Liverpool brought their title-winning season to an end with a hard-fought victory over a stubborn Newcastle team, as goals from Virgil van Dijk, Divock Origi and Sadio Mané paled Dwight Gayle's early opener into insignificance.
Gayle took advantage of some lightning-quick thinking from Jonjo Shelvey to open the scoring within the first minute, but a degree of normality was restored shortly before the half-time break when Van Dijk, prolific scorer of headers, scored a header.
Define ???????? ℎ?????: pic.twitter.com/2zmX1NAfZF— Liverpool FC (Premier League Champions ?) (@LFC) July 26, 2020
Divock Origi had been the quietest of Liverpool's make-shift front three but broke his silence with a stunning low strike as the hour mark approached, reminding Jurgen Klopp that he still has a very useful alternative striker waiting in the wings.
Sadio Mané emerged from the bench to cap off what has been a magnificent individual season, and put some perhaps undeserved varnish on a performance that was functional and efficient.
Key Talking Point
Shelvey's lofted pass from a quick free-kick assisted the quickest goal ever scored on the final day of the season, and the quickest goal Liverpool have ever conceded in the Premier League - how's that for setting the benchmark?
Heading into this one, the highest Newcastle could finish was 13th. The lowest Newcastle could finish was 15th. They were 15 points from the European spots and 13 from the relegation zone. No matter which way you spin it, there wasn't much on the line, but that just gives Steve Bruce more reason to be pleased with the manner in which his side kept their discipline and stifled the runaway champions for long, long spells.
Change is coming at St James' Park, but if this was the last time we see Newcastle as we've come to know them over the past 11 months, then it was by no means a terrible note to end on.
Newcastle Player Ratings
Starting XI: Dubravka (6); Lazaro (6), Manquillo (5), Fernandez (6), Rose (5), Ritchie (5); Shelvey (7), Bentaleb (6), Almiron (6); Gayle (7), Saint-Maximin (6).
Substitutes: Joelinton (5), Longstaff (6), Hayden (6), Carroll (5), Watts (5).
Newcastle were never going to get much time on the ball here, nor were they going to get many opportunities to hurt the champions. That being the case, they had to ensure they took what they could get, and Shelvey, as he has been all season, was integral to that.
He's his team's metronome, the beating heart who keeps things circulating with his exemplary passing range, and he came to the fore here with another performance that suggests he has a starring role to play going forward - whatever the future looks like.
Key Talking Point
One look at the team-sheet was all you needed to surmise that this would not be a vintage Liverpool performance. Having brought out the big guns for their Anfield coronation on Wednesday evening, Klopp looked to his territorial army for a trip to Tyneside, as Neco Williams replaced Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Milner joined the midfield, and the entire front three made way for Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
That makeshift trio took on a fluid, abstract shape perhaps designed to knock the Magpies' defence off kilter and there were some signs of its effectiveness. Minamino, drifting in from the left, found himself with plenty of time on the ball, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's magnificent delivery for Van Dijk's looping header deserves a second viewing.
Origi got in on the act shortly before the holy trinity were called upon from the bench, and while it can be categorised as a disjointed Liverpool performance, it was a worthwhile experiment and yielded an away win that Klopp and his team will be happy to end the season on.
That's 99 points, by the way. Not quite the century, but a new Liverpool record.
Liverpool Player Ratings
Starting XI: Alisson (6); Williams (6), Gomez (6), Van Dijk (7), Robertson (7); Keita (6), Wijnaldum (6), Milner (7); Oxlade-Chamberlain (7), Origi (6), Minamino (6).
Substitutes: Salah (6), Mané (6), Firmino (6).
It's all about Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool these days, but it's worth remembering all season long there has been a relentlessly effective full-back running himself into the ground week after week on the other side.
Robertson was at his industrious best here and though his assist for Divock Origi can barely be called that - simply laying off the Belgian who did the rest - it took him to 12 for what has been an astonishing season.
With neither team active in any other competition, both now have the prospect of a nice little break before the 2020/21 season kicks off. Little is what it will be, however, after the league confirmed on Friday that the party will resume on 12 September.
Liverpool may have the Community Shield to worry about before that, though it is unclear if that will take place in its traditional slot a week before the league season commences.
Source : 90min