PAPISS CISSE made it seven goals in seven games as Newcastle heaped more misery on 10-man Liverpool. All the pre-game talk had been about the St James' Park return of £35million Reds striker Andy Carroll.
But it was the Magpies' £9million January signing that grabbed the post-match headlines after sending Newcastle 11 points clear of their opponents. Liverpool should have had a penalty when Danny Simpson handballed on the line but they were soon punished when Cisse headed in after great work by Hatem Ben Arfa.
The Senegal striker doubled the hosts' lead after the break when he tucked in following neat work from Demba Ba and Ben Arfa.
And a thoroughly depressing afternoon for the visitors was rounded off when Pepe Reina saw red for an alleged headbutt on James Perch.
The defeat was Liverpool's sixth in their last seven Premier League games and Kenny Dalglish's flops remain in eighth — behind Merseyside rivals Everton.
Three points for Newcastle however lifts them back level with Chelsea on 53 points and they now seem almost certain to end the season in at least sixth place. Carroll, Jose Enrique and Craig Bellamy all started for Liverpool against their former club and their every touch was roundly booed by the Toon Army faithful.
The in-form Ben Arfa had an early spot-kick claim after a coming together with old-boy Enrique but Martin Atkinson correctly waved play on.
At the other end Martin Skrtel headed a Steven Gerrard free-kick over from close range and then Atkinson again got another penalty appeal spot on. Carroll was played through on goal and rounded Tim Krul but then took a blatant tumble — rightly receiving a yellow card for his efforts.
The visitors had made a promising start though and Krul had to be alert to tip Bellamy's deflected cross on to the bar.
From the resulting corner a mix-up in the Newcastle box saw Mike Williamson head towards his own goal and Simpson cleared off the line at the back post — albeit with his upper arm. The hosts had got away with one and they soon made their luck pay with the opening goal.
With their first serious attack, Ben Arfa delivered a fine cross over to Cisse from the right and the Senegalese leapt above Skrtel and beat Reina with a brilliant header back across goal which went in off the post.
Bellamy appeared to be Liverpool's only attacking threat and he sent in a teasing cross which Williamson sent spinning up in the air and Carroll headed over the advancing Krul but on to the roof of the net. Newcastle pressed for a second and a Ba 25-yard strike looped narrowly wide after deflecting off Skrtel.
His striker partner and countryman Cisse then came close but his header from Danny Guthrie's cross bounced a yard wide.
If Ba and Cisse had come close, Williamson was even more unlucky after the break as he got on the end of Guthrie's floated cross and beat Reina with his header but not the post. Steven Gerrard was trying to pick things up for the Reds and he slid in Bellamy but the Welshman could not control.
Jonjo Shelvey hit a tame strike at Krul but it was desperate stuff from the visitors and they soon fell further behind.
Ba stabbed the ball across goal and a touch from Ben Arfa spared the unmarked Cisse from an offside flag before he calmly rounded Reina to finish. Liverpool needed a goal and nearly got one when Krul missed Enrique's cross and the ball fell to Luis Suarez in the box but his shot was blocked by Perch.
Cisse came off to a standing ovation as Shola Ameobi was brought on, while Carroll's desperate afternoon was swiftly ended when he was replaced by Dirk Kuyt and marched straight up the tunnel.
Liverpool's misery was then compounded as Reina reacted angrily to a late challenge by Perch. The pair went head-to-head and while Reina did not appear to make contact with Perch, the Toon defender went down clutching his face and the Reds keeper saw red.
With Kenny Dalglish having used all of his subs, there was further embarrassment as Enrique was left to put on the goalkeepers' jersey and Newcastle could cruise to the final whistle with three points in the bag.
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