Norwich City 2-3 Liverpool: Sterling, Reds with one hand on the title
Liverpool’s blistering start takes no prisoners, and Norwich were no exception as two goals in the opening 10 minutes set the tone and put Norwich City away.
The Canaries brought themselves one back after the break and looked promising, but it was too little too late as the Premier League leaders went five clear at the top with three to play.
It wasn’t easy, as Norwich fought and twice pulled within one, but they couldn’t find the deathblow and the Reds’ early dominance led the way to their three points.
Raheem Sterling opened things with a salivating strike inside four minutes, and Luis Suarez bagged his 30th goal of the season six minutes later.
Sterling’s goal was a wonderful job of creating his own chances, first looking for other options before he decided to take it by himself. The 19-year-old cut back inside to create space, and from five yards outside the penalty area unleashed a explosive shot just inside the near post and past a diving John Ruddy.
The youngster then fed Suarez to double the lead, as the Uruguayan faked a near post run to catch the Norwich defense off guard before cutting to the back post, and Sterling’s ball across the face found him for the tap-in.
Suarez is the first player in European play to reach the 30-goal mark, beating out Cristiano Ronaldo who sits on 28 in La Liga. He is the first Liverpool player to reach 30 in the English top flight since Ian Rush’s 1987/88 season.
Norwich would find little of their own in the first half, but they saw out the rest of the opening 45 without further damage, and interim manager Neil Adams kept the attacking shape to open the second.
Out of the break the Canaries looked bright, bringing some life to Carrow Road and pulling one back when Simon Mignolet bungled a punch and left Gary Hooper with an empty net.
Liverpool received a stroke of luck when a Sterling shot ricocheted off the heel of Bradley Johnson and looped perfectly over Ruddy and into the back of the net for a 3-1 lead and a half hour to go.
But Adams and Liverpool wouldn’t go quietly into the afternoon. Robert Snodgrass completed a great attacking spell in the 76th minute, leaping well over Jon Flanagan to head past Mignolet and bring the game back within one.
Things became very nervy for the Reds with 15 minutes to go, and the Canaries continued their strong spell with the home fans exploding from their seats and backing their team.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel came on for goalscorer Hooper, and had a brilliant chance to send tidal waves through the title race, but couldn’t finish as Mignolet denied him on 82 minutes. Rodgers brought on a third central defender in Daniel Agger to close up shop, which they did through a nervy last ten plus four added minutes.
Suarez produced one last selfless moment in the dying minutes. With a chance to tie the Premier League goalscoring record and the goal gaping, Suarez instead decided to pass to Lucas on the edge of the area. Lucas popped two shots on goal, one which was brilliantly saved by Ruddy and the other blocked well.
The win sees Liverpool go five points clear at the top of the table and successfully capitalize on Chelsea’s defeat at Stamford Bridge. They also go nine in front of Manchester City who have a game in hand. The match now looms next week with Liverpool hosting Chelsea at Anfield, where avoiding defeat would just about wrap things up.
Norwich City – Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson; Johnson; Howson, Fer (Murphy 78'); Snodgrass; Redmond, Hooper (van Wolfswinkel).
Goals: Hooper 54'; Snodgrass 77'
Liverpool – Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan; Gerrard, Lucas, Allen (Agger 81'), Sterling, Coutinho (Moses 76'); Suarez.
Goals: Sterling 4', 62'; Suarez 11'