Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United: Sterling’s stunner boosts Liverpool’s top-four chase

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There might just be a way into the Premier League’s top-four places for Liverpool after all, as Manchester City’s freefall continues and the Reds find themselves back on track, thanks to a 2-0 home victory over Newcastle United on Monday.

Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen provided the goals for Brendan Rodgers’ side, as Liverpool once again passed Southampton for fifth in the league standings, just four points behind Man City for the final UEFA Champions League place.

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Speaking of Sterling, perhaps it’s time for the Liverpool board to take out their checkbook, sign a blank check, hand it to Sterling and tell him, “You fill in the number, just don’t leave us.” The 20-year-old answered his most recent critics when he opened the scoring with a stunning goal (9th minute) after blowing by a pair of Newcastle defenders and beating Tim Krul with a curling effort to the far post.

Liverpool were inches from doubling their lead in the 36th minute as Lucas Leiva’s header of Jordan Henderson’s free kick was destined to find the back of the net at the near post, if not for Krul’s sprawling effort to get a hand on the ball. Lucas was ruled to have been offside on the play, but replays showed he was very much level with the last Newcastle defender.

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Ayoze Perez nearly equalized for the visitors with barely a minute remaining in the first half, but Simon Mignolet’s diving save kept out Perez’s looping header to the Belgian ‘keeper’s right-hand post.

Sterling, however, might want to have a second thought about the dollar figure he scribbles on the aforementioned blank check, as his 57th-minute miss was perhaps the Miss of the Season in the Premier League. Henderson broke down the right wing, whipped the ball into the center of the penalty area, where Ryan Taylor’s clearance was a poor mishit. The ball then fell to Sterling at the far post with only Krul and a half-empty net in front of him. Instead of slotting the ball under the Dutch ‘keeper, Sterling went for the near post finish and pulled his shot agonizingly wide from six yards.

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As the game wore on, Liverpool continued to let Newcastle hang around, only a goal down. In the 70th minute, Liverpool put the game to bed when Joe Allen bagged his first league goal of the season, doubling the lead to 2-0. Emre Can’s floated cross evaded Allen on the first try, but took a Liverpool bounce off the thigh of Michael Williamson and landed at the feet of Allen, whose snap-shot found the top corner.

Moussa Sissoko saw yellow twice in the span of five minutes (78th and 83rd), the second of which could have easily been a straight red for putting his studs into the shin of Lucas, only compounding Newcastle’s joyless night at Anfield.

The Reds’ chase for the top-four goes on a week’s hiatus, as Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal against Aston Villa looms large, while Newcastle, who are creeping ever closer to the relegation zone, host a struggling Tottenham Hotspur side at St James’ Park next week.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Can, Lovren, Moreno, Allen, Lucas, Henderson, Ibe (Borini 58′), Coutinho, Sterling (Lambert 88′)

Goals: Sterling (9′), Allen (70′)

Newcastle United: Krul, Taylor, Janmaat, Williamson, Colback, Anita, Abeid (Armstrong 75′), Sissoko, Cabella, Obertan (Gutierrez 67′), Perez (Gouffran 86′)