By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
Liverpool began the new season with three well-earned points as a first-half blitz saw them overpower Premier League new boys Norwich City in Friday night’s curtain-raiser.
An own-goal from Grant Hanley got Jurgen Klopp’s side off to a flyer, while strikes from Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Divock Origi saw them head into the break with a four-goal advantage.
It was, however, tempered somewhat as Alisson hobbled off with what looked like a muscular injury. That meant a Reds debut for new signing Adrián, who had little to do but pick the ball out of his net in the second half as Teemu Pukki finally got the Canaries going.
A raucous atmosphere greeted the Reds at Anfield, as the local faithful embraced the opportunity to see their heroes in action for the first time since they won their sixth European Cup in Madrid.
It wouldn’t take long before the volume was turned even higher. Andy Robertson released Divock Origi down the left on seven minutes, whose whipped cross across goal was turned into his own net by the unfortunate Grant Hanley. The Canaries’ captain was disconsolate – Tim Krul furious.
City were spirited in their response to going behind, but were deflated once again before 20 minutes had passed. An intricate piece of play ended when the Reds worked their way into the box, and Firmino laid it on a plate for Salah who calmly passed the ball beyond the helpless goalkeeper.
Teemu Pukki almost got his side back in the game moments later, however, but was denied by a sprawling block from Alisson after the Finn had beaten the offside trap.
Marco Stiepermann also had a chance to score his club’s first goal back in the Premier League. He found himself with a world of space at the edge of the penalty area, but the German’s left-footed drive was too close to Alisson, who palmed the effort away.
But it would become three for the home side before half-an-hour had passed. A simple delivery found the head of Virgil van Dijk, who was far too powerful for Jamal Lewis. His header – for which he didn’t even need to jump – found the back of the net, and Liverpool were cruising.
Krul would, finally, be able to produce some magic just minutes later. Firmino found it far too easy to take down a cross on the penalty spot with his back to goal, but the Brazilian’s venomous volley was pushed away superbly by the diving Dutchman.
The Reds would take a cruel blow, however, as Alisson’s haste to take a goal kick resulted in him being left in a crumpled heap on the floor, clutching the back of his leg. It did mean an earlier-than-expected debut for new face Adrián.
The subdued crowd back singing again before half-time, however, as Trent Alexander-Arnold’s lofted cross was headed home by the lively Origi. The English full-back will be delighted to get his assist tally up and running this season after a record-breaking 2018/19 campaign.
A problem with the match officials’ communication systems caused a delay to the start of the second half, but Liverpool weren’t so sluggish. The fifth almost came two minutes after the restart, when Jordan Henderson’s effort was tipped superbly onto the crossbar, before Firmino failed to convert with a back-heel from inside the six-yard box.
To Norwich’s credit, they stuck to their tactics and insisted on playing out from the back, but at times it was all too easy for the dominant Reds to pressure a young outfit into mistakes. In truth, the difference between the scores could have perhaps have been greater.
But, instead, it would become narrower. Andy Robertson’s deep position played Pukki onside after a delightful through-ball from Emi Buendía, and the marksman made no mistake, firing across Adrián into the far bottom corner to give the travelling support something to cheer.
The rest of the half went by without much incident. As the Reds had expended much of their energy in a breathtaking first-half attacking display, they seemed happy to run the clock down, perhaps with one eye on the midweek trip to Istanbul to face off with Europa League champions Chelsea for the UEFA Super Cup.
But although the scoreline looked convincing and Liverpool dominated for much of the evening, Jurgen Klopp will certainly want to address some pretty shoddy defending on display at Anfield at times. If not, then better quality teams will take advantage as the season goes on.