NEWCASTLE UNITED remain two points above the Premier League relegation zone after another trip to Liverpool ended in disappointment.

The Magpies’ winless run in the league at Anfield dates back to April 1994 and, while there were encouraging signs in the first half, the Reds’ formidable forward line did the damage to seal the points to reclaim second spot.

Newcastle had started strongly in the system sent out by Rafael Benitez on his return to Merseyside, but there was to be no way back after Mo Salah had struck his 24th Premier League goal in the 40th minute.

His goal-hungry side-kick Sadio Mane secured the extra day light for Liverpool by curling the second in the 55th minute and Newcastle are now 16th going into crucial games with Southampton and Huddersfield at St James’ Park.

Newcastle started well enough.

With Jonjo Shelvey sidelined with a knee injury, Benitez brought back Mikel Merino into his midfield to play alongside Mohamed Diame in the middle.

That was part of a four man midfield, with Christian Atsu and Jacob Murphy out wide, because Benitez opted for five at the back.

That meant Dwight Gayle, passed fit after shrugging off a knock a week earlier, was often an isolated figure in the final third as Liverpool were quick to get the ball in the Newcastle half.

However, that was not the case anywhere near as much as might have been expected in the first half. Gayle’s movement did open up gaps for others to break into, even if Loris Karius didn’t have too much to do.

That said, though, he made the most stops, however routine. He held a curling cross into his near post from DeAndre Yedlin and a long range free-kick from Florian Lejeune, pretty comfortably really.

Liverpool, with their exciting front three, always looked more dangerous but Newcastle’s defence did its job for the most part in preventing shots at Martin Dubravka’s goal.

Salah powered a half volley into the side-netting after he chose to hit Emre Can’s long ball early, while a combination of Dubravka and Merino stopped two quick-fire efforts from Dejan Lovren from Salah’s corner.

But then Liverpool’s ability to find something from nothing got them ahead with five minutes remaining of the half.

Jordan Henderson’s flicked pass was blocked but it fell invitingly for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to charge deep into the Newcastle half. He rolled a pass to Salah, who took a touch before beating Dubravka.

Newcastle would still have been level at the break had Karius not made an outstanding one-handed save to prevent Diame’s curling effort from finding the top corner seconds before the whistle.

And after the break Newcastle never looked like getting back into it. Liverpool’s second arrived ten minutes in when the visiting system was carved open by some lovely short passing exchanges.

Those ended when Firmino rolled into the path of Mane to take a touch before curling inside Dubravka’s left hand post.

Murphy, the one source of threat to the home side down the left in the second half, and Atsu occasionally got in behind but were unable to make the most of their good positions, mainly because there were not enough bodies in the box to pick out.

The nearest Newcastle came to pulling one back was when Isaac Hayden headed Atsu’s delivery from the right wide with 12 minutes remaining.

And, after two late calls were waved away for Jamaal Lascelles’ strong challenges on Salah when a penalty for one and a red card for the second could easily have been given, now Newcastle eyes turn to the Saints at St James’ Park next weekend.

LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Can, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Milner 79); Salah, Firmino (Matip 88), Mane (Lallana 73). Subs (not used): Mignolet (gk), Gomez, Moreno, Solanke.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (5-4-1): Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeuene, Dummett, Kenedy; Atsu, Merino (Hayden 73), Diame, Murphy (Perez 84); Gayle (Joselu 66). Subs (not used): Darlow (gk), Clark, Manquillo, Ritchie.