Salah scores twice as league-leading Liverpool beat Newcastle


Did Jota dive for Liverpool's late penalty vs. Newcastle?

The ESPN FC crew debate whether Diogo Jota dived for Liverpool's penalty against Newcastle.

Mohamed Salah's second-half brace made up for a missed penalty as Liverpool kicked off 2024 three points clear atop the Premier League standings with a 4-2 victory over Newcastle United at a rain-drenched Anfield on Monday.

Jurgen 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.

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"It was a sensational game from my team," 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. They have to watch that, take it and keep it. It was everything good."

The 31-year-old Salah, who has 151 Premier League goals for Liverpool, changed his boots at half-time and it worked like a charm. 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 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 Egypt international 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 Liverpool 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 minute, before Salah, who was playing his last game before departing for the Africa Cup of Nations, struck from the penalty spot after Jota had been fouled to seal the win in the 86th.

Liverpool players celebrate after scoring a goal against Newcastle in the Premier League.
Liverpool players celebrate after scoring a goal against Newcastle in the Premier League.
Getty Images

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.

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

Missed 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 from 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," Salah told Sky Sports.

"The players spoke in the dressing room [at half-time]. '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.

Howe argued 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. We feel hard done by."