LONDON: Liverpool moved to within four points of the top four as Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen’s goals condemned Newcastle to a fifth straight defeat.
Sterling, at odds with the club over a new contract, cut inside Ryan Taylor and dispatched a smart finish past Tim Krul to open the scoring.
Newcastle had a strong penalty appeal turned down before the break, but Allen’s shot put paid to any comeback.
A miserable night for the visitors ended with Moussa Sissoko’s red card.
The midfielder was fortunate to receive a second yellow – rather than a straight red – for a studs-up challenge on Lucas Leiva, who was uninjured.
This win against a disjointed Newcastle was far from a return to the fluid form that the Reds discovered at the start of 2015.
But with Manchester City stalling above them, and three fixtures against teams in the bottom seven to follow, it was a result to fuel optimism after back-to-back league defeats against Manchester United and Arsenal.
That may be tempered by a closer look at the league table and the vastly superior goal difference – +31 compared to +11 – that, with six games to go, means the gap to City is effectively five points.
For Newcastle, a fifth successive league defeat continues an end-of-season malaise that is unlikely to end in relegation, but will add to supporters’ frustrations.
Joe Allen became Liverpool’s 18th different scorer for Liverpool this season – to equal the club record for most scorers in a campaign.
However they have scored 41 fewer league goals than they had at the same stage last season – 47 compared to 88.
Liverpool were lacking the injured Daniel Sturridge and 39 goals down on the tally they had amassed at the same stage last year.
But they started well, continually catching out Newcastle as Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, Jordon Ibe and Alberto Moreno swapped positions, taking it in turns to surge into the area.
Sterling at least partially repaired some bruised relations with the home fans while simultaneously strengthening his bargaining position with an excellently taken goal.
Isolated one on one with Taylor by Jordan Henderson’s driven pass, he cut inside the full-back, dodged a half-hearted challenge from Gabriel Obertan and, with minimal back-lift, guided a curling shot into the far corner.
The winger could have easily have had a hat-trick, with an open goal miss particularly glaring, but his profligacy ultimately did not cost his side and he departed to warm applause when substituted late on.
Newcastle’s best hope of getting back into the game came when Ayoze Perez was chopped down by Dejan Lovren as Liverpool freewheeled towards half-time.
But referee Lee Mason decided the Croatian’s challenge did not warrant a penalty.
John Carver’s side continued to improve after the break but Allen’s sharp half-volley, as the ball came back off Mike Williamson, snuffed out their hopes.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: “I thought we showed attacking intent in the game, won the ball back quickly and controlled the game until the last five or six minutes in the first half.
“I think we were fortunate not to give away a penalty, but thankfully it didn’t go against us.
“Philippe Coutinho was incredible, sensational. He played in that hole between the midfield and their defence and was outstanding. He showed why he is one of the best players in the best league in the world.”
Newcastle manager John Carver: “Everyone out there has seen it is a penalty. Even Brendan said straight away it is a penalty.
“I will phone referees’ chief Mike Riley tomorrow, he will probably agree, but it gets us nothing.
“We have six cup finals and we need to pick up some points by hook or by crook.
“That is why our fans are going to be important to us. I have enough belief in this group of lads and if we see anything near what I saw tonight there won’t be a problem.” – BBC Sport