Newcastle United 1 Liverpool 3
- Anthony Taylor
Second half strikes from Divock Origi and Sadio Mane completed Liverpool’s turnaround and gave the champions a 3-1 last-day win over Newcastle United on Sunday afternoon.
But Virgil van Dijk levelled the scores before the break, nodding Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross beyond Martin Dúbravka, who had earlier denied Takumi Minamino with a fine stop.
And Origi’s thumping strike on the hour coupled with substitute Mane’s late curler denied Newcastle a point on the season’s final day, confirming Steve Bruce’s side’s 13th-place finish in the Premier League.
It was a rapid start from United at St. James’ Park. Allan Saint-Maximin was tripped by van Dijk, and Shelvey chipped a quick free kick into Gayle’s path. His first touch was excellent and his second was decisive as he prodded beyond Alisson and into the bottom right-hand corner. After a lengthy VAR check, which took over two minutes, the goal – Gayle’s fourth since the restart – was finally awarded.
That early strike preceded the game settling into a pattern, which mostly saw Liverpool controlling possession and the Magpies remaining disciplined and solid. The champions, who lifted their first Premier League trophy at Anfield on Wednesday night, couldn’t muster too many real attempts on goal, though. Restricted to the odd burst into the box and snapshots from range early on, their best effort in the opening quarter came from Minamino. His 25-yard drive looked destined for the top corner but Martin Dúbravka – who was crowned United’s player of the year this weekend – produced a remarkable stop, tipping the venomous effort around the post.
The Slovakian’s opposite number Alisson was called into action on the half hour, with Federico Fernández zipping a cross-shot across goal which may have been creeping inside the former Roma stopper’s post before his hurried intervention.
But it was the visitors who were next to threaten, and when their chance came, they took it. Andy Robertson’s free kick was cleared but the Reds kept the pressure on, with Neco Williams playing in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He skipped past Danny Rose and delivered a fine cross for van Dijk at the far post. The towering Dutchman met it, sending a looping header beyond Dúbravka’s outstretched arm and in.
Oxlade-Chamberlain went close with a well-hit shot before the break and Williams fired over just after the restart, with van Dijk heading straight at Dúbravka too, but the Magpies went even closer soon after. The fit-again Sean Longstaff, sent on in place of Nabil Bentaleb, saw a thumping first-time shot flash just past Alisson’s upright at the Gallowgate End.
Bruce had introduced Joelinton and withdrawn Saint-Maximin at half time and the hosts began to see more of the ball in the second half’s first exchanges but by the hour, the champions were in front. It was a terrific strike from Origi, who made space for himself before blasting a low drive past Dúbravka from the edge of the box.
When Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah were introduced from the bench shortly after, United’s task of taking something from the game looked an even tougher one. It almost became even more difficult within a couple of minutes, when Salah’s shot came back off the post. A superb pass from Firmino then freed Salah down the right but just as he opened his body up, Fernández flew in with a perfectly-timed sliding challenge to avert the danger.
There were few more openings for United, but there was a debut for youngster Kelland Watts, who replaced Rose for the final quarter of an hour. It will have been a memorable day for the 20-year-old, who spent time on loan at Stevenage and Mansfield Town earlier this term, but ultimately it wasn’t to be a victorious debut for Watts as Newcastle ended 2019/20 with a defeat, which was sealed by Mane’s fine effort in the dying moments.