Goals from Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez gave Liverpool a comfortable victory over Newcastle as Kenny Dalglish’s side moved up to fifth in the Premier League table.
With three games remaining of the season, Liverpool move above Tottenham on goal difference, with the two sides still to face each other in what will be a key match in deciding who achieves European qualification.
On a sunny mid-day match, Liverpool continued to impress despite the absence of captain Steven Gerrard and record signing Andy Carrolll – who played a cameo role as substitute against the club he signed from for £35m just three months ago.
By the time Carroll was introduced the game was already won. In fact, it was won from the moment Maxi bagged his fourth goal in 2 games in the 10th minute. His volley took a deflection off Simpson to give the home side the lead.
The second goal arrived from the penalty spot on the hour, Kuyt taking his goal tally to 14 for the season with a well placed penalty – his fourth goal in four games.
Luis Suarez grabbed his third goal for the club shortly after, finishing neatly from close range.
BBC Sport Report
Liverpool are up to fifth in the Premier League table after recording a comfortable victory over Newcastle.
The Reds dominated the early exchanges and took a 10th-minute lead through Maxi Rodriguez’s deflected volley.
United competed until the 59th minute when Mike Williamson fouled Luis Suarez for a penalty that Dirk Kuyt converted.
Suarez’s neat close-range finish sealed the win for the hosts, for whom former Newcastle striker Andy Carroll came off the bench for the final 20 minutes.
Inevitably, the build-up to the game was dominated by talk of Carroll, who the Reds recycled £35m of the £50m fee they received from Chelsea for Fernando Torres on, when they purchased him from Newcastle late in the January transfer window.
Having spent the last few weeks sidelined with a knee injury, the big number nine was an ominous presence for his former side on the Liverpool bench and sparked an entertaining vocal war of attrition between opposing fans every time he appeared on the touchline for a warm-up and during his late cameo.
Newcastle, though, had enough to worry about prior to that, having to cope with a Liverpool attack that has given the Reds a very realistic chance of qualification for the Europa League following a run that has seen them take 30 points from their last 14 games.
Suarez again demonstrated the predatory instincts and creativity that persuaded the Reds to part with £22.7m to sign him from Ajax in January, while Dirk Kuyt extended the richest goalscoring form of his Liverpool career by scoring in his fourth successive game.
In Liverpool’s previous game, eight days ago, winger Rodriguez scored three of his side’s five goals in a hammering of struggling Birmingham and it was the Argentine winger who again gave his side the lead on Sunday.
The home side had already threatened through Raul Meireles’s miscued sixth-minute shot before going ahead in the 10th.
Teenage full-back John Flanagan provided a testing cross from the right which Mike Williamson only partially headed clear, allowing Rodriguez to volley a shot from 12 yards that took a crucial deflection off Danny Simpson past keeper Tim Krul.
It was the high-point of a 25-minute opening period in which Liverpool dominated possession but created few real goalscoring chances.
Impressive teenage midfielder Jay Spearing was involved in their two other best attacking moves of the half, firstly forcing keeper Krul into a low save with a 25-yard shot and then later provided a superb pin-point cross from the right which Lucas headed straight at the United keeper from 10 yards out.
As the half wore on the visitors grew as a presence, but barring some well-delivered Joey Barton free-kicks, they only had Kevin Nolan’s miscued effort from a corner to show for their efforts.
However, they did fashion the first opportunity of the second half when Nolan crossed for Barton, but his shot flew past the post and with it went their best chance of forging a first away win since February.
Instead, Liverpool reasserted their authority and extended their lead just before the hour.
Williamson misjudged an attempt to shepherd the ball out at the byline, allowing Suarez to nip and knock it past him. Realising the threat the Uruguayan now posed, the defender dragged him down for a penalty that Kuyt stroked home for his eighth goal in seven games.
The Dutchman should have added another minutes later when Meireles’s cross found him unmarked six yards out, but he failed to connect properly with his header and put it wide.
However, he did play a pivotal role in his side’s third goal, flicking a superb short pass through a crowd of defenders to find Suarez, who neatly finished from eight yards out.
To rub salt into Newcastle wounds, Liverpool used the final 20 minutes to parade Carroll.
The 11 goals he scored for his former side earlier in the season have played a major part in securing them a second successive season in the Premier League and he may well yet play a significant role in helping his new side into Europe next campaign.
Liverpool: Reina, Flanagan (Shelvey 81), Carragher, Skrtel, Johnson, Lucas, Spearing, Meireles, Kuyt, Suarez (Cole, 87), Maxi (Carroll, 87)
Subs not used: Gulacsi, Kyrgiakos, Ngog
Referee: Peter Walton