Masterclass from Suarez ends the wait
Norwich City 2 Liverpool 5
Sunday 30 September 2012
When it finally arrived, at the sixth time of asking, it came powerfully, thrillingly and without ambiguity. It was first league win of the Brendan Rodgers era at Liverpool. It felt as if the drought was over and the dam had burst, such was the relaxed fluency of their football and the sense of relief at the end that Norwich City had been swamped.
This was a comprehensive and deserved win, and a demonstration of what Rodgers' Liverpool are meant to look like. The attacking football was fluid and confident, driven through the middle by Nuri Sahin, flanked by teenagers Jesus "Suso" Fernandez and Raheem Sterling, and culminating, thrillingly, in the brilliance of Luis Suarez.
Whatever Liverpool achieve under Rodgers, Suarez will be crucial to it. Five months ago, under Kenny Dalglish, he scored a remarkable hat-trick here, climaxing in a lob from the half-way line. Even after a summer of change, under a different manager, with different team-mates, he was just as compelling yesterday. Suarez scored three, made another and should have been awarded a penalty.
"I remember his goals last year," Rodgers said afterwards, "but this was a masterclass in finishing. It was a special day for him, for him and for us. The quality of our game and play was very, very good."
It took 68 seconds for Suarez to assert himself. Glen Johnson ran down the left and tried to play in Sahin, breaking forward. The ball came back to Suarez on the edge of the box. A perfect judge of space around him, he held off Leon Barnett, spun and shot into the near bottom corner.
"We knew before the game we were up against a Liverpool team in good form," said Chris Hughton, who must have known at 1-0 it was going to be a difficult afternoon. "You cannot afford to give them the opportunities. We came up against Suarez at his most clinical. We made life very difficult for ourselves."
This was not the same Norwich defence as that 3-0 defeat five months ago. It was not Ryan Bennett and Elliot Ward at centre-back yesterday, but Barnett and Michael Turner. But the test was the same and the bafflement was the same and so were the futile solutions.
Barnett's next attempt at stopping Suarez was desperate, clumsy and strangely unpunished. Suarez ran onto a goal-kick, Barnett ran into Suarez. It was an obvious foul. Some referees, though, are less keen to give Suarez penalties than others and Mike Jones decided against it.
"It was a stonewall penalty," said Rodgers. "I feel for the guy, everyone in the ground knew it was a penalty."
Pressing from the front is important to Rodgers, and it soon brought Liverpool's second. Turner was unaware when Suarez stole the ball from him. Suarez spun, put the ball through Turner's legs and curled it into the far bottom corner. The fact that he had missed a much easier chance one minute before did not bother him, as Rodgers observed: "He doesn't get disappointed."
Norwich needed a quick goal after half-time. When the ball fell to Robert Snodgrass two feet from goal, it should have come, but, somehow, Snodgrass bounced the ball over the bar with his thigh. One minute later the game ended as a contest.
Sterling, the quickest player on the pitch, surged through the middle on the break.
He passed left to Suarez, who had his first cross blocked but found Sahin with his second. Sahin was unmarked and finished easily.
Another 10 easy minutes later, Sahin repaid the courtesy. He rolled the ball to Suarez on his left, Russell Martin stood off him and Suarez curled the ball into the corner for his third of the day and his sixth here this year.
There was still time for Pepe Reina to spill a shot for Steve Morison to pull one back before Steven Gerrard's deflected shot made it 5-1.
The final 20 minutes were – Grant Holt's consolation aside – a Joe Allen-orchestrated exercise in keep-ball, to the joy of the travelling Liverpool fans.
They sang for and applauded Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, the two most important men in the club's recent past. But they sang louder for Rodgers and Suarez, the two most important men in the club's immediate future.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Ruddy; Martin, Barnett, Garrido; Snodgrass, Howson, B Johnson, Surman (Hoolahan, 55); Jackson (Holt, h-t), Morison (Tetty, 79)
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, G. Johnson (Carragher, 73); Gerrard, Allen; Suso (Assaidi, 59), Sahin (Henderson, 66), Sterling; Suarez
Man of the match: Suarez (Liverpool)
Match rating: 8/10
Referee: Mike Jones
Man of the match: Fellaini (Everton)
Match rating: 7/10
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