Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard scored twice as the Merseysiders ended the year on top of the Premier League with a 5-1 win away to Newcastle at St James’ Park in yesterday’s early kick-off match, giving them maximum points from their two Christmas fixtures.
Liverpool moved on to 45 points from 20 matches, four points ahead of Chelsea (41 points) who were playing at neighbors Fulham later yesterday.
It was their biggest win of the season and followed up their 3-0 demolition of Bolton Wanderers on Friday. It also moved them 10 points ahead of third-placed Manchester United, at least until the champions play Middlesbrough today.
United have three matches in hand over Liverpool.
Gerrard scored twice with Sami Hyypia, Ryan Babel and Xabi Alonso (penalty) adding the others as Liverpool maintained their drive for their first title success since 1990.
After being denied an early breakthrough by Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given who made three outstanding saves, Liverpool took control when Gerrard scored with a shot that went in off the post after 31 minutes and a header from Hyypia following a corner five minutes later.
Newcastle pulled one back in stoppage time at the end of the first half when David Edgar headed in from a corner.
Babel made it 3-1 to Liverpool five minutes into the second-half when he forced the ball home from a corner despite being surrounded by five Newcastle players who waited for a handball whistle that never came.
Gerrard added the fourth after 66 minutes when he dinked the ball over Given following a sublime through ball from Lucas Leiva and Alonso made it 5-1 in the 76th minute after Edgar fouled David Ngog.
Newcastle made very little impression in a poor display, just hours after billionaire Mike Ashley announced he was taking the club off the market and remaining as the club’s owner.
The billionaire sportswear magnate has decided to push ahead with his own plans for the club following a fruitless three-month campaign to find an interested party.
Ashley engaged the services of investment bank Seymour Pierce after deciding to call it a day at St James’ Park in September following mass protests against his regime in the wake of Kevin Keegan’s departure as manager.
Ashley said in a statement on the club’s official Web site: “I am happy to end the uncertainty the fans may have had about the future direction of Newcastle United. I know just how important that is to you.”
“I have withdrawn Newcastle United from the market, and for me 2009 will be the year in which we drive the club forward together,” he said.
Ashley revealed the club had failed to find a suitable buyer.
Besides Chelsea’s match at Fulham, six other matches were being played yesterday, including one between fifth-placed Arsenal and midtable Portsmouth, now managed by Tony Adams, looking to end a run of four league games without a win.