LIVERPOOL: Liverpool's English defender Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) crosses the ball as Newcastle United's Scottish midfielder Matt Ritchie (R) attempts a block during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Newcastle United at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England yesterday. - AFP

Liverpool treated their fans to some Christmas cheer with a 4-0 thrashing of
Newcastle United at Anfield yesterday, extending their lead at the top of the
table. The win put Liverpool on 51 points at the halfway point in the season,
six ahead of Tottenham Hotspur who hammered Bournemouth 5-0, and seven clear of
champions Manchester City who lost 2-1 at Leicester City.

Returning to the
club he led to the Champions League title in 2005, Newcastle manager Rafael
Benitez picked his team with defence in mind, stringing five players across the
back. But defender Jamaal Lascelles inadvertently teed Dejan Lovren up for the
opening goal, carelessly heading an attempted clearance into the path of the
Liverpool centre back, who cracked home a fine half-volley in the 11th minute.

Newcastle managed
to hold firm until halftime but within minutes of the restart they were two
down as Mohamed Salah scored his 13th league goal of the season from the
penalty spot following an innocuous foul on him by Paul Dummett.

enormous pressure threatened to give them a third goal at any moment, and it
came when Xherdan Shaqiri stabbed home Trent Alexander-Arnold's low cross from
close range in the 79th minute. Fabinho made it 4-0 by heading home Salah's

Liverpool's fans
burst into song as news reached the Anfield stands that Manchester City had
lost at Leicester, giving the Merseysiders the Christmas gift they wanted as
they chase a first league title since 1990. "We just focused on ourselves
and it's game by game for us. Every game is a final for us," Lovren said.

"We need to
keep this momentum and after the next couple of games we will see where we are.
Every game now matters," he added. With little money available to spend in
the upcoming transfer window, Benitez seemed barely able to conceal his
frustration at Newcastle's situation. "Obviously, we play against a very
good team but there are two key moments in the game," the Spanish coach

"The first
goal we made a mistake, and the second goal (was) a soft penalty that gave them
control. For us, it was very difficult to react," he added. Benitez must
lift his side ahead of their visit to Watford on Saturday while Liverpool host
Arsenal later on the same day. - Reuters