Newcastle United endured another St James’s Park nightmare today to pile the pressure on under-fire boss Alan Pardew, suffering their worst ever Premier League defeat.
Ruthless Liverpool handed out a 6-0 beating to the Magpies, leaving the Tynesiders – walloped 3-0 by Sunderland in their previous home match two weeks away – still in trouble near the foot of the Premier League.
Former Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson notched twice, with Daniel Sturridge also striking a double for Brendan Rodgers’ impressive side, with Daniel Agger and Fabio Borini also on target.
Pardew’s side are only five points clear of Wigan, having played a game more.
Sturridge filled Luis Suarez’s boots to perfection as Liverpool hit top gear.
The striker, who scored for Chelsea at St James’s Park last season, helped himself to a double as the Reds romped to a stunning victory which leaves the Magpies still deep in relegation trouble.
Newcastle were utterly shambolic on a day when they could have all but secured their Barclays Premier League status for another season, and the visitors took full advantage.
Central defender Daniel Agger headed them in front with just five minutes gone and Sunderland old boy Jordan Henderson made it 2-0 12 minutes later.
Pardew threw on substitutes Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran at the break, but it was Sturridge who ended any doubt that that Brendan Rodgers’ men would leave north-east with all the points with a double inside six second-half minutes,
Further strikes from substitute Fabio Borini and Henderson rubbed salt into black and white wounds, as did the 75th-minute dismissal of Mathieu Debuchy for a second yellow card.
The Newcastle boss had gone into the game having expressed his disappointment with the tide of criticism which had come his way in the wake of the derby defeat by Sunderland a fortnight ago, but today’s dreadful display will have done little to appease either the club’s fans or owner Mike Ashley with relegation a distinct possibility.
Pardew stood impotently on the sideline as his side imploded, and one fan among a crowd of 52,351 made his feelings clear when he hurled his scarf towards the 51-year-old.
A collective sigh of relief issued forth from St James’ some 40 minutes ahead of kick-off when news of Tottenham’s late equaliser, which denied Wigan a much-needed victory, left them still five points clear of the drop zone.
As a result, Pardew’s players emerged from the dressing room knowing a victory would edge them to the brink of safety, far from their objectives for the campaign, but the bare minimum requirement.
But within 17 catastrophic minutes, their hopes had all but died as Liverpool cut loose to rekindle memories of their 5-1 victory on Tyneside in 2008.
Few inside St James’ needed reminding that on that occasion, they would slip out of the division five months later.
The Reds tore at their hosts from the off and needed just five minutes to forge their way ahead when Agger took advantage of lazy defending to run unmarked on to Stewart Downing’s lofted cross and head past the helpless Rob Elliot.
Newcastle were woeful as they conceded space to Liverpool in the middle of the field despite employing James Perch and Cheick Tiote in front of the back four to allow the excellent Philippe Coutinho and Sturridge to run riot.
They increased their lead with 17 minutes gone after mounting a flowing attack which left the magpies floundering again, Coutinho sliding the ball into Sturridge’s path for him to square for Henderson to double the dose.
Sturridge forced a 24th-minute save from Elliot and Steven Gerrard uncharacteristically volleyed wide five minutes later with the locals fearing the worst.
By contrast, Newcastle had little or no penetration as lone striker Papiss Cisse was starved of possession with Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko becalmed by a sea of red shirts.
But they should really have been back in it with nine minutes of the half remaining when full-back Massadio Haidara produced the first cross of any note to present Perch with a free header, only to see him head wastefully wide.
Pardew made his move at the break, withdrawing Perch and Jonas Gutierrez with Ben Arfa and Gouffran, knowing his side needed something different and needed it fast.
Gouffran might have obliged within four minutes when he got his head to Cabaye’s cross, but his looping header was easily collected by Pepe Reina.
The balance of the game had changed as Newcastle poured forward and started to find space in advanced areas, although Cabaye passed up a glorious chance after miscontrolling on the edge of the box with 52 minutes gone.
But the game was effectively over two minutes later when Ben Arfa, who had shown encouraging signs, was robbed by Coutinho wide on the right and sped forward to slide in Sturridge, who blasted past Elliot.
But things were to get much, much worse for the Magpies.
They were carved open once again when Gerrard and Henderson combined to set up Sturridge for his second with half an hour still to play, and the rout was far from complete.
Borini needed just two minutes to find the back of the net on his return from injury as a substitute when he converted Downing’s cross, and Henderson sent a 74th-minute free-kick across Elliot and into the bottom corner with no team-mate able to get a touch to make it 6-0.
Within seconds Debuchy got his marching orders after receiving a second yellow for a foul on Coutinho, and only a fine 82nd-minute save by Elliot denied Coutinho a seventh goal as the storm clouds gathered over Tyneside with three games of a difficult campaign remaining.
Newcastle: Elliot, Debuchy, S Taylor, Yanga-Mbiwa, Haidara, Sissoko, Tiote (Anita 65), Cabaye, Perch (Ben Arfa 46), Gutierrez (Gouffran 46), Cisse. Subs not used: Harper, Williamson, Gosling, Ameobi. Sent Off: Debuchy (75). Booked: Debuchy, Gutierrez, S Taylor
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Henderson, Gerrard (Borini 72), Lucas, Coutinho (Suso 84), Sturridge (Shelvey 84), Downing. Subs not used: Jones, Coates, Skrtel, Wisdom. Booked: Sturridge, Johnson. Goals: Agger 3, Henderson 17, 76, Sturridge 54,60, Borini 74.
Att: 52,351. Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands)