Norwich City 0 - 3 Liverpool
Liverpool: Jota 26’, Firmino 65’, Salah 74’
We are back into the Premier League grind. The expected, but still exciting news from Liverpool is that Virgil van Dijk will be starting his first game for Liverpool since October. We love to see it. In other line-up news, Diogo Jota gets the start ahead of Roberto Firmino. The midfield is a bit of a shocker. Fabinho is nowhere to be seen, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gets the call instead. It looks as though Klopp might have made the choice that Liverpool could get past Norwich while still giving Fabinho and Jordan Henderson another week to rest. Logically, we know that the first game is still only worth three points, but it always feels important to get a good start to the season.
As expected, things started out looking a bit shaky from both teams in the first five minutes of the match. Nine minutes in and Tsimikas impressed with some fancy footwork that ultimately ended with the Reds’ first corner of the game. The delivery was beautiful, but Jota’s header down the middle was saved by Krul. Liverpool began to assert themselves in possession, but Norwich were looking to get in on the break. A few minutes later, they nearly manage it, but thankfully the shot rolls wide of Alisson’s goal.
On the 17th minute, Salah got as close as they’ve come with his non-preferred right foot, but the angle was too tight.
Pukki played the the Reds’ back line perfectly, getting a throughball and requiring Alisson to make his first save of the season. Norwich woke up a bit in the 20th minute, looking more dangerous in attack and controlling the possession. Milner received the first yellow of the game for a questionable foul against Pukki.
The Reds score their first goal of the season in the 26th minute, and it’s no surprise that it’s Jota who gets the honor. Salah slid a pass through to Alexander-Arnold, who tapped it to the on-rushing Jota. Jota made no mistake, and Liverpool have the lead.
The first half ends with Liverpool managing four shots on goals to Norwich’s one, and the Reds are one goal ahead to show for it.
The second half saw no changes for the Reds, and they started off well, though the tackles are noticeably sloppier as that first game exhaustion kicks in. 53 minutes in, Jota took advantage of a loose ball in the midfield. He glided like an Olympic skater around three defenders, until finally forcing Cantwell into a yellow card tackle near the 18 yard box to avoid Krul being two-on-one. Alexander-Arnold took control of the resulting free kick. It was close, but not quite, and the Reds continued searching for their second goal of the game.
Just as the game was calling out for some fresh legs, Jota and Oxlade-Chamberlain came off for Firmino and Fabinho, respectively, 60 minutes into the match. The new players lead to a good attacking sequence that unfortunately ends with Tsimikas’ shot being saved by Krul.
And it takes all of five minutes for the impact Klopp was looking for. If Salah wasn’t going to score his own, he seemed content creating them for his teammates. His second assist of the game came at the 65th minute and started with van Dijk. The defender passed it to Mané, whose shot was blocked by a Norwich defender’s back. The rebound went straight to Salah’s feet, and he thought fast with a neat little pass to Firmino, who only needed a touch to slot it home.
Finally, the 74th minute, Salah gets his own goal and makes history, becoming the first Premier League player to score in an opening match in five consecutive seasons. The goal came off of a corner. The initial delivery was headed away. Salah got it on his right foot and maneuvered it to his left before sending a bullet straight into the back of the net.
It’s only through sheer luck and Alisson’s safe hands that Liverpool kept the Canaries out of the coal mine (am I the first person to make that joke?) in the 86th minute. A huge scramble in the box ended with the Brazilian on top and Liverpool’s clean sheet intact.
Final Thoughts and Man of the Match
That was a nice way to start out the season. While I couldn’t help but cringe whenever they showed the jammed-packed crowd (Covid! Still a thing!), it was undeniable that there’s no replacing the atmosphere with the fans cheering and chanting after a season of silence.
Who was the man of the match against Norwich City
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