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Liverpool close the gap, now the chase is on

It was all about the bludgeoning reaction from Liverpool to surprisingly finding themselves 1-0 down at Anfield and the subtle sideshows on display, as they turned a peculiar situation around in the most impressive way.

Norwich arrived at Anfield a little too up for it in the early exchanges of this one, as they opted for a bold attacking momentum that successfully bemused Jürgen Klopp and his players for a while.

It was most definitely not what we expect from the Canaries, a team that is meant to turn into a quivering wreck as soon as they see Liverpool red, a club that perpetually seems to be involved in either a relegation fight or a battle for promotion.

I mean, hadn’t anybody at Carrow Road read the football news during the January transfer window? We are now in possession of a new South American player of great attacking intent, by the name of Luis. That alone should have been enough to cause sleepless nights for the Norwich defence.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 19, 2022: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker prays as he walks out before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Within seconds the tone was set, as Alisson was forced to take evasive action to tip over a speculative cross that turned into a compelling shot. Before long, Norwich had the ball in the back of our net in another of those incidents where a player that was clearly offside was allowed to run through and convert, before being reeled back.

These incidents are starting to feel like when kids used to be allowed to visit the flightdeck when on their when way to Torremolinos, somewhere around the mid-1980s. They ask, hopefully, if they can fly the aeroplane, but of course, they can’t. This modern version sees players who know damn well they are offside run on to plant the ball into the net, then ask, hopefully, if they can keep the goal, which of course, they can’t.

Liverpool’s riposte was for Kostas Tsimikas to indulge in a stunning miss at the back post, ballooning the ball over, when it should have been 1-0.

And so, it continued, as thrust and counterthrust went on. Luis Diaz sort of did a bit of a mis-header, while Virgil van Dijk had a header of his own pushed away to comparative safety, by Angus Gunn.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 19, 2022: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk sees his header saved during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

More chances came and went for both teams, and Norwich should have scored when Teemu Pukki passed up on a golden opportunity. We had much to play for, but so did Norwich.

Another thing that was peculiar about this one was that we were on a football pitch before Manchester City were, after what had seemed like weeks on end where it had been the other way around.

Constantly in a situation where we were having to cut the gap to Pep Guardiola’s side from 12, to nine points, this time, at least for a couple of hours, the prize on offer was shrinking the gap to six points.

Of course, we weren’t to know that there would be an extra punchline to be delivered by Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur at this stage.

Footballing psychology was at play, as a nine-point gap feels substantial, while six points feels infinitely more precarious, especially with a game in hand. The manner of Liverpool’s win, forged from a losing second half position, will undoubtedly have got under the skin at the Etihad.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 19, 2022: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker is beaten as Norwich City score the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

On the game ticked at Anfield, as Diaz sent one just over the crossbar, Mohamed Salah had a header cleared off the line, and Van Dijk had a goal disallowed. Still, Norwich sprang into life here and there, and the first half ended with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being denied by a deflection.

Nothing to panic about, though. Liverpool are all about embracing the challenge and working out the solutions to the problems posed, the biggest one being Joel Matip diverting the ball into the Liverpool net from a harmless looking Milot Rashica effort. Bad Karma for playing his teammate’s heads like a set of bongos at the San Siro, perhaps.

Whisper it, but Liverpool seemed to enjoy the ludicrous nature of it all, as the attacks on the Kop end became relentless. Mad goalmouth scrambles erupted, penalties were refused, and all the while Joshua Sargent, with a mad mop of red curly hair, looked the spit of a kid from a 1970s school photo.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 19, 2022: Liverpool's Sadio Mané scores his side's first goal to level the score 1-1 during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Substitutions took place, which left Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita looking like thunder about it. Thiago took control though, and soon we were winning.

Sadio Mane scored with a bicycle kick, just because he’s an Africa Cup of Nations winner, and he is allowed to do stuff like that. Gunn was so dumbfounded that he just opted to fall over after the ball had gone past him. The greatest thing about this goal was that Mane couldn’t be doing with celebrating it, as he just wanted to get on with winning the game.

In this respect, he instigated what happened next.

Salah made it 2-1, with utter madness. It was Alisson with the assist, as Salah sat the goalkeeper down, before rolling the ball past the Norwich defenders, in a reversal of the usual order of things.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 19, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Keita’s response on the bench was one of quizzical joy.

Party pieces galore, Thiago pinged a ball to Salah, which he controlled and arched just wide, and then Jordan Henderson played in Diaz for his first goal in a Liverpool shirt.

One of the best things about Diaz is that he’s just not arsed about what opposing players have to say or do. He offers no reaction whatsoever to what they throw at him, which I suppose comes quite naturally to you when you’ve been born and grown up in a Colombian coal mining and agricultural community.

The fun wasn’t even over yet, as Mane should have made it four for a three-goal buffer.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 19, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp punches the air as he celebrates with the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fair play to Norwich for their approach, they contributed massively to an entertaining afternoon. Play like that in the games ahead and they’ll soon be worrying Everton, just like everybody else is.

Gap down to six, it’s now up to us to make sure it shrinks to three when Leeds United roll into Anfield on Wednesday night.

The chase is on, but we need to ensure there is no let-up on our part.

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