AFTER a tepid performance at Old Trafford last weekend, it was important that Liverpool got firmly back on track at home to Norwich City. Yet again, the players responded to the latest in a long line of Premier League setbacks with a brilliant 5-0 victory.
Despite being heavy favourites in the football betting odds, the Reds produced a slow start, and on a bitterly cold afternoon, the crowd needed much more than a hot cup of Bovril to warm the cockles.
Thankfully, Jordan Henderson lit the touch paper on 26 minutes, when he pounced on a loose ball at the edge of the box before smashing a powerful half volley beyond Norwich keeper Mark Bunn.
A great strike from Henderson, who without doubt is enjoying his best spell in a Red shirt. One can only hope that he is on the way to maximising his unquestionable potential.
The 22-year-old has all the attributes required of a modern midfielder: a good range of passing, an underrated amount of pace, a powerful shot and bags of stamina.
All of the above comes to the fore when it is combined with something he often lacks: confidence. His rousing ovation when replaced by Joe Allen on 77 minutes will do no harm to that whatsoever.
There’s something very exciting about Henderson’s form, but let’s not get carried away just yet.
Going back to the game, as has often been the case at home this season, there was a feeling around Anfield that an early goal would open the floodgates.
On 36 minutes, Lucas threaded a pass towards Daniel Sturridge. Just inside the opposition half, Liverpool’s new signing sold an impudent dummy which carved Norwich wide open; a moment of magic that left strike-partner Luis Suarez clean through on goal. Last season he would have missed a chance like this, but the Uruguayan tucked a neat left-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
Sturridge was deployed more centrally than Suarez throughout the game, but the fluidity and intelligence of movement from Liverpool’s new SAS strike-force means that, as suspected, positions needn’t matter. This is very much a case of ‘good players can play together’ and a mouth-watering partnership is in the offing.
Far from Suarez’s nose being put out of joint, he seemed to enjoy the freer role given to him yesterday. He has already given defenders a torrid time this season, but Sturridge’s movement is giving him even more space to create havoc.
A very tasty prospect.
On 59 minutes, Sturridge notched his third goal in three Liverpool appearances. Jordan Henderson clipped a fine ball across the box to Stewart Downing and his clever first time cross fell straight to Sturridge, who was left with an easy tap-in.
This is the first time that a Liverpool player has scored in his first three appearances since Ray Kennedy achieved the same feat in 1974.
After playing an inside forward’s role for the last couple of years, it’s easy to forget that Sturridge’s reputation was built from his deadly goalscoring ability and this was a typical striker’s goal.
Steven Gerrard’s form is also a massive bonus and his masterful passing in particular was a sight to behold. He grabbed a deserved goal on 66 minutes when he received the ball from Glen Johnson 30 yards out and arrowed a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner.
4-0, but Liverpool weren’t finished there. On 74 minutes, Ryan Bennett diverted substitute Raheem Sterling’s right-footed shot into the Kop goal.
As bad as Norwich were, Liverpool were equally as good. Make no mistake; this was their best performance of the season. Only the most cynical Liverpool fan would argue that Sturridge’s introduction to the team and Liverpool’s instant improvement is sheer coincidence.
Indeed, Liverpool’s new attacking line-up and associated formation couldn’t have got off to a better start.
An interesting observation about Liverpool generally is that despite some indifferent results at Anfield this season, they consistently dominate possession and territory.
That is what top teams do. The majority of visiting teams adopt time wasting tactics and batten down the hatches. This all flatters Liverpool and it bodes well for the future.
The Reds have already recorded as many home league wins this season as they did last, and if they can play with more conviction away from home on a more consistent basis, a meaningful challenge for fourth should not be out of their reach.
L4L Man of the Match: Steven Gerrard. So much for being finished. Gerrard’s performances are now matching his peak years in the latter portion of the Rafael Benitez era. Crucially, his great play is combined with optimum fitness – and long may that continue. He just pips Jordan Henderson to the award.
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