LIVERPOOL FC trail-blazed their way to a first Premier League victory yesterday after a 5-2 thrashing of Norwich City. A second successive Carrow Road hat-trick for Luis Suarez and goals from Nuri Sahin and Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool a desperately needed three points.
They didn’t waste any time opening their account after a blistering start to the game. It took just 67 seconds for Suarez to rifle past John Ruddy from the edge of the box after Michael Turner’s half clearance.
Although Liverpool looked quick and incisive in the opening exchanges, they also looked susceptible at the back. On 8 minutes, Simeon Jackson fired straight at Pepe Reina from six yards, and on 25 minutes, it was Jackson again who provided the threat – firing just over with a left-footed volley.
After being on the receiving end of some poor officiating this season, Brendan Rodgers spoke on Friday about a phone call with referee chief Mike Riley, making particular reference to the lack of decisions made in favour of Luis Suarez.
The call was obviously a waste of time because the Uruguayan was given little protection by referee Mike Jones. It is granted by Liverpool fans that he can make a meal of some challenges, but most would agree that his reputation is having too much of an influence on decision-making.
On 22 minutes, Suarez was rugby tackled to the ground by Leon Barnett in the box, who gave him an elbow to the head for good measure. Inexplicably, Jones failed to award the penalty. Rather than appearing angry, Suarez looked numb and rather shell-shocked with the decision.
Incredibly, he was the subject of yet more terrible officiating just after the half-hour mark. Russell Martin clattered Suarez with a blow to the head and he had no choice but to leave the field for treatment. On his return, he immediately kicked Martin to the ground, and it looked like a red card was in the offing.
However, when Suarez channels his aggression effectively, he is completely unplayable.
The Suarez injury marked the beginning of a whirlwind period in the game and it culminated with a dramatic flurry on 37 minutes. It started when Suarez missed a glaring one-on-one opportunity after being put through by Daniel Agger. From the resulting goal-kick, Suarez won the ball at the edge of the area, nutmegged Michael Turner and curled the ball home with the outside of his right foot.
An imperious finish and it was no more than Suarez deserved, but missing the easier chance and scoring the more difficult opportunity pretty much sums up the Liverpool number 7.
Liverpool took a two goal lead into the break but immediately after the opening whistle of the second period, Norwich nearly pulled a goal back. A cross from the right was headed down towards goal by Andrew Surman but Robert Snodgrass somehow managed to divert the ball over the bar from three yards.
Suarez wasn’t finished and he made it 4-0 on 57 minutes. After some neat Liverpool interplay, he received the ball on the left hand side about 30 yards out, cut inside Martin and curled in a slightly deflected right-footed shot past Ruddy and into the bottom corner. The match ball was Suarez’s yet again and he will now have very fond memories of East Anglia.
Liverpool were beginning to run riot, however, on the hour, Steve Morison bagged a consolation goal for the Canaries. Yet again, Pepe Reina will be disappointed with his contribution. A poor clearance from him led to a long-range shot from Russell Martin that arrowed straight at the Spaniard, but he could only spill his attempted catch to a grateful Morison, who had a simple finish.
The goals kept coming and Liverpool made it 5-1 on 68 minutes. It came after a remarkable move from the Reds that must have contained at least 30 passes and two solid minutes of keep-ball. The final finish came when Gerrard’s deflected effort beat Ruddy following a smart Sterling turn and cut-back, but it will be the amount of possession preceding the goal which will please Rodgers the most.
It was a very entertaining match and Grant Holt concluded proceedings on 86 minutes with a superb right-footed finish from the edge of the box. Jonny Howson provided the assist with a ball over the top, but Martin Skrtel will be disappointed to miss what should have been a simple interception.
Whereas previous Liverpool performances have lacked penetration at the business end of the field, this time the Reds looked dangerous with every attack and the injection of pace into the team is starting to provide a significant benefit.
Sterling, Suso, Gerrard and Suarez were as dynamic as they were creative, and their performances bode well for Liverpool. The possession stats will also provide Rodgers with further reassurance that his ideas are starting to make an indelible impact.
One concern from yesterday’s display was Liverpool’s defending. Two goals didn’t flatter Norwich by any means. Both came from further defensive errors by Reina and Skrtel and this is an ongoing issue that requires ironing out immediately because an incredible amount of goals have been gifted to the opposition this season.
All things considered however, Liverpool have been threatening to rip somebody apart. Unfortunately for Chris Hughton, it was Norwich who were on the receiving end.
Finally, Liverpool play well in the league and win – their fans will now hope that this is the beginning of a very fruitful period.
L4L Man of the Match: Luis Suarez. Liverpool fans witnessed Suarez in all his fascinating guises yesterday. His dogged determination and fiery temper make him an unpopular figure on opposition territory, but nobody can deny his will to win and world class talent. On this form, there a few better footballers in the Premier League.
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