at the Etihad Stadium on January 3, are now seven points off the pace with Tottenham now the nearest challengers at six behind.
Newcastle had won just twice in the league at Anfield in their history, with the last success coming in 1994, and former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez’s decision to rest leading scorer Salomon Rondon did not say much for their ambitions in ending that run.
Goals are a premium commodity for the Magpies on this ground – where they famously had two thrilling 4-3 defeats in the mid-1990s – with just five in their previous 11 visits.
That meant taking their chances was pivotal and there was none better than the first of the match which fell to Joselu when Matt Ritchie’s hanging cross dropped over Virgil Van Dijk at the far post but the Spaniard planted his downward header wide.
It was the last sight the visitors had of goal until the 54th minute when Joselu flicked wide another header after Andrew Robertson lost possession on the edge of his own penalty area.
Liverpool gradually moved through the gears while never really exerting themselves at their maximum.
However, they did not need to be anywhere near their best, especially when the combination of a poor Jamaal Lascelles’ header and a striker’s finish from Lovren produced the opening goal.
Shaqiri took a corner so quickly neither Lovren nor his centre-back partner Van Dijk were in position for it, but it worked to their benefit as Robertson’s cross – via Lascelles’ head – dropped at the Croatian’s feet and he smashed in a half-volley which was still rising as it hit the roof of the net.
What followed was a loose, scrappy game in which Liverpool could not properly get a grip while Newcastle did just enough to suggest a threat without ever turning it into a realistic challenge.
Firmino’s clever dink over the top forced goalkeeper Martin Dubravka to rush to get there just ahead of Sadio Mane while Shaqiri’s swerving, deflected free-kick was tipped over by the goalkeeper at the end of the half.
Three minutes after the break Paul Dummett tangled with Salah and although the contact did not appear enough when the Egypt international hit the floor, referee Graham Scott pointed to the spot.
1⃣0⃣0⃣wins as manager of the Reds. 👏🔴 pic.twitter.com/QFJioppTSz— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 26, 2018
The Reds’ top scorer confidently converted Liverpool’s first penalty at Anfield in 424 days for his sixth goal in the last five matches.
Ten minutes from time Shaqiri side-footed home from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross before substitute Fabinho bundled home a corner as the hosts kept their 12th clean sheet of the campaign – the same number they achieved when they last won the title in 1989-90.
A bonus by-product was it allowed Liverpool to match City’s goal difference, which had been 14 in their rivals’ favour at the start of the month.
Regardless of whether that is relevant or not in the long run, Liverpool will arrive at the Etihad next week top of the table.
Belfast Telegraph Digital