Salah scores twice as league-leading Liverpool beats Newcastle United 4-2

Salah scores twice as league-leading Liverpool beats Newcastle United 4-2

LIVERPOOL, England — Mohamed Salah’s second-half brace made up for a missed penalty as Liverpool kicked off the new year three points clear atop the Premier League standings with a 4-2 victory over Newcastle United at a rain-drenched Anfield on Monday.

Juergen Klopp’s team, who began the day level with Aston Villa on points, now have 45 from 20 games. Villa have 42 points while Manchester City, who have played one fewer game, are third on 40. Newcastle are ninth on 29.

“It was a sensational game from my team,” Mr. Klopp told BBC. “We started extremely lively. Super game. I loved so many aspects of the game bar the goals we conceded.

“Unbelievable atmosphere. Counter-pressing wise it was for football schools,” he added. “They have to watch that, take it and keep it. It was everything good.”

The 31-year-old Mr. Salah, who has 151 Premier League goals for Liverpool, changed his boots at halftime and the switch paid off handsomely. His two goals moved him even with City’s Erling Haaland as joint top scorers with 14 goals. He is the joint top on assists, level with Villa’s Ollie Watkins on eight.

Liverpool dominated the game, and Mr. Salah, who had fired a first-half penalty straight at goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, finally broke the deadlock in the 49th minute when Darwin Nunez cut the ball across to the Egyptian for a close-range finish.

Alexander Isak scored against the run of play with Newcastle’s second shot of the game in the 54th minute when he ran onto a through ball from Anthony Gordon and knocked it past keeper Alisson into the far corner.

However, Curtis Jones put the home side back in front in the 74th minute with a tap-in after a pass across goal from Diogo Jota, and Cody Gakpo scored four minutes later.

Sven Botman pulled one back for Newcastle in the 81st before Salah, who was playing his last game before departing for the African Cup of Nations, struck from the penalty spot after Jota had been fouled by Dubravka to seal the win in the 86th.

“Crazy match. Both sides created chances,” Dubravka, 34, told Sky Sports. “I was there to try to help my team mates. Unfortunately they created so many chances and were clinical.”

Liverpool were on the front foot against Newcastle virtually from kickoff, and a superb display by keeper Dubravka kept the visitors in the game.

The hosts had 18 shots in the first half to Newcastle’s one, their most in the first half of a Premier League game since April 2016 against Everton.

Liverpool’s early chances were met by groans from the Anfield crowd, including Trent Alexander-Arnold’s strike following Salah’s missed penalty that he launched well over the crossbar.

Alexander-Arnold also had a long shot at a tight angle hit the far post.

But they finally found the net after the break and the floodgates opened.

“It’s a great result for us. The game was very intense and we managed to pick up three points and now we are top of the table. We need to stay calm and win every game,” Mr. Salah told Sky Sports.

“The players spoke in the dressing room (at halftime). ‘We have to stay calm’. I missed the pen. I didn’t want to leave for the national team with that performance.”

Newcastle have now lost four of their last five league matches and face champions Manchester City on Jan. 13 after their FA Cup third round meeting with fierce rivals Sunderland on Saturday.

“A lot happened. Action packed game. We’re disappointed with the way we defended,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said.

Mr. Howe argued Mr. Salah’s second penalty, awarded when Dubravka dove in to stop Jota and the Liverpool player appeared to take two steps before stumbling, should not have stood.

“It shouldn’t be given. Martin has pulled his hand away. He’s had two steps before going down. For me it’s not a penalty,” Mr. Howe said. “We feel hard done by.” — Reuters