Liverpool now look like top-four faves as Newcastle misery will be forced to carry into Carabao Cup

NEWCASTLE, England -- Liverpool blew the race for Champions League qualification wide open by cruising to a 2-0 win at Newcastle on a day when the home side played with ten men for 68 minutes following the first-half sending off of goalkeeper Nick Pope.

The red card means that Pope will be suspended for next Sunday's Carabao Cup final in what is a massive blow for Newcastle United.

But with Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo putting Liverpool up 2-0 inside the opening 20 minutes, the game was won even before Pope was sent off by referee Anthony Taylor.

Had they won this game, Newcastle would have cemented their grip on a top-four position and stayed in contention for a Champions League spot, but they are now looking at the chasing pack after losing in the Premier League for the first time since August.

Rapid reaction

1. Statement win has Liverpool poised to nab Champions League spot

Make a note of the date as this was the day that Liverpool's faltering season finally clicked into gear.

Jurgen Klopp's side have been languishing mid-table since making a woeful start to the campaign last August, but after beating Newcastle at St James' Park, they are now ready to surge up the table and claim the fourth and final Champions League spot.

Yes, they are still in eighth position, behind Newcastle and Tottenham, but the manner in which Liverpool blew away the hosts in the opening 20 minutes was a reminder of the quality and experience throughout Liverpool's squad.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga & more (U.S.)
- Read on ESPN+: Why Man Utd won't win the league

Monday's 2-0 win against a poor Everton team at Anfield was a big one for the morale at Liverpool, but this was a more significant victory because they did it against a Newcastle side that had been unbeaten at home all season. Newcastle is a tough place for any team to visit, but Liverpool made easy work of the game, which was already won before goalkeeper was sent off for the home side in the 22nd minute.

From this point on, Liverpool know they have the top four within sight and with players returning from injury, such as Virgil van Dijk and Diogo Jota, they are only going to get stronger. And after looking tired, ageing and disinterested at times this season, Liverpool's players look to fresh and ready to go again.

After this win, Liverpool are the best bet to finish fourth this season.

2. It all falls apart for Newcastle, who appear to be in trouble now

It has perhaps gone unnoticed largely because they are preparing for a first major final this century, but Newcastle are on the slide and this result confirmed that manager Eddie Howe's team has hit the ropes.

Liverpool's victory at St James' Park was only Newcastle's second Premier League defeat of the season -- the other came with a late loss at Liverpool in August -- but Howe's side have now won just one of their last seven league games. Their recent form has seen them win one, draw five and lose this game against Liverpool. And another deeply worrying statistic is their lack of goals, with Newcastle scoring just three times during that seven-game run.

They are now just two points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham and any hope of finishing higher than fourth has been blown away by Manchester United's recent surge that has seen them move five points clear of Newcastle in third.

So what has happened to Newcastle?

They have clearly stopped scoring goals, but without the suspended Bruno Guimaraes in midfield, they are desperately short of creativity. The Brazil international can't carry Newcastle on his own and results had already started to tail off before he started his three-match ban, which ended with this game.

But with Howe rarely rotating his squad due to the lack of depth at St James Park, it seems that fatigue is also starting to set in at Newcastle.

Had they won this game, Newcastle would have moved 12 points clear of Liverpool and pretty much killed off their hopes of a top four finish. But Liverpool are now just six points behind and also have a game in hand, so the pressure will start to build on Newcastle to start winning again.

Pressure, fatigue and a lack of goals is a bad combination, though -- Newcastle are in trouble.

3. Pope's red card creates nightmare scenario: third-choice GK at Carabao Cup

Goalkeeper Nick Pope's first-half red card for handling the ball outside his area sparked a nightmare scenario for Newcastle.

In the first instance, they lost the England goalkeeper for the rest of the game and had to play out 68 minutes with ten men, which was an impossible situation considering Newcastle were already 2-0 down. But this game was already lost by the time Pope was sent off -- the big problem his dismissal has created will now play out over the next week as manager Eddie Howe tries to solve the goalkeeping crisis that Pope has created.

Pope's red card means he will be suspended for the Carabao Cup final against Manchester United next Sunday, but if that blow wasn't heavy enough, Howe will also be without second-choice Martin Dubravka because the Slovakia international made himself ineligible by playing in the earlier rounds of the competition while on loan at, yes, you've guessed it, Manchester United.

