Norwich put Holt to Anfield charge as Carroll counts cost
Liverpool 1 Norwich 1: Striker keeps his head to send Delia Smith home happy but Liverpool rue their missed chances – and a brilliant goalkeeping performance by Ruddy
Sunday 23 October 2011
Delia Smith, Norwich City's owner, once wrote a book called One is Fun. For those taking the not-always obvious road back from Merseyside to Norfolk, this one point would have contained many more emotions than just fun. There would have been relief that they had survived an assault that had seen Liverpool aim 29 shots at John Ruddy's goal and strike the frame of it three times. There would have been pride that a side that had gone through two divisions in as many seasons had shown the resilience to ride out the storm and fight back.
As a game it might have reminded the Norwich manager, Paul Lambert, of one of his finest moments as a footballer when he was part of a Borussia Dortmund side that overcame Manchester United in a European Cup semi-final which saw Sir Alex Ferguson's forward line squander an array of chances.
Right up until almost the last attack of the night that saw Ruddy save astonishingly from Luis Suarez, who might have had at least a hat-trick, it appeared Liverpool would win through. "It is a huge, huge point. Nobody gave us an earthly, here," said Lambert, who added that although they had lost at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, they had proved they could compete. And that is what would have stung Liverpool as the Anfield floodlights were extinguished over Stanley Park. Kenny Dalglish's side had played better than Chelsea or Manchester United and they had come away with less.
"What do we take from this game?" said the Liverpool manager, when asked for the positives of the evening. "A point."
It was a game that turned on many things, not least Pepe Reina's instinctive save from Grant Holt's second header that might have given Norwich victory. Daglish was angered not just by Peter Walton's refusal to award a penalty for what at first appeared a shoulder charge on Charlie Adam by Leon Barnett but by the referee's assumption that Suarez had dived when it seemed he had been hooked back by Marc Tierney.
At Ajax, Suarez had something of a reputation as a diver and following the allegations of racism levelled at him by Patrice Evra after the 1-1 draw with Manchester United, Dalglish was anxious to defend his striker.
"I think the problem is – and I will say something but not add to it – that there are people who question his integrity," he remarked, aiming his comments squarely at Old Trafford. "It is their integrity that needs questioning, not his. I think he is a fantastic footballer and we have 100 per cent faith in Luis Suarez and the way he conducts himself."
Whether Dalglish has total faith in Andy Carroll is another matter. The man upon whom he had spent £35 million did not play at all against Manchester United and here came off the bench 10 minutes from the end to send a header from the six-yard line horribly wide.
It paled beside the header that turned what should have been a routine fixture into the stuff of headlines. Anthony Pilkington, hugging the right touchline, produced a perfect cross that Holt rose above Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson to head home. It was the kind Alan Shearer would have wanted to claim for himself.
This was similar to the opening game of the season, two months ago, when Liverpool had seized Sunderland by the throat and then let them go. That they had to wait until first-half stoppage time to take the lead through Craig Bellamy was one of the evening's less predictable features.
In the first half Norwich had chosen to defend the Kop, who were soon seeing an awful lot of red shirts flooding towards them. The assault began almost immediately with Martin Skrtel, driving to the edge of the six-yard box and sending a header from Adam's corner thundering against the crossbar.
For Liverpool almost everything good revolved around Suarez. Marking him was Leon Barnett, who came through a torrid encounter with his reputation and faculties largely intact.
First the Uruguayan spun Barnett around and the whole stadium was on the edge of rising for the goal when the shot careered into the advertising hoardings. Nobody, not even Paolo Maldini, could have done much to have prevented what might have been one of the goals of the season.
It began with a long, high diagonal ball from Adam to Bellamy. He sprinted down the right flank and pulled back a cross that Suarez met low on the volley. Ruddy, who had spent several years on Everton's books, saved brilliantly with one glove, pushing the ball on to the post. All this before 15 minutes were up.
Early in the second half, Suarez swept past a wrong-footed Barnett once more and drove his shot firmly on to the foot of the post. Again, it would have been a perfect goal but for the fact it did not finish in the net.
Then, as quickly as it had blown up, Liverpool's storm abated and just as Lambert was putting the final touches to his team-talk, everything came unstuck as Bellamy pursued a long ball, took it into the area with his trademark short, quick steps and saw his shot deflect off Tierney's boot and finish in the net.
This was his first goal since returning to Liverpool and there is a tradition that you do not celebrate goals against your former clubs but Bellamy has had so many that it scarcely matters. He was ecstatic.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique; Bellamy (Henderson. 69), Gerrard, Adam, Downing (Carroll, 80); Suarez, Kuyt (Agger, 90).
Norwich City (4-5-1) Ruddy; Naughton, Barnett, Martin, Tierney; Bennett (Holt, 57), Fox, Hoolahan, Johnson, Pilkington(Crofts, 90); Morison.
Referee Peter Walton.
Man of the match Ruddy (Norwich).
Match rating 7/10.
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