As has become the norm, Liverpool batter Norwich for most of the ninety minutes, getting five goals at Anfield and breezing past an inept and indifferent opposition.
Liverpool 5: Henderson 26', Suarez 36', Sturridge 59', Gerrard 66', RBennett (og) 74'
Brendan Rodgers has been fairly predictable this season, for better or worse, and while there were a couple surprises in the eleven, they weren't exactly earth-shattering--Stewart Downing was always going to be in the picking and ended up starting alongside Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in attack, and with Martin Skrtel either rested or injured, Jamie Carragher came into the back four to get just his second league start of the season. Pepe Reina was a late scratch due to a reported thigh injury (and as it turns out, a broken nose), meaning Brad Jones came in for another start, and the midfield thankfully saw Jordan Henderson return to join Steven Gerrard and Lucas.
There was very little to discuss in either direction for most of the opening fifteen or so minutes, with Norwich sitting back patiently and Liverpool testing around the edge of the attacking third. Most notable was some of the intent defensively for the hosts; Gerrard led the charge on a few different occasions, tackling firmly and working hard to win the ball back. It was a sight we hadn't seen for awhile, but with the pressure growing on the visitors, it set the stage for what would become a completely one-sided affair.
Liverpool finally got their goal with nearly half an hour gone, as some good work from Luis Suarez looked to fizzle after he lost possession. Jordan Henderson was in perfect position, though, and after it bounced his way, he unleashed an unstoppable curling half-volley into the far side, leaving Mark Bunn with no chance. It was a fantastic strike and just his third league goal for the club, and a deserved return for the improvements he's displayed over the past few months.
They wouldn't get another for ten minutes, but Norwich hadn't threatened since Ryan Bennett's early header straight at Brad Jones, and when Suarez ran onto a Lucas pass--wonderfully dummied by Daniel Sturridge just inside the Norwich half--the Uruguayan found himself alone on goal. He finished easily with his left, bumping his tally against the Canaries to seven in three matches and essentially killing the match off.
The second half was played mostly at a trot, and, in the words of Mr. Sanchez in the matchday thread, was best summed up as "everyone scored, Norwich stopped trying." Liverpool produced everything worth watching, with Henderson spreading play wide to Downing for a first-time right-footed cross that Sturridge tapped in for his third in three matches, Gerrard lacing a vintage daisy cutter for the fourth, and Raheem Sterling (who came on for Lucas in the 70th minute) forcing Bennett into an own goal after beating Michael Turner on the left to round off the scoring.
With the week ending on a mostly frustrating note--transfer rumors, Ian Ayre, Rodgers and Suarez battle of words etc. etc., it was just nice to see an actual match, but it gradually became terrific fun to see the performance that Liverpool turned in. Norwich were abject and fairly useless, yes, but the hosts dominated the match and piled it on in a manner that we've become accustomed to when these two sides meet.
Those familiar with the site will forgive me for the hyperbole about Jordan Henderson, who had another very good match in central midfield and got one of the better goals we've seen over the past few weeks. Once again his workrate and increased confidence aided the side, and with both Steven Gerrard and Lucas excelling in their respective roles, Liverpool's midfield looked sorted. I know we took opinions earlier in the week about what makes the most sense, but after today, it'd be hard to argue against those three getting a consistent run together.
Equally enjoyable was the work done at the bookends, although there was very little for the back five to do. Brad Jones got another clean sheet and extended his unbeaten run in the Premier League, Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger combined well, and each of Glen Johnson and Andre Wisdom were very good, with the former again asserting himself as the top fullback around, regardless of which side he's on.
The other end provided both goals and encouragement, even if Stewart Downing's play was mostly what we've come to expect other than the assist for Daniel Sturridge's tap-in. The new signing has proven to be everything Liverpool has been missing, and despite an early bit of tunnel vision that caused him to miss a wide-open Glen Johnson streaking into the box, he again showed good vision and distribution, with positioning and timing in attack that consistently caused a threat. Add that to the work of Luis Suarez, who again gave Norwich defenders nightmares, and Liverpool's work in the final third was a joy to watch.
As always, consistency's the key, and unless Liverpool build off today's win, it means little in the long run. We've been here a few different times this season, both against this opposition and others. But it feels like there's more getting settled throughout the squad, and if those involved can continue to perform at a high level, the latter part of the season's at least got the potential to maybe not be the worst.