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THE wait for news on Newcastle United’s prospective takeover has been long and painful, but Liverpool’s 3-1 victory at St James’ Park was all the evidence needed to show why the Mike Ashley era simply must come to an end soon.
It all started so well, but as the game went on, the Magpies’ lack of attacking potency allowed the Reds to ease to victory without stepping out of third gear.
In their final game of the season, Newcastle scored their fastest goal. Just 26 seconds were on the clock when a quick free-kick from Jonjo Shelvey played in Dwight Gayle, who broke the offside trap to finish well past Allison.
Liverpool rested a number of key players, including Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino and the game almost reached the half-hour mark by the time they truly tested the hosts.
Takumi Minamino struck from distance and drew a save from Newcastle’s Player of the Season Martin Dubravka, and the Reds soon upped the tempo as half-time approached.
Ten minutes later, they were level. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain steamrolled past Danny Rose down the right and crossed for Virgil van Dijk, who completed two seasons without missing a league game, to score with a looping header.
Moments later, Oxlade-Chamberlain found space outside the area and struck wide. Having looked comfortable in defence throughout the first half, suddenly Newcastle were desperate for the break.
After the break, Liverpool continued to dominate the ball, but they were too passive in the final third. Newcastle, who had already replaced the uncharacteristically ineffectual Allan Saint-Maximin with Joelinton, brought Sean Longstaff on for Nabil Bentaleb, ending his rather uninspiring loan spell from Schalke 04.
Longstaff struck wide seconds after his introduction, but as the game approached the hour, Jurgen Klopp summoned the cavalry.
Mane, Salah and Firmino were all stood on the sidelines as Liverpool completed the turnaround. Divock Origi cut inside from the left and lashed a shot into the bottom right corner for his first goal in 23 games.
Salah’s first involvement almost gave the visitors a third. Newcastle cleared Andrew Robertson’s free kick into his path; he controlled the ball and fired an effort against the post.
Newcastle appeared to have submitted completely and looked in desperate need of some inspiration.
Bearing down on goal, Salah, looking to become the first Liverpool player to score 20 league goals in three seasons since the 1960s, was denied by an incredible Federico Fernandes challenge.
Salah went close once again before Firmino almost slipped in Naby Keita. Dubravka smothered the ball, but the Guinean midfielder had impressed all afternoon and felt he deserved a goal.
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