Baros turns on style worthy of Tinseltown

Liverpool 3 - Norwich City 0
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The Independent Football

As the Anfield takeover talk switches from Thailand to Tinseltown, the Merseyside-born Hollywood film-maker Mike Jefferies reportedly wants to give Liverpool a £100m cash injection "to end 15 years of mediocrity". But the side he claims to support looked anything but on this occasion, taking First Division champions Norwich apart in as fluid and exhilarating a performance as they have achieved so far under the guidance of Rafael Benitez.

Had Jefferies, whose Milkshake Films just happens to have a football movie awaiting release, been watching recent footage of Liverpool in action he would have seen brief episodes of quality but this was a production of feature length. It had the audience in thrall from almost the first minute to the last, capped by goals from the recalled Milan Baros, the hugely influential Javier Luis Garcia and the ever-threatening Djibril Cissé.

In the absence of Steven Gerrard for the first time, Benitez paired Xabi Alonso with Dietmar Hamann in the centre of midfield with outstanding success. Alonso grows in authority with every appearance, the range of his passing prompting Nigel Worthington, the Norwich manager, to acknowledge that he was "in a different class".

But Alonso was only one component in Liverpool's dominance. His fellow Spaniard, Garcia, was equally influential, linking superbly with Baros and Cissé in precise interplay that was to be the theme of the afternoon.

Benitez was pleased, but not overly so. "We are making progress," he said, more or less, in his limited English. "If we started at 60 per cent of what I want, we are now at 65 per cent. I am happy, but I would be more happy if we had scored more goals. We scored three but could have had three or four more."

The manager was pleased, though, by how Gerrard was only minimally missed: "Gerrard is a very important player but if Xabi, Hamann or (Igor) Biscan play well, perhaps people will see his absence as less important."

What may be important, however, is to remember that, regardless of the quality in Liverpool's football, they were playing only Norwich, who looked good in the First Division but have yet to find their feet at the top level. "It is important to play well no matter who is the opponent," Benitez acknowledged, while admitting that Olympiakos on Tuesday and Chelsea next Sunday will present wholly different challenges.

None the less, Chelsea are not scoring many goals and if Liverpool can play with yesterday's infectious confidence they will be kept on their toes. No player injected more energy into a fluent, exciting performance than Baros, who announced his recall by opening Liverpool's scoring in spectacular style, jinking across from left to right before unleashing a blistering right-foot shot from 25 yards that had the goalkeeper Robert Green well beaten.

Three minutes later, the lead was doubled as the defender Craig Fleming inadvertently skewed Garcia's 10-yard shot into his own net. Not that a goal was not a deserved conclusion to a fine move, Cissé having set up the Spaniard with a fine pass.

It was a spirit-sapping afternoon for Norwich, still looking for their first win in the top flight. As soon as one Liverpool attack was repelled, another would develop. The appearance of Leon McKenzie and David Bentley in the second half led to better things from Norwich but the pattern of the contest remained unchanged.

The scoreline, as a consequence, did not, Cissé increasing Liverpool's lead after 63 minutes. As Alonso rolled a free-kick 20 yards out, the striker seemed momentarily taken by surprise at being invited to shoot on goal. But even though he needed to stretch to strike the ball, he was still accurate enough to locate a gap in Norwich's breaking wall and leave Green beaten again.