It was bound to happen. It was just a matter of when, not if Liverpool would register their first league win under Brendan Rodgers.
540 minutes and six games later it finally happened, and in style as the Reds put Norwich to the sword at Carrow road in a 5 star performance.
Prior to the Liverpool win their horrendous start to the season had been the topic of much discussion and heated debate.
Statistically it was the worst start to the season by the Anfield Club. Infact the 3 losses and two draws in their first 5 games translated to the worst start in over 100 years.
But statistics do not take into account the teams that a club faces: In the first five games Liverpool had played Champions Manchester City, last season’s runners up Manchester United and third place finishers Arsenal. At whatever stage of the season and despite a team’s form, home or away, these are tough games to play and particularly difficult at the start of a season. They become doubly difficult when the games are almost back to back as they were for the Reds.
Statistics do not also take into account dubious refereeing decisions as in the game against Manchester United where the Reds were at the end of some debatable decisions including the Jonjo Shelvey red card. Many agree Johnny Evans should have likewise being sent off. Manchester United’s second goal also came via a debatable penalty call. In the opening game of the season against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns Liverpool also fell afoul of some borderline decisions.
Statistics do not also take into account that Liverpool were dominant for large swathes of the game against Sunderland, Manchester United and Manchester City and should have won all three games. In fact Liverpool only succumbed to a draw in the latter game after some last minute calamitous defending by Martin Skrtel gifted the Citizens an unlikely and undeserved draw at Anfield.
It was therefore with a sense of aggrievement and purpose that Liverpool travelled to Carrow road determined to set the record straight.
In their midweek encounter against West Brom In the Capital One Carling Cup Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers had rested all 11 of the players who had played against Manchester United.
Academy players Robinson, 16 year old Jerome Sinclair (who became the youngest player to don a first team jersey in a competitive encounter), Andre Wisdom and Pacheco were given a chance to shine in that cup tie alongside Oussama Assaidi, Samid Yessil and Nuri Sahin.
They did not disappoint. The youngsters who had impressed in their Europa Cup 5-3 away win against Young Boys were again outstanding as they beat an almost full strength West Brom team 2-1.
In the game against Norwich the Canaries were without Harry Kane who suffered a broken foot against Doncaster in their Capital One Cup win against on Wednesday and Sebastian Bassong and Anthony Pilkington who both failed late fitness tests.
Grant Holt who had been lethal in front of goal last season for the Canaries did not make the starting 11 and was only content with a place on the bench. He was later to prove that this was a bad call by the gaffer.
Liverpool were forced to miss the services of Martin Kelly who sustained an injury in the loss to Manchester United and Jonjo Shelvey who remained suspended after earning a red card in the same game for a mistimed lunge on Johnny Evans. Daniel Agger however made a remarkable recovery from injury to slot into the back four together with Andre Wisdom at right back, Martin Skrtel in central defence and Glen Johnson at left back.
Liverpool adopted their customary 4-3-3 formation with the midfield comprising of Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and Suso with Gerrard in the holding midfield role. Up front Raheem Sterling who has been impressive so far playing mostly on the Liverpool left partnered with Luis Suarez and Nuri Sahin who had so effectively dispatched West Brom with a brace in midweek.
Predictably Liverpool dominated most of the match with their now familiar passing style evident from the word go. This immediately paid dividends when a move that was started by Suso in the deep led to nice movement from midfield which was emphatically converted by Luis Suarez in the 2nd minute.
Norwich’s first chance came in the 9th minute when a decent ball in by Snodgrass was met by Simeon Jackson. His snap shot however hit the post off Pepe Reina.
In the 23rd minute the so called negative perception of Luis Suarez once more cost him a favourable decision. Suarez who had gotten goal side of Norwich’s Leon Barnett was hauled down by the defender for what seemed an obvious stone wall penalty. The referee however thought otherwise.
The main threat for Norwich upfront was mostly Simeon Jackson who on several occasions made inroads into the Liverpool back four. Norwich however lacked the killer punch and did not create enough chances.
On the other end John Ruddy made a fantastic save from a Steven Gerrard diving header to keep the cores 1-0 in Liverpool’s favour as at the 35th minute though the score line would not remain like this for long. Luis Suarez missed a sitter in the 37th minute when alone with the Norwich goalkeeper after a fantastic through ball by Daniel Agger but made amends barely 20 seconds later when he curled a fantastic shot into the far corner after a mix up by Turner and Garrido gifted him the ball. Suarez who had been the chief destroyer at Carrow road last season scoring a hat trick in Liverpool’s 3-0 win including one of the goals of the season was ripping Norwich apart once again.
The remainder of the half was uneventful and the Reds went into the break 2-0 up.
In an attempt to stem the tide Chris Houghton brought in Grant Holt in place of Symian Jackson. Norwich came out of the blocks at full throttle. Just 15 seconds after the restart. Snodgrass was in the wrong place at the wrong time deflecting a clear goal over the bar from inches out. The Canaries were made to pay for this glaring miss when a rapid counter attack started by Raheem Sterling was converted by Nuri Sahin after a great pass by Luis Suarez.
The second half slowly took the shape of the first. Liverpool playing their neat triangles and Norwich busy chasing shadows.
Norwich made a tactical change in the 10th minute of the second half bringing in Hoolahan in place of Andrew Surman.
In the 57th minute Luis Suarez bagged his hat trick after another flowing move by Liverpool who now leading 4-0 were now threatening to tear Norwich apart.
Suso who had been impressive upto that point was replaced by Oussama Assaidi a minute later. Assaidi it will be remembered had been impressive in Liverpool’s win over West Brom in the Capital One Cup.
Pepe Reina who has been far from impressive this season was again at fault when Norwich finally got a goal through Morrison. The Spanish keeper failed to stop a snap shot and Morrison gleefully accepted the rebound which he dispatched into the net.
Nuri Sahin made way shortly after his goal for Jordan Henderson who slotted into an attacking midfield role. Liverpool continued dominating possession and after a lung bursting run by Sterling the cut back by Gerrard found its way into the net via a horrible deflection off Leon Barnett . Liverpool were 5-1 up after 70 minutes.
After a spell of prolonged possession by Liverpool they switched off at the back allowing Grant Holt to score Norwich’s second. However the final result was never in doubt with Liverpool seeing out the game to win 5-2 and bag three points.
Liverpool have thus registered their first league win and the team will now be determined to notch up more points in their quest to achieve a better league position than last term.
With easier games coming up, at least on paper, one would expect Liverpool to gradually make it up the Premier league ladder. Truly the darkest hour is the hour before dawn.
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