Norwich City 2: Morison 61'; Holt 87'
Liverpool 5: Suarez 2', 38', 57'; Şahin 47'; Gerrard 68'
As has been the case recently, Brendan Rodgers was bold with his team selection, choosing Suso and Andre Wisdom to start on the left wing and at right-back respectively. Both made their Premier League debuts, underlining Rodgers' words from yesterday about the need to prove one's self, with Stewart Downing on the bench and Jose Enrique out completely. Wisdom's inclusion meant that Glen Johnson started on the left again, and Suso ended up on the right side of the forward line, with Raheem Sterling on the left and Luis Suarez centrally. As expected, Nuri Şahin joined Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen in midfield, and Daniel Agger made his return alongside Martin Skrtel in defense.
And before you even had time to settle in, Liverpool were up 1-0 as Luis Suarez skimmed a shot past John Ruddy from inside the area. It wasn't the type of goal that Liverpool have scored much of lately--not hit very hard, chances for a deflection, keeper not too far off. But this one went in, and Liverpool got off to the best possible start given their profligacy over the past year.
What unfolded from there was a composed, dominant display from the visitors, who continued to create a number of chances and maintained possession easily. Agger nearly headed Liverpool two-up from a Suso corner, and the young Spaniard had a chance of his own blocked after cutting in from the right. It was clear that the only way Norwich were going to deny Liverpool was by fouling, and with a tone set by referee Mike Jones--who denied Suarez a clear, unquestionable penalty after Leon Barnett clobbered him--that allowed for the hosts to be overly physical without threat of a booking.
Liverpool created a flurry of chances despite that, and they eventually led to a stunning second for Suarez. The Uruguayan had first lobbed an inch-perfect ball that Gerrard headed straight at Ruddy, and then wasted a one-on-one with the goalkeeper by rolling it well wide. Seconds later he made amends, though, dispossessing Michael Turner, nutmegging him, and then curling a wonderful strike with the outside of his right foot around Ruddy. It was a stunning goal, one that instantly erased any frustration created by his wastefulness moments earlier.
Norwich were able to threaten before the first half ended, and they very nearly cut Liverpool's lead to one inside a minute of the restart, only for Robert Snodgrass to deflect wide of goal from a few feet in front of Pepe Reina's goal. Liverpool's response was immediate, pushing their lead to three goals after Suarez jinked through a few defenders at the other end and laid off for Nuri Şahin, who tapped home with ease.
The lead became four on 57 minutes, and it was Suarez yet again, getting his second hat-trick in as many visits to Carrow Road. It was straightforward stuff, curling around a defender (and taking the slightest deflection) into the bottom corner, and it couldn't have been delivered in front of a more deserving set of supporters. They'd been keen to boo and hiss at the striker all day, and here could only make their wanking motion half-heartedly as the Uruguayan stood on the edge of the penalty area, arms outstretched.
Steve Morison scraped one back for the hosts shortly after, however, with Pepe Reina spilling the initial shot and Morison pounding in the rebound. The sides traded goals once more before it was over, with Raheem Sterling laying for Steven Gerrard to bounce off a defender and in, and Grant Holt took advantage of a Martin Skrtel slip by streaking towards goal and bending it around Reina at the far post in the 87th minute.
If nothing else, today showed that watching Liverpool can be fun. Not just the fireworks and explosions and cleavage type of fun--which Luis Suarez provided--but the type of fun one can have while watching a performance that is utterly dominant in so many different facets of a match. It wasn't perfect; late errors in defense still worry, and there were a few individual performances that didn't quite mesh on the whole (Steven Gerrard, at times, being one of them).
But the "death by football" talk that started doing the rounds late in the match wasn't misplaced, and for the first time this season we got a Liverpool win that was created by a comprehensive performance. They finished the chances their pressing and possession created, and they passed the opposition into the ground. OptaLiverpool had them at 734, an absurd number, and various source had Liverpool with 65% of possession. Away from Anfield, that's fantastic, and what's even better is that the gaudy numbers actually paid off.
Suarez takes the headlines deservedly, harrying the Norwich back line and getting his rewards for doing so with three well-taken goals. He benefited from the work of Suso and Raheem Sterling, even if the latter ran into his first challenge of the season and showed some youthful impatience. Turns out he is human after all. He found more joy on the right, where Suso had been very good before coming off on 60 minutes for Oussama Assaidi.
Nuri Şahin picked up where he left off on Wednesday, classing his way around the park and spending much of his time in the more advanced role. Joe Allen slid into anonymity, which isn't so much a condemnation of his play as it is an example of what he's meant to do--leave the flash to others, keep things moving, pop up when needed. Gerrard was good, not great, and showed some regression to his pre-United play, and it's clear that there's still adjusting to do if he's going to fit.
As mentioned, the errors at the back took some of the shine off the win, but the defense had previously been very good, with Andre Wisdom confident in his debut and Daniel Agger showing little effects from his injury against United. Glen Johnson continued to flourish on the left, and Skrtel and Reina, the parties at fault for Norwich's goals, had been solid prior to erring.
In the end, Liverpool played very well and they won because of it. No lamentations about missed chances and being the better side despite the result. No reason to point fingers at points dropped because of a terrible decision by a referee, even if it was a jaw-droppingly horrific no-call. Just Liverpool playing very well, and getting the result their performance deserved. They should do this more often.