matches under their belt . But this contest against the division’s basement boys was another in which the champions-elect had to graft, bide their time and enjoy some luck before earning a deserved victory. Sadio Mané’s th-minute finish was precise and deadly, in the manner of so much of the Senegalese forward’s work this season. But he was summoned from the bench after returning from a hamstring injury because Liverpool needed him. Before his intervention Norwich had looked the equal of the Reds. With only one change made by either side – Naby Keïta coming in to Liverpool’s midfield in place of Fabinho – both managers went with a familiar approach and the first half was something of a stalemate. This was perhaps a surprise, given Norwich’s uninspiring home record – only three wins all season – but the hosts were uncharacteristically compact for the duration of the opening period and denied (Liverpool) any clear sights on goal. In fact, the match was almost entirely without incident until the 27 th minute when Norwich’s Sam Byram stretched for a clearance, tweaked a hamstring and had to be substituted. On came Jamal Lewis and entirely coincidentally, you would have to assume, the pace started to pick up. Lewis’s first act was to dispossess Mohamed Salah after he had danced his way into the Norwich box.
Ten minutes later Norwich created the first and only proper opportunity of the half. The Canaries are known for their tippy-tappy play but this was much more straightforward, a long ball over the top from Lewis to set Lukas Rupp in on goal. The German midfielder had done well to stay onside and did even better one on one with Alisson, rounding the Brazilian brilliantly. But in the decisive moment Rupp saw Teemu Pukki advancing on his left and, instead of shooting, tried to play in the Finnish striker. It was a decent enough pass but not sharp enough to elude Alisson who was down on the floor and clawing the ball away before Pukki could get a touch. The tiger had had its tail tweaked and Liverpool immediately tried to up the tempo. First Jordan Henderson then Andrew Robertson ran hard at the Norwich defense and the latter effort resulted in Salah cutting inside and getting off a powerful shot which Lewis did well to block. The Reds then earned the first corner of the match, and the second and the third, but were unable to turn any of them into opportunities, despite the occasional jitteriness of Norwich’s center-halves.
The second half began with Todd Cantwell lashing a shot into the side netting after Norwich had capitalized on slack Liverpool passing to send Max Aarons past Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain down the right. That was followed by a more concentrated spell of Liverpool pressure and one that seemed guaranteed to provide the opening goal. First Tim Krul did well to tip a long-range Keïta effort over the bar. Then the Dutchman did even better, producing a remarkable double save to keep the league leaders out.
Kenny McLean lost possession for Norwich just outside the area and after a short exchange of passes Salah was into the box. He jinked left then right and created room for the shot. It was low and to Krul’s right but the Dutchman got down and blocked it with a strong arm. The rebound went only as far as Keïta, six yards out from goal, but his shot was blocked by Krul again with an incredible right-hand reaction. That sparked activity from the Liverpool bench with Fabinho and the returning Mané coming on for Georginio Wijnaldum and Oxlade-Chamberlain. The action was heating up and Norwich were the next to strike, Alexander Tettey crashing a shot off Alisson’s left-hand post. There was minutes left of the contest and Norwich were still in it.
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The home side earned their first corner of the match, then their second. Lewis saw an on-target shot cannon off Pukki’s back. And then Liverpool, finally, struck. It was the th minute and a long ball flew up to Mané. The forward looked well-marshalled, surrounded by a pair of Norwich players. The center-half Christoph Zimmermann duly got up highest but missed the ball altogether and Mané needed no second invitation. He dashed on to the loose ball, pivoted and fired low left-footed inside Krul’s right-hand post. Read More