Newcastle 0-2 Liverpool: Nunez and Gakpo on target as Pope sees red
Nick Pope’s Carabao Cup final dream went up in smoke as Liverpool put themselves back into the race for the top four with a 2-0 win at Newcastle.
The England goalkeeper was dismissed 22 minutes into a pulsating Premier League contest at St James’ Park for handling outside his penalty area and will be suspended for Sunday’s clash with Manchester United at Wembley.
With Martin Dubravka having already played for United in the competition during his loan spell earlier this season and Karl Darlow on loan at Hull, former Liverpool keeper Loris Karius looks set to be handed a debut he could not have expected.
However, the Magpies’ hopes of extending their unbeaten league run to a club-record 18 games had already been fatally wounded by goals from Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo inside the opening 17 minutes as the visitors – the only side to beat Newcastle in the league this season – ruthlessly exploited the space behind central defenders Fabian Schar and Sven Botman to run out 2-0 winners.
Referee Anthony Taylor’s whistle signalled a breathless start by the home side in which Miguel Almiron’s poor first touch from Alexander Isak’s well-weighted pass allowed keeper Alisson Becker to smother his attempt before Allan Saint-Maximin slashed a shot across the face of goal after his initial cross had been repelled.
But it was Liverpool who took the lead after 10 minutes when Nunez controlled Trent Alexander-Arnold’s superb ball over the top and fired past the stranded Pope with his strike surviving a VAR check for offside.
They doubled their lead seven minutes later when Gakpo timed his run to meet Mohamed Salah’s ball over the top to perfection and beat the stranded Pope with the Magpies’ hopes of a reprieve at the hands of the video assistant once again coming to nothing.
A bad evening for Eddie Howe’s men took a disastrous turn after 22 minutes when Pope raced from his goal in an attempt to prevent Salah from reaching Alisson’s clearance and having misjudged the flight, dived to head clear but diverted the ball on to his arm.
The referee had little option but to produce a red card which ended the keeper’s Wembley dreams as well as any realistic chance of recovery in the game.
Dubravka was called from the bench in place of Elliot Anderson, whose first Premier League start had lasted just 24 minutes, but it was opposite number Alisson who had to be at his best to tip Saint-Maximin’s 31st-minute shot at the end of a superb solo run on to his crossbar.
The bar came to the Reds’ rescue once again three minutes before the break when Dan Burn’s header from a Kieran Trippier corner cannoned back off it to safety.
Liverpool retained possession with ease for long periods after the restart knowing their job was all but done against the 10 men.
But Saint-Maximin, in his best form for some time, ensured the Reds could not relax too much with the Frenchman feeding Isak to shoot over on the turn with 52 minutes gone.
Schar headed wide from another Trippier corner, but Dubravka had to dive full-length to turn away Nunez’s 57th-minute attempt as Jurgen Klopp prepared a quadruple substitution.
Alisson denied Newcastle Callum Wilson with eight minutes remaining, before the Reds almost added to their lead in a late flurry of chances.