Norwich 4-5 Liverpool – The Shankly Way

Liverpool players celebrate their last minute equaliser

Adam Lallana scored with the last kick of the game, as Liverpool stole the three points from undoubtedly the match of the season. 

The unfinished spectacle at Carrow Road was unmeasurable for any team to live up to this season: and two last minute goals ensured that this was quite a rollercoaster of a match, certainly for the neutral.

Liverpool’s attacking class from when they had battered Norwich in previous seasons may have wilted with the loss of Luis Suarez, but despite a vibrant and promising attacking display, this was undermined by ultimately repetitive defensive frailties, which Liverpool have failed to iron out on several occasions, this season.

The Reds’ came into this game on the back of a potentially damaging derby defeat to bitter rivals Manchester United at Anfield, however boss Jurgen Klopp only opted for one change to the squad from that defeat, with Jordon Ibe replacing Adam Lallana in the starting XI.

Norwich, meanwhile had suffered a disappointing defeat to fellow promotion rivals Bournemouth away from home. Unsuprisingly, Alex Neil rang four changes, with Ivo Pinto making his Premier League debut, replacing Ryan Bennett. Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe also failed to make the starting eleven, as didn’t Alexander Tettey and Matt Jarvis. However, Steven Naismith also made his debut for Norwich alongside Pinto.

The game got off to a lively start. Norwich had a gameplan; that was not to soak up the Liverpool pressure, and press Liverpool high up the pitch and get the ball in good positions. That plan worked well until the 18th minute, when the visitors took the lead.

It was instead the Reds’ who successfully exploited the Canaries’ backline, latching onto a James Milner pass, and slotting home, despite the best efforts of Norwich goalkeeper Declan Rudd. Replays showed that the Brazilian attacking midfielder was played onside by Norwich striker Robbie Brady.

Liverpool’s lead only lasted ten minutes, as opposition striker Dieumerci Mbokani cheekily backheeled the ball into the net, and to the Merseysiders’ disbelief, it came from slack defending from a set-piece. The visitors failed to clear their lines, and the ball fell to the Congolese striker who backheeled the ball past Belgian goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

Dieumerci Mbokan (left, in green and yellow), celebrates his clever equaliser.

And, buoyed by their equalising goal, they pushed for a second, and reaped rewards for their pressure upfield. The hosts’ debutant Steven Naismith was in the right place, at the right time, to receive a clever pass from Irish midfielder Wes Hoolahan to drive an angled shot past Simon Mignolet and into the corner.

Jurgen Klopp would not be a happy man, however watching a replay. Emre Can was clearly seen attempting to man mark Wes Hoolahan, and looked on course to do that. However, when Wes Hoolahan dragged Naismith into the move with the pass, it defensively splits and exposes Emre Can, and he stops moving and from there is ball watching.

As if Liverpool’s task to get a route back into the game was difficult, the task grew in difficulty as the Reds’ were left with a mountain to climb, as they needlessly conceded a penalty in the 51st minute. Alberto Moreno clearly brought Naismith down unfairly in his first attempt in the box, and had another swipe at the Scotsman, tripping him down from behind. It left the referee with ultimately no choice, but to award the penalty to the hosts. Wes Hoolahan sent the penalty just over the despairing dive of Simon Mignolet, to give the Canaries a two-goal cushion.

Despite suffering an early setback, Liverpool were determined not to fall to a disappointing defeat in East Anglia and almost straight away from the kick off pulled a goal back through midfielder Jordan Henderson, who, unmarked, pounced on a loose ball to volley the ball past Declan Rudd.

It gave Liverpool all the impetus to control the holding midfield aspects of the game from there, and took advantage of Norwich’s lack of defensive options from a break, as a crossfield ball from Adam Lallana fell to Roberto Firmino’s feet, who dinked the ball over Rudd for his second of the game.

The Reds’ weren’t done there, and further evidence suggesting the game lacked defensive composure began to leak, as a poor backpass from Russell Martin was latched on by centre midfielder James Milner, who made no mistake in tucking the ball into the back of the net, to complete the comeback and give Liverpool an unlikely lead.

Norwich looked rattled from that goal, and Jurgen Klopp made a tactial change which had proved effective in thwarting Norwich in the Reds’ best spell of the game. James Milner was shifted out wide, to provide further support for left-wing back Alberto Moreno. As the away side comfortably stroked the ball around, disaster seemed a long way away, even with Liverpool’s history of a lack of defensive composure.

To their disbelief, however their defensive weaknesses struck at the worst possible time, from their perspective as Norwich went quick with a pumping ball after Christian Benteke was in an offside position. Sebastian Bassong, the most unlikely source, pounced on a loose ball to volley a crisp strike into the net, which sent Carrow Road into raptures. Jurgen Klopp looked livid from the touchline, as he sought to question Liverpool’s failure defensively as a unit.

The anger aimed from the German boss looked to epitomise Liverpool’s pure frustration, as they were almost certainly left to hang on for a solitary point.

Football, as the case was proved in this occasion, can be a cruel but thrilling ride however, as Adam Lallana’s volley bounced into the left hand corner of the net, as frowns turned to almost artificial ecstasy as Jurgen Klopp ran to celebrate with the whole Liverpool squad, and rather comically shattered his glasses.

It would bother him little however, as Liverpool clung on for the three points in a truly extraordinary game.

Next up for Liverpool and Norwich

The Canaries have a chance to redeem their heartbreak when they make the journey to White Hart Lane on Tuesday. Liverpool will also be in action at Anfield on the same day, for their Capital One Cup semi-final second leg against Stoke City, having gained a 1-0 advantage from the first leg.

 

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