Scroll to Photostream above left for match photos, click on the statistics tab for match stats. Manager reaction to follow.
Liverpool recorded their highest Barclays Premier League away victory as Newcastle United were humbled 6-0 at St James' Park and served a reminder that the threat of relegation remains all too real.
Inspired by the excellent Philippe Coutinho, the visitors made light of the absence of the suspended Luis Suarez as two goals apiece from Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge followed Daniel Agger’s early opening header.
Substitute Fabio Borini marked his return from a shoulder injury with his first Barclays Premier League goal as the Reds ran riot at St James’ Park against a side whose misery was compounded by the dismissal of Mathieu Debuchy for a second bookable offence.
And to think the day had started so well for the Geordie faithful. A collective sigh of relief had issued forth from St James' Park some 40 minutes ahead of kick-off when news filtered through of Tottenham Hotspur's late equaliser, which denied Wigan Athletic a victory that would have taken them out of the bottom three and kept Newcastle still five points clear of the drop zone.
As a result, Alan Pardew's players emerged from the dressing room knowing a victory would edge them to the brink of safety. But within 17 minutes, their hopes had all but died as Liverpool cut loose to rekindle memories of their 5-1 victory on Tyneside in 2008. Few inside the ground needed reminding that on that occasion, they would slip out of the division five months later.
The Reds tore at their hosts from the off and needed just three minutes to forge their way ahead when Agger took advantage of a static back line to run unmarked on to Stewart Downing's lofted cross and head past the helpless Rob Elliot.
Newcastle conceded a good deal of space to Liverpool in the middle of the field despite employing James Perch and Cheick Tiote in front of the back four and the outstanding Coutinho and Sturridge ran riot.
The visitors increased their lead with 17 minutes gone after mounting a flowing attack which left the Magpies floundering again, Coutinho sliding the ball into Sturridge's path for the forward to set up Henderson to double the dose.
Sturridge then forced a 24th-minute save from Elliot and Steven Gerrard uncharacteristically volleyed wide five minutes later with the locals fearing the worst.
By contrast, Newcastle had little or no penetration as lone striker Papiss Cisse was starved of possession with Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko becalmed by a sea of red shirts. But they might have been back in it with nine minutes of the half remaining when full-back Massadio Haidara produced the first cross of any note to present Perch with a free header, only for the defender to head wide.
Pardew made his move at the break, replacing Perch and Jonas Gutierrez with the attack-minded Ben Arfa and Gouffran and the latter almost repaid his manager’s faith within four minutes of his introduction when he got his head to Cabaye's cross, only for his looping header tio be easily collected by Pepe Reina.
The balance of the game appeared briefly to have changed as Newcastle poured forward and started to find space in advanced areas. Cabaye passed up a decent chance when he miscontrolled the ball on the edge of the area with 52 minutes gone.
But the game was effectively over two minutes later when Ben Arfa, who had shown encouraging signs, was robbed by on the right by Coutinho who sped forward to slide in Sturridge to blast past Elliot.
And things were about to get much, much worse for the Magpies. They were carved open once again when Gerrard and Henderson combined to set up Sturridge for his second with half an hour still to play.
Liverpool were now rampant, and Borini needed just two minutes to find the back of the net on his return from injury as a substitute when he converted Downing's cross. Henderson then rounded off the scoring with a 74th-minute free-kick that eluded everyone in a crowded area, including Elliot before finding into the bottom corner.
Within seconds Debuchy had received his marching orders after receiving a second yellow for a foul on Coutinho, and only a fine 82nd-minute save by Elliot, who tiipped his rasping shot on to the bar, denied the former Inter Milan man a seventh goal as the storm clouds gathered over Tyneside with three games of a difficult campaign remaining.
The victory lifts Liverpool to within five points of sixth-placed Everton, while the defeat does little to ease Newcastle’s fears of being sucked into the bottom three. Pardew’s side may lie five points above the drop zone with three matches remaining, but the four teams beneath them all have a game in hand.
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew: "It was an awful performance by us. We have to do something about that for next week. We have to stick together now we have to get ourselves disciplined; we got run ragged today.
"Luckily we have three games to go to put it right. We need four points to make sure we are safe. They were very good today. They had a great energy, but there is no excuse for our performance. Defensively we were very, very poor - we will have to make a couple of changes there.
"The only message is we will come out fighting. We have had two tough games at home we have got work to do. Fortunately our skipper is available, we need to show that Monday morning when we show up."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "As a manager you take great pride in watching your team play like that. Our concentration and focus as well as our quality was outstanding and you have to give credit to the players for that.
"Coutinho is only going to get better. He is a very humble boy. He is learning very quickly and has quickly adapted to this country. I think he was born with a football at his feet. He has got a wonderful touch.
"It has been a very difficult week as a group and club - it has been a real test. It could have been very difficult for the players with a loss of concentration. It has been a great victory on the back of a difficult week."
|04 May 2013||v West Ham (A)|
|12 May 2013||v QPR (A)|
|19 May 2013||v Arsenal (H)|
|14 Dec 2013||v Newcastle (H)|
|21 Dec 2013||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|26 Dec 2013||v Newcastle (H)|