Liverpool closed the gap on fourth place to four points with a 2-0 victory over Newcastle United at Anfield on Monday night.

Raheem Sterling curled the Reds into a ninth-minute lead, dancing into the area from the left before clinically dispatching over Tim Krul.

The 20-year-old then spurned a chance to double the advantage soon after the re-start, striking wide after the ball had broken for him six yards from goal via a mis-kick by Ryan Taylor.

Liverpool did claim a second when Joe Allen lashed home from close range at the second attempt after his initial header had been blocked by Michael Williamson.

Any hopes Newcastle had of a comeback were seemingly extinguished when Moussa Sissoko was sent off for a second booking following a late challenge on Lucas Leiva.

The result moves the Reds to within four points of Manchester City in fourth and is the perfect fillip ahead of Sunday's FA Cup semi-final date with Aston Villa at Wembley.

Brendan Rodgers made two changes to his starting line-up to the team that defeated Blackburn Rovers last time out. Emre Can returned from suspension in defence, while there was also a berth for the fit-again Jordon Ibe.

Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Sturridge, both of whom picked up knocks at Ewood Park, made way.

Before kick-off, an impeccably observed minute's silence was held to mark the final home game before the 26th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster on April 15.

When the match got underway, Liverpool wasted little time imposing themselves on the contest and duly went ahead inside the opening 10 minutes.

Jordan Henderson's precise cross-field pass was controlled by Sterling on the left, who then skipped into the box, dancing his way around two Newcastle defenders in the process, before arching an effort over Krul and into the corner.

A great start could have gotten even better moments later when Dejan Lovren's ball forward picked out the run of Alberto Moreno into the area. His near-post drive was repelled by the gloves of Krul, however.

But the hosts were really taking the game to their opponents, and had Philippe Coutinho been able to seek out Sterling at the back post after skimming beyond three visiting defenders, it would have almost certainly been two. As it was, his drilled ball across goal was just too far in front of the England forward.

Next, a free-kick routine direct from Melwood saw Henderson slide Coutinho through on goal around the side of the Newcastle wall, but his blast was beaten away by Krul.

The Magpies custodian was certainly being kept busy, also thwarting a pair of efforts from Sterling to keep his team in the game.

Newcastle's first attempt on the home team's goal didn't arrive until 28 minutes when Mehdi Abeid's powerfully struck edge-of-the-box volley was collected by Simon Mignolet.

Back to the other end and after Krul's acrobatics had kept out a close-range header from Lucas, who was ultimately flagged offside, Ibe drilled into the side netting having burst into the area at speed.

John Carver's men were left feeling aggrieved, though, as appeals for a penalty were dismissed by referee Lee Mason when Ayoze Perez went down under a challenge from Lovren.

The striker then brought a flying save out of Mignolet on the stroke of half-time, with the Belgian stopper required to claw a fine looping header around the post, before Abeid struck just over when well-placed as Newcastle threatened to head into the break on level terms.

The visitors started the second half with much more attacking purpose, though they should have fallen further behind 10 minutes in when Henderson's raking low cross was inadvertently nudged into the path of Sterling by Taylor, but the No.31 steered wide from six yards.

Nonetheless, it did signify the start of Liverpool regaining their grip on proceedings, with Coutinho pulling the strings.

And, with 20 minutes remaining, Allen finally fired them into a two-goal lead when he smacked home a loose ball having witnessed his initial header from Sterling's lofted ball strike Williamson.

Liverpool continued to create chances until the conclusion, while Newcastle's cause was made all the more difficult by the dismissal of Sissoko for a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Lucas on a night when Rodgers' charges signed off in perfect fashion ahead of the trip to Wembley.