1 Down, 3 to Go: Liverpool Survive Another Test of Nerve at Norwich

Matt Ladson@mattladsonFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2014


Liverpool survived another test of nerve to scrape past Norwich City and take a giant step towards a maiden Premier League title.

They secured the victory, their 11th in a row, by a one-goal margin for the third consecutive match, testing the nerves of Reds supporters.

After Liverpool scraped past West Ham a fortnight ago and emerged with a dramatic win over Man City last week, Norwich made Brendan Rodgers' side work again.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal with Manager Brendan Rodgers of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Liverpool at Carrow Road on April 20, 2014 in Norwic
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Again, Liverpool flew into a start, 2-0 ahead after just 11 minutes courtesy of goals from Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez. Sterling was sensational here again with two goals and an assist. The 19-year-old is growing in stature with every match.

If Sterling gives himself the best chance to succeed, he could be absolutely anything he wants to be. A very special talent.

— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) April 20, 2014

But Gary Hooper's goal halved the lead shortly after half-time following Simon Mignolet's error, and Robert Snodgrass again reduced the deficit to one goal after Sterling had restored the two-goal lead.

It was another frantic finish that again saw Liverpool holding on for the three points—but crucially they did, again. Rodgers' side are holding their nerve—just—where others are falling.

Sunderland's victory over Chelsea on Saturday evening obviously provided even more momentum for Liverpool, but it also heightened the pressure and showed how no match can be taken for granted.

Thankfully, Liverpool now have a little bit of breathing space in the title race, five points ahead with three games remaining. If they hold their nerve for two of those three, they will end the club's 24-year wait for a league title.

Liverpool now 1-4 to win the league. In other words the bookies give them an 80% chance of success.

— Bruce Millington (@brucemillington) April 19, 2014

Next week's visit of Chelsea is set to be another incredible day at Anfield, with Jose Mourinho's side looking to upset the party. A win would put Liverpool on the verge of the title, and should Manchester City drop points against West Brom on Monday, Liverpool could actually win the title that day, with City facing Crystal Palace immediately after.

"(W)e've cemented the first objective, which was to qualify for the Champions League," Rodgers told LiverpoolFC.com. "Now we will look forward to next weekend, which will be a great atmosphere at Anfield."

Palace are Liverpool's next fixture too, the penultimate fixture for Rodgers' side and their final away game. Much like at Carrow Road, it will be far from easy. Nerves will again be tested.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 20: Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates victory with Mamadou Sakho of Liverpool at the final whistle during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Liverpool at Carrow Road on April 20, 2014 in Norwich, Engla
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Rodgers showed tactical acumen again by bringing on Daniel Agger to steady the ship and get an extra body at the heart of defence where Norwich's crossing game had begun to cause problems. Such changes this season have become a trademark of the Northern Irishman, making subs that affect the game for the positive.

Liverpool needed their experienced players, but their younger players are also showing no nerves when others are starting to look shaky.

The Reds' last clean sheet was the 4-0 thrashing of Tottenham in late March. Their next clean sheet will be a truly welcome sight for supporters.