By The Associated Press on January 1, 2024.
LIVERPOOL, England (AP) – Mohamed Salah headed off to the Africa Cup of Nations on the back of a starring role for Liverpool in its 4-2 win over Newcastle that opened up a three-point lead in the English Premier League on Monday.
An individual performance that started with his latest failure from the penalty spot ended with Salah scoring Liverpool’s first and last goals and having a hand in the other two for his team in a chaotic game in wet and wild conditions at Anfield. All of the goals came in an end-to-end second half.
The league pauses for the FA Cup and then a winter break lasting much of the rest of January with Liverpool looking the team most likely to stop Manchester City winning an unprecedented fourth straight top-flight title. City was in third place, five points behind Liverpool – and two behind Aston Villa – with a game in hand.
Salah, who could be missing until mid-February depending on how far Egypt advances in the Africa Cup, could be the player to lead Liverpool to a record-tying 20th league championship. He has 14 goals for the campaign, tied for the most with City’s Erling Haaland.
“I said to myself, “˜Are you going to leave for the national team with that performance? Not really,'” Salah said, referring to his penalty failure in the 22nd minute. “I just had to step up.”
Salah said he changed his boots at halftime.
“When I felt like it was playing with my head, I was like, “˜OK, I change.’ Make my mind calm, focus on the game.”
Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo scored the other goals for Liverpool in howling rain as Newcastle conceded 34 shots. Eighteen came in the first half, the most in the league this season.
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe is coming under pressure with his team in ninth place, out of Europe completely and also recently losing in the League Cup. The Saudi-controlled northeast club equalized through Alexander Isak and made it 3-2 through Sven Botman’s header at a corner but was totally dominated by Liverpool.
“I know in time we will get the results we need,” Howe said after Newcastle’s seventh loss in its last eight games.
“I can always see a light at the end of the tunnel if the players continue to give everything they’ve got.”
Salah had his first penalty saved by Martin Dubravka after Luis Diaz was tripped by Botman. That was his fourth failure from the spot in his last nine attempts.
He bounced back by finishing off a team move in the 49th for his 150th league goal for Liverpool, supplying a fine pass for Diogo Jota to set up Jones to tap in, then playing a pass with the outside of his left foot for Gakpo to turn home.
The match-clinching fourth came in the 86th after Dubravka felled Jota. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp couldn’t watch Salah’s penalty – the crowd told him it went in – and went on to briefly lose his wedding ring in the post-match celebrations.
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