So, Howe is faced with naming Loris Karius in goal, the former Liverpool goalkeeper whose career has never recovered since he was blamed for their Champions League final defeat against Real Madrid in Kyiv in 2018.

Karius, who signed as a free agent after being released by Liverpool last summer, has not played a competitive game for two years and his time at Newcastle has been spent on the substitutes' bench.

Newcastle may consider attempting to recall Karl Darlow from his loan at Hull City, where he hasn't even been playing, but if his loan contract doesn't contain an emergency recall clause, he will not be able to return. But even if he does, Howe will have to choose between Karius and Darlow -- two keepers who have spent this season watching from the sidelines.

It is Newcastle's biggest game for over 20 years, but they will have a goalkeeper in goal who isn't even regarded as good enough to be on the bench when Pope and Dubravka are available.

Best and worst performers

Best: Alisson Becker, Liverpool

Liverpool made easy work of the win, but two crucial saves by Alisson in the first and last ten minutes of the game ensured it could be so comfortable. Still the best keeper in the Premier League.

Best: Stefan Bajcetic, Liverpool

The teenage midfielder was so composed on the ball. Lacks experience, but he is definitely set for a big future.

Best: Alexander Isak, Newcastle United

A tough afternoon for Newcastle's record signing, but he still worried Liverpool's defence whenever he had the ball in the final third of the pitch.

Worst: Nick Pope, Newcastle United

What was the Newcastle keeper thinking when he handled the ball outside his penalty area? A massive blow for him and the club that he will now be suspended for the Carabao Cup final.

Worst: Miguel Almiron, Newcastle United

Missed a golden chance to open the scoring in the early stages. Had he been more composed, Almiron could have made this game a totally different story.

Worst: Sean Longstaff, Newcastle

Not an easy day when you are on a side with ten-men, but the Newcastle midfielder was pulled in all directions by his Liverpool opponents.

Highlights and notable moments

Liverpool took the lead in less than 10 minutes with a gorgeous assist from Trent Alexander-Arnold, who flicked the ball over the top. Darwin Nunez ran onto it and finished it coolly.

It took only seven more minutes for the Reds to double their lead.

This time it was Mohamed Salah with the gorgeous assist, a ball lofted in for Cody Gakpo, who did well to stay on side. From there, it was about settling the ball, turning and firing, which he did with aplomb.

Being down 2-0 was bad enough for Newcastle United, but it managed to get so much worse for the hosts.

Mere minutes after Gakpo's goal, Newcastle United Nick Pope went off for a messy, stunning red card. After a punt from Alisson upfield, Salah was about to be in on a breakaway with a chance to make it 3-0 until Pope came out to intervene.

Pope was several yards outside the box, but old habits die hard for goalkeepers and he used his hands as he slid into the ball to try to stymy Salah.

After the match: What the managers and players said

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the result: "Massive result, clean sheet, two wonderful goals and space for improvement. I thought we did really well -- the red card probably would have been a wonderful goal as well if Pope hadn't got his hand on the ball. Against 10 men we didn't react particularly well. Newcastle had nothing to lose anymore. You could see they're a top team with top character -- they threw everything on the pitch. And we gave them too many set pieces."

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk on the performance: "Winning and keeping a clean sheet against a side who have only been beaten once this season -- it was well-deserved. Obviously there were moments were we could have done better, but to come away with three points and a clean sheet and to be back in the team, I'm incredibly happy. I'm very proud of the guys."

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe on Nick Pope's red card: "It was probably technically handball but I don't know the rules on red cards outside the box. For me it was a harsh reaction but I understand if it's in the rules. It's harsh for Nick because he's been magnificent for us and to miss the next game is a huge blow for him."

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

  • Liverpool end their three-game Premier League road losing streak, which had been their longest since the 2011-12 season (four straight).

  • Darwin Núñez scored just his second goal in 10 appearances for Liverpool since the World Cup ended. Núñez had failed to score with each of his first 27 shot attempts in Premier League play before today's goal against Newcastle.

Up next

Newcastle United: The Magpies shift their focus to the Carabao Cup final against Manchester United on Sunday, Feb. 26 (watch live on ESPN+ at 11:30 a.m. ET).

Liverpool: The Reds will enter the first leg of their UEFA Champions League series against Real Madrid on Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 3 p.m. ET.