Liverpool made light of the Covid-enforced absences of Virgil Van Dijk and Fabinho to comfortably beat struggling Newcastle 3-1 at Anfield and become the first English side in history to register 2,000 top-flight victories.
Mohamed Salah equalled Jamie Vardy’s record of providing a goal or an assist in 15 consecutive Premier League appearances with his 22nd strike of the season after Diogo Jota had equalised former Reds midfielder Jonjo Shelvey’s early effort.
Trent Alexander-Arnold made sure of the three points during the unnecessarily tense closing stages with a 25-yard blast.
The first team in English history to record 2,000 victories in the top-flight 👏🔴 pic.twitter.com/tf982XhTES
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 16, 2021
Salah now has 24 Premier League goal involvements this season (15 goals, nine assists) and only only Alan Shearer, in 1994-95, has more (25) before Christmas.
Liverpool also set yet another club record of scoring for a 32nd successive game in all competitions, beating their previous best from January 1958.
Victory moved Jurgen Klopp’s side back to within a point of leaders Manchester City, edging three ahead of Chelsea after they could only draw at home to a severely-weakened Everton.
Rumours circulating all day about a coronavirus outbreak in Liverpool’s squad were confirmed shortly before 7pm when it was announced Van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones had all tested positive.
With some prescience Klopp, in his programme notes, had written about the pandemic and his support of the vaccination process, saying: “Ignore those who pretend to know. Ignore lies and misinformation. Listen to people who know best. If you do that, you end up wanting the vaccine and the booster.”
It did not help his present predicament, however, although he admitted before kick-off with only three players down there was never any chance they would ask for a postponement.
And why would he when he was able to bring in £36million summer signing Ibrahima Konate and Jota, for his 50th appearance for the club.
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe looked to have one eye on damage limitation as he surprisingly rested leading scorer Callum Wilson.
What was even more of a surprise was the visitors taking the lead as Thiago Alcantara had a minute to forget.
His mis-kick deep in enemy territory ended with him feebly clearing a cross inside his own penalty area straight to Shelvey, who wrong-footed an unsighted Alisson Becker from distance.
Shelvey ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the visiting fans. Klopp gave a wry smile.
Liverpool’s immediate response saw Sadio Mane hit a post, only to be flagged offside, Konate plant a free header wide and Andy Robertson fire into the side-netting.
But then they struck twice inside five minutes – although their equaliser was bitterly contested by Newcastle.
With Isaac Hayden down in the six-yard area after a corner Mane swung over a cross which Jota headed goalwards and then pounced on the rebound from Martin Dubravka.
Howe and a number of his players were furious the game was not halted, and referee Mike Dean’s decision not to stop the action again in the 25th minute led to another goal, although this time his judgement could not questioned.
Just 95 seconds previously Allan Saint-Maximin had forced Alisson into a save after another of his quick counter-attacking runs but when Mane looked to have been fouled on the edge of Newcastle’s area Dean waved play on.
The Senegal international managed to get off a shot which Dubravka could only push out to Salah who ran in to fire past a Newcastle goalkeeper for the fifth successive time at Anfield.
Jota hooked over a volley and Salah, released by Oxlade-Chamberlain’s lobbed pass, rolled a shot past Dubravka and wide of the far post as Liverpool finished the half strongly.
There was not the same fluency after the break and only a perfectly-timed sliding Trent Alexander-Arnold tackle prevented Ryan Fraser having a clear shot, while Alisson struggled to get across to Shelvey’s free-kick as it whistled past his right-hand post.
Sensing their chance Howe sent on Wilson for the final 15 minutes, although it was for the injured Saint-Maximin.
Jota had a shot blocked on the line but there was no stopping Alexander-Arnold’s hammer blow which inflicted back-to-back defeats for Howe.