Norwich vs. Liverpool: 6 Things We Learned from Reds' Nervy Win
A brace from Raheem Sterling and a close-range finish from Luis Suarez were enough to hand Premier League title-chasing Liverpool a victory over relegation-threatened Norwich City, who put up a valiant effort and scored via Gary Hooper and Robert Snodgrass in a 3-2 thriller at Carrow Road on Sunday.
Sterling opened the scoring after just a few minutes into the match with a peach of a long-range strike, before his cross was perfectly placed to find Suarez, who finished for his 12th Premier League goal against the Canaries.
Hooper pounced on an unconvincing piece of goalkeeping from Simon Mignolet to give the hosts a deserved goal after a period of sustained pressure in the second half, before Sterling ran the length of the field to score a second, albeit via a deflection.
Snodgrass’ emphatic header gave Norwich renewed hope, but the final whistle sounded with the Reds notching an 11th straight victory to go five points above second-placed Chelsea and nine above Manchester City, who have two games in hand.
Here are six things we learned from Liverpool’s nervy but important win on Sunday. Enjoy and have your say in the comments below.
Raheem Sterling, Rising Star
Liverpool’s victory on Sunday was all about Raheem Sterling: He scored two goals—the first a sumptuous moment of brilliance, the second a result of perseverance—and provided a telling cross for Luis Suarez.
Sterling’s brace brought him to nine goals this Premier League season, his first full season in senior-level football—if this even counts as a “full” season, given his irregular game time at the beginning of the campaign.
Getting to double figures for the season is a reflection of just one of the many areas that he has massively improved in the past few months. Add his strength on the ball and admirable defensive tenacity, and Liverpool have one of the most complete wingers in all of England.
To think that he is still 19 years old. If he continues in the same vein, Sterling could go down as one of Liverpool’s best ever.
Questionable Defending Once Again from Liverpool
When Liverpool surged two goals up in the first half, their fans, and even their players, could have been forgiven for thinking that this would turn out to be another multi-goal rout—and perhaps Suarez would be able to extend his hat-trick record against Norwich.
Not so. Liverpool’s own defending caused themselves so much trouble in the end.
Credit must be given to Norwich for coming out of their half-time team talk reinvigorated, and they went at the visitors with a sense of renewed purpose and confidence.
But Simon Mignolet’s punch was far from convincing, which led to Gary Hooper’s goal. Meanwhile, Jon Flanagan should have done way better as a defender who was tasked with marking Robert Snodgrass, a winger, on a routine header from a cross.
Norwich’s pressing also forced Liverpool into numerous hesitant clearances from the back, which put the Reds' back line under necessary pressure.
Brendan Rodgers, Pragmatist?
When Brendan Rodgers sent on Daniel Agger for Joe Allen late in the second half, it might be looked back upon as a key milestone in his career as Liverpool boss.
Long known for his philosophical and visionary approach to football, he changed tack and sent on an extra body in defence, looking to stifle Norwich’s growing momentum rather than pushing his team forward.
Norwich wrestled the game back from Liverpool’s hands, eventually dominating the corner count, overtaking the visitors in terms of shots and even challenging the possession count, after a first half that saw Liverpool play like they were the home team.
But make no mistake: Rodgers will be delighted with the three points from Carrow Road and might even discard everything else. His newfound pragmatism is a sure sign that Liverpool are challenging for top honors right at the business end of the season.
Too Little, Too Late for Norwich City?
That Rodgers turned to Agger to shore up his defence late on against Norwich—a team Liverpool have recently enjoyed a stellar record against—showed everything about how the Canaries played on Sunday.
While their first-half display was far from convincing, they came out of the dressing room after half-time full of energy, confidence and attacking verve and took the game to Liverpool every opportunity they had.
Having spent last summer shelling out for new and highly rated acquisitions like Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer, Norwich City were supposed to finish more toward the mid-table places than toward the foot of the Premier League table.
Instead, they have struggled to find any sort of consistency all season, which has led to their current precarious position and the recent sacking of Chris Hughton.
Their effort against Liverpool was commendable, but with four mammoth fixtures against Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United to finish off their season, Norwich might have found their energy a little too late in the campaign.
Reds’ Lack of Squad Depth Highlighted
Yet again, this result might be yet another hard-fought performance that title winners “need to grind out despite not playing well,” as the cliche goes, but also yet again, this result highlights just how shallow Liverpool’s squad depth actually is.
Without Daniel Sturridge, they relied on Raheem Sterling to provide an attacking thrust and a driving edge, and while the No. 31 provided the match-winning moments for the Reds, late substitute Victor Moses offered nothing to show that he was once considered one of the best attacking prospects in all of England.
Without Jordan Henderson, Liverpool lacked a meaningful and forceful presence in the final third of the pitch—a midfield runner who could transition their play into attack and make useful runs into the box.
In his place, Lucas offered nothing of note besides a few clumsy fouls and a shocking miss at the end of the match after Luis Suarez set up him with a golden chance to bring the visitors 4-2 up.
While Suarez has proved that he has the quality to lead the line as Liverpool’s lone striker, it might turn out that Henderson will be their biggest miss due to his suspension.
Liverpool vs. Chelsea Is the Biggest Game This Season
Saturday’s monumental result at Stamford Bridge, where Gus Poyet’s Sunderland delivered a landmark 2-1 away win (which might yet impact Norwich’s survival status this season), cast the spotlight squarely on Liverpool, who responded accordingly (if not at all emphatically).
Five points separate Chelsea and Liverpool with three matches left to play, while the Reds lead third-placed Manchester City by nine points—though Manuel Pellegrini’s side have two matches in hand.
Steven Gerrard said in his post-match interview after the breathless victory over Manchester City that Norwich City would be Liverpool’s biggest game of the season.
While the Liverpool hierarchy will carry the same narrative through the remaining three games, Chelsea’s visit to Anfield next weekend is undoubtedly the match of the season.
It will set the tone for the rest of the title race, and while Liverpool have plenty to look forward to at Anfield and on the back of a stellar winning run, Jose Mourinho has enjoyed an excellent record against the Reds in the league over the years—and his midfield will pose a considerable threat to a Henderson-less Liverpool.