We have seen this script before. Liverpool — although never quite forced into fifth gear — found themselves in a real battle today against a plucky side who are battling relegation. Ultimately they passed yet another test.
While chances were never quite ‘at a premium’, the intense wind conditions prevented Jürgen Klopp’s side from ever dominating the contest at Carrow Road in the manner which they may have hoped to.
Norwich failed to register a single shot on target in the first half, but it was arguably the hosts who had had the greatest opportunity of the opening period.
Alisson Becker did quite incredibly to deny Teemu Pukki, all without conceding a penalty. VAR would mostly likely have ruled a goal out for offside, but the Brazilian was not to know that.
After the break, Alisson’s counterpart Tim Krul also stopped expertly, when Naby Keita should probably have lifted a rebound over the Dutch ‘keeper.
The game changed, though, when Sadio Mané was brought on at the hour mark (alongside an impressive Fabinho) and Liverpool’s intensity immediately grew.
The Senegalese looked the most likely source of a winner for Liverpool, and it came with a masterful turn and half-volley.
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Norwich players appealed for a push in the back from Mané, but an outstretched arm seemed merely to aid his balance. He then struck beautifully with his weaker left foot inside Krul’s near post.
Mané has 44 Premier League goals since the start of the 2017/18 campaign. Of these only 24 have come on his dominant right foot, 12 on his left, and eight with his head.
Impossible to defend against? Arguably.
Here are your ratings:
Ali 8 — Absolutely faultless. Caught a powerful late effort when Pukki appeared to have nearly broken through. The ball was only ‘catchable’ with the perfect foresight and positioning, but Alisson has that.
Trent 6 — Some very poor passes which could have led to counter-attacks. Of course, these were mixed in with some sensational switches of play, and an excellent cross that Firmino should have turned home late-on. However, a poor performance by Trent’s lofty standards.
JoGo 7.5 — Sensational first half, composedly turning away from Pukki pressure on multiple occasions. Couple of tremendous long-range passes, too.
Virgil 7.5 — Norwich seemed scared to attack the Dutch machine’s side of the pitch, so Virg’s defensive role was limited. Excellent on the ball, bar one miscue in first-half stoppage time.
Robbo 7.5 — Offered a far greater threat than Trent today, which has not been the case for a long while.
Gini 6 — Never really influenced the game in the way that we know he can.
Hendo 7.5 — Decent first half was followed by a tremendous second forty-five. Assist relied on Sadio’s brilliance, but embodied the threat and danger of some of the long passes the skipper played through the wind.
Nab 6.5 — Took chances in the search of an opening goal. Sometimes causing havoc, sometimes losing cheap possession.
Mo 6.5 — Strangely averse to shooting today. At times this led to terrific interplay, and on other occasions, wasted chances.
Bobby 7 — Best player on the pitch in the opening stages. After a ludicrous touch out of the air, Bobby may have poked home what would have been the goal of the season, if Zimmerman had not intervened. Missed an open goal late on, but it ultimately didn’t cost anything.
Ox 6 — Failed to get involved as much as he might have wanted to. Never seems as comfortable when forced out on the flanks.
Fabs 7.5 — Returning to the level that he was at pre-injury. Helped the Reds to assert control on the game.
Sadio 8.5 —Changed the tie in Liverpool’s favour. Looked the brightest spark about, and proved it with a sensational winning goal. Man of the Match.
Milly 6.5 — One crucial interception to nullify a counter-attack.