Premier League - Liverpool put six past appalling Newcastle

Premier League, St James' Park - Newcastle 0 Liverpool 6 (Agger 3, Henderson 17, 76, Sturridge 54, 60, Borini 74)

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Premier League - Liverpool put six past appalling Newcastle
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Jordan Henderson celebrates his goal (AFP)

Liverpool put a controversial week behind them as a Luis Suarez-less XI turned on the style to destroy Newcastle 6-0 at St James' Park.

Suarez's 10-game ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic had cast a cloud over Liverpool's preparations but they exploited what was a horrendous performance from the struggling hosts to suggest that all may not be lost without their star striker.

Daniel Agger headed Liverpool into a third-minute lead before former Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson claimed the first of his two goals when completing a sweeping team move that was characteristic of the visiting side's swagger on Tyneside.

Daniel Sturridge then profited from a stunning assist from Philippe Coutinho to make it 3-0 after 54 minutes, and the England international soon added another following another lapse of concentration in the home defence.

Fabio Borini netted a fifth less than a minute after making his return from injury and, after Mathieu Debuchy had been dismissed for a second bookable offence, Henderson scored directly from the resulting free-kick.

While Liverpool sit five points behind local rivals Everton in seventh, the damaging defeat leaves Newcastle just five clear of relegation - and both Wigan and Aston Villa have four games remaining to their five.

Liverpool's answer to the question of how best to recalibrate their attack given the suspension given to Suarez was to bring in Sturridge as the lone striker, with Coutinho and Stewart Downing operating wide of him.

If Liverpool were suffering from the punishment given to their star player then they do not let it show in a blistering start at St James' Park: they had the lead after only three minutes when Agger was left completely alone to steer a header out of reach of Robert Elliot.

Newcastle were warned again soon after when Coutinho carved open the home defence to play in Henderson, only for his pass to run just long, and on 17 minutes the Brazilian did find his range as he helped Liverpool claim a second.

Sturridge laid the ball off to Coutinho in the centre circle with a lovely touch and the January signing from Inter took a touch before returning the favour with a sumptuous pass into space. Sturridge drew Elliot from the Newcastle goal before pushing the ball left to Henderson, who tapped into an empty net.

Liverpool were being afforded far too much space by a lacklustre Newcastle and were almost punished again when Lucas Leiva whipped a quick pass into Sturridge and the striker surged forward almost entirely unopposed before lashing a shot at Elliot.

The home side briefly threatened on 36 minutes when James Perch met a Massadio Haidara cross unopposed, but the midfielder criminally headed off target before the game began to develop a nasty edge just before half-time.

After a flurry of yellow cards, cameras picked up Cheick Tiote treading on Sturridge, while the Newcastle midfielder was also involved in a silly tangle with Glen Johnson which earned both men a talking to from referee Andre Marriner.

Newcastle made two changes as the break as Perch and Jonas Gutierrez were removed for Yoan Gouffran and Hatem Ben Arfa, and the game lost its tetchy edge - even if Liverpool's intensity failed to dip. On 54 minutes they increased their lead. Coutinho supplied a quite brilliant assist to find Sturridge and the striker took a touch before lashing a shot past Elliot and into the roof of the net.

A thoroughly dismal Newcastle performance should have had a moment of respite when Ben Arfa saw a firm drive cannon off the outstretched arm of Lucas Leiva but referee Marriner waved play on and within minutes Liverpool had extended their lead.

Henderson was set free by a neat ball over the top of the defence and with Newcastle's back four all out of position, he squared for Sturridge to take a touch and stroke the ball home for his second and Newcastle's fourth.

Rodgers then summoned Borini from the bench for his first appearance since suffering a shoulder injury in February and the Italy international did not even need a minute to underline his credentials in the absence of Suarez, poking a neat shot into the fine corner following excellent work from Downing.

Newcastle's misery deepened when Debuchy was given a second yellow card for a foul on Coutinho and Henderson, delivering the set-piece from wide of the right, saw his inswinger creep inside the far post. As the fans poured out of St James' Park, Coutinho almost sent them home with a seven when his rasping effort was tipped onto the bar.

As a demonstration of what Liverpool can achieve without Suarez, it was compelling. Newcastle were handed their biggest home defeat since the 1920s.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) - The home side had an array of star performers but the Brazilian's brilliance shone through. His hugely influential performance was almost capped by a goal too.

PLAYER RATINGS

NEWCASTLE: Elliot 5, Debuchy 4, Yanga-Mbiwa 5, Taylor 5, Haidara 5, Cabaye 5, Perch 5, Tiote 4, Sissoko 5, Gutierrez 4, Cisse 5. Subs: Gouffran 5, Ben Arfa 5, Anita 5.

LIVERPOOL: Reina 6, Johnson 7, Agger 7, Carragher 6, Enrique 6, Gerrard 7, Lucas 7, Henderson 9, Coutinho 9, Downing 8, Sturridge 9. Subs: Borini 7, Shelvey 6, Suso 6.

GAMECAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS

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