After ten minutes the title was all but Liverpool's, and for a large portion of the second half it looked as though dreams of a 19th league trophy would be dashed at Carrow Road. Somewhere between euphoria and panic, Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool managed to escape from Norwich with all three points, leaving them frontrunners for their first title in 24 years.
That's now the expectation, funny as it might seem. Same old deluded Liverpool supporters and their sense of entitlement, of course. Those critiques seemed hollow before, but now the echoes are endless. Liverpool are in control of their own destiny, and for the first time in over two decades, that destiny includes a top-flight winner's medal.
What's lost in the upgrading of expectation is the significance of today's result, which secured qualification to the group stages of the Champions League for next season, an aim that admittedly seemed far-fetched prior to the season's opening day. Two goals from Raheem Sterling and a 30th on the season from Luis Suarez means that unlikely goal is now reality, and Rodgers was quick to note the significance of his side's accomplishment while also noting loftier objectives in his post-match presser:
"It was an incredible victory and big congratulations to the players because we can finish no lower than third, which guarantees Champions League football. A wonderful win. At the beginning of the season, I think everyone thought it would be a struggle for us to even get to fourth, so it shows the magnitude of the effort the players have put in, to have at least guaranteed that at this stage and have Champions League football at Anfield again next season.
"We want to be one of the very few teams to reach 100-plus goals in a season, so we've still got other objectives. But we've cemented the first objective, which was to qualify for the Champions League. Now we will look forward to next weekend, which will be a great atmosphere at Anfield."
Which means now everyone has what they want--those accusing the club of an easy ride without Champions League football can carry on mindlessly worshiping at the Temple of Mourinho and identifying newer, pettier straw men, and Liverpool supporters will have those famous European nights back.
Getting back on that perch wouldn't be so bad, either.