Norwich punish wasteful Reds

Dispatching newly promoted teams, such a Norwich City, on home turf should be considered a prerequisite for any side with Champions League aspirations.

Yet, a Liverpool side at their wasteful worst succumbed to Grant Holt’s second half equaliser. And were ultimately frustrated into settling for a stalemate by their spritely counterparts from East Anglia.

It is such profligacy which could cost Liverpool dear in the long run. Sure the occasional dropped point or two is no great cause for concern. But the Reds have had too many such occasions in the opening nine matches of the season.
Liverpool may have failed to take maximum reward from fixtures away to Spurs and at home to Man United. But that is more a disappointment rather than a concern. It is the points dropped against the likes of Sunderland, Stoke City and now Norwich which are likely to prove most costly over the course of a season.
Whether such profligate behaviour can be purely attributed to a relatively new team still bedding down and finding its rhythm, or whether there should be more deep-rooted concerns, is an issue which is not yet entirely clear.

No disrespect meant to Norwich City, who acquitted themselves well throughout. The visitors did not lack in confidence and will have considered themselves worthy – if at times fortunate – of a hard-earned point.

Liverpool dominated possession and territory, as would be expected at home against any perceivably inferior opposition. Yet, although the hosts saw a host off clear cut chances go begging, this was hardly a Liverpool performance of any great verve.
Many of those chances were squandered by an uncharacteristically misfiring Luis Suarez. Although, the fact the forward did not find the back of the net at times also owed much to some admirable goalkeeping from Norwich ‘keeper, John Ruddy.

That said, Suarez was persistently the Reds key attacking threat once again. But – no matter how great his technical ability or knack of creating something from nothing – Suarez needs more support.

Too often the dynamic Uruguayan has been left ploughing a lone furrow up front. Suarez’s vast ability is not best utilised as a lone striker or target man – although he still makes a good effort of the task.

Instead, Suarez is better when he gets more support at the top end of the pitch. In short, Liverpool need a ‘number 9’ to take some of the attentions away from their talented number 7.

But with question marks persisting over the man who is currently in possession of the number 9 jersey, Liverpool may have something of a dilemma. Andy Carroll was once again confined to the substitutes bench. Only introduced for the final 10 minutes or so, in a game which he may well have suited.

HT: Liverpool 1-1 Norwich

As it was, the second half could well have been construed as a story of two number 9’s, both introduced from the bench after the break.

Grant Holt was thrown on by Norwich manager, Paul Lambert. Something of an attacking gamble with the visitors trailing. Yet it as a wager which paid off. Holt out-jumping both Jamie Carragher and Pepe Reina to meet Wes Hoolahan’s well-flighted cross and head into an unguarded net.

At the other end of the field, from a similarly well-directed delivery in injury time, Carroll could only watch his header fly the wrong side of the post.

Dalglish had opted to grant Craig Bellamy his first league start since his return to the club, in place of the suspended Lucas. Glen Johnson also returning from injury to replace Martin Kelly at right full-back. And it was Bellamy who put Liverpool ahead moments before half-time.

The Reds had created a number of gilt edge chances in the opening 20 minutes against a Norwich side who took their time to grow into the game. In fact Liverpool could have had two in the opening 5 minutes. First, Martin Skrtel struck Ruddy’s crossbar with a header from Charlie’s Adam’s right-wing corner. Before Suarez left Leon Barnett standing, only to see his effort miscued wide of goal.
Liverpool then struck the woodwork for the second of three occasions. Ruddy this time tipping Suarez’s shot onto the post. Stewart Downing could not make more of the rebound but at that point it seemed inevitable that Liverpool’s pressure would result in the opening goal.

But by the time Liverpool were in front their superiority had actually waned some what. The Canaries grew in confidence backed by a strong travelling support. Steve Morison tested Reina’s reflexes with a strong header from the visitor’s best opening of the half.

Yet the Reds found themselves with a much needed goal with virtually the final kick of the half. Jose Enrique played a long ball down the line and, under pressure as ever from Suarez, Russell Martin deflected the ball into the path of Bellamy. The Welsh forward took up the opportunity, ran into the penalty area and sent a side-footed effort into the far corner – via a notable deflection off Marc Tierney.

In the second period Liverpool struggled to reassert anything like the degree of dominance they had enjoyed in the opening stages and build on their lead. Suarez was doing much of the work as both creator and finisher on his own. Most notably when cleverly working himself some space in the box and beating Ruddy; only for Martin to divert the effort against the post with a crucial touch.
With the score at 1-0 Norwich would always remain a threat. Anthony Pilkington had forced Reina into another save but the scores were level shortly after the hour mark.
Reina will have been left disappointed having been left in no man’s land when reaching for Pilkington’s right-wing cross. Substitute Holt timed his run and jump well to reach the ball first and power a headed equaliser into the goal in front of a bemused Kop.

Dalglish introduced Jordan Henderson and Carroll in place of Bellamy and Downing. But Liverpool’s efforts appeared in vain. And it was only in the closing moments that the home side threatened a winner.

First, Carroll fired his injury time header wide of the far post. Yet that was not to be the final chance. That, of course, fell to Suarez less than a minute later. The ball was played over the top and the striker hooked a first-time volley towards goal. The ball seemed destined for the top corner, only for Ruddy to claw it away and compound the frustrations of an anxious Anfield crowd.
There is no doubting that this was a disappointing day in the office for Kenny Dalglish and his team. The pressing concern is that there has been one too many such days in the early stages of the campaign. Whilst, in truth the Reds have rarely produced a genuinely outstanding performance to date this season.
This is sure to be something which the manager will be looking to rectify over the coming weeks. But, with the other expected contestants for the top positions now beginning to find their feet, Liverpool will need to take the initiative sooner rather than later. Otherwise risk losing ground on those above and below them.

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique, Downing, Gerrard, Adam, Bellamy, Kuyt, Suarez.

Man of the Match: LUIS SUAREZ

SuarezNot at his sharpest but Suarez was Liverpool’s main – and at times sole – attacking threat. Needs more support at times.

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