This is what television companies all over the world pay those extraordinary sums of money for. Technical quality was often lacking and the defending was laughable; but what entertainment it was. Of the 12 shots on target, nine finished in the net, the two goalkeepers hardly making a notable save.
Heroes and villains abounded. There was Liverpool’s Adam Lallana, dropped following defeat by Manchester United but coming out of the dug-out to produce the last and most dramatic flourish of all by scoring the ninth goal; whipping off his shirt and sparking the scrimmage that broke Jürgen Klopp’s glasses as the manager dashed on to the pitch to celebrate like the wildest fan.
Then there was Russell Martin, a loyal Norwich yeoman who scored a famous goal at Anfield earlier in the season but seemed to have given the game away with a befuddled Sunday morning backpass to gift James Milner what appeared for all the world to be the winner; until Sebastien Bassong of all people equalised in the third minute of added time. Alas for Norfolk, there were 120 seconds and a goal left.
It all seemed a long time since Steven Naismith, an £8.5million investment from Everton, had marked his debut with the best team goal of the day to turn this extraordinary game in Norwich’s favour.
Once all the adrenalin and excitement wore off, there was much for the two managers and their supporters to consider. Liverpool had after all conceded three goals from set-pieces, a fault that has bedevilled them for much of the season. Norwich have let in 14 in four games and lost the lot, pushing them closer to the relegation places.
Those managers reacted as would have been expected. It was the sort of game to please the happier-go-lucky Klopp rather than dour old Alex Neil, whose instinctive reaction was: “I don’t really know what to say.” For Norwich, when he found the words, it was a game of two-thirds: “For 65 minutes we were good value for 3-1, the better side. From that point on we made extremely poor decisions defensively, not looking after the ball, looking nervous and edgy around the box.
“I’m angry and so should they [the players] be. When you concede five goals you deserve to lose.”
Klopp had to balance satisfaction at the result and his team’s defiant resilience with concern about that defence. “I think we are deserved winners in a spectacular game but of course anything could happen today,” he said. “It was spectacular wild good football from both teams. It makes me sound crazy when I say we defended better.
“But it was – first ball we defended better. But we made the next [second ball] fault. That is how life is – solve one problem and you got another one.”
One of the first lessons he will spell out before Tuesday’s second leg of the Capital Cup semi-final against Stoke, in which Liverpool already have a 1-0 lead, is that they must clear their penalty box far more quickly. Failure to do so 11 minutes after Roberto Firmino had scored yesterday allowed Dieumerci Mbokani to knock in a back-heel from just a few yards out.
The lesson from the second goal was that midfielders cannot afford to stand and watch like Emre Can did as Naismith ran away from him and on to Wes Hoolahan’s pass to score with an angled drive. But what can anyone tell an experienced defender like Alberto Moreno about the way he dived from behind not once but twice on Naismith to concede the most obvious of penalties that Hoolahan converted for 3-1.
Henderson’s quick reply dented confidence in the stands and on the pitch and the mood dipped further when Firmino knocked in Lallana’s excellent cross and Martin played a catastrophic blind backpass to allow Milner Liverpool’s fourth.
In the third minute of added time the visitors failed to clear a long free-kick that Bassong drove in for 4-4 but Klopp’s protests about five minutes being added were forgotten when Lallana beat Declan Rudd with a shot after Steven Caulker’s effort had been blocked.
Liverpool must now believe anything is possible.
Norwich: (4-2-3-1) Rudd; Ivo Pinto, Martin, Bassong, Brady; Howson, Dorrans; Redmond (Jarvis, 69), Naismith (Jerome,81), Hoolahan (Olsson,69); Mbokani.
Liverpool :(4-3-2-1) Mignolet; Clyne, Touré, Sakho, Moreno (Caulker, 89); Henderson (Benteke, 75), Lucas, Can; Milner, Ibe (Lallana, 59); Firmino.
Referee: Lee Mason.
Man of the match: Milner (Liverpoool)
Match rating: 8/10