Liverpool got their Premier League redemption campaign off to a flying start, riding a blistering first half to trounce Norwich City 4-1 at Anfield in the opening game of the season on Saturday morning.
The first goal of the new Premier League season was an own goal by Norwich’s captain Grant Hanley who sliced a Divock Origi cross past Tim Krul and into his own net seven minutes in.
Mohamed Salah made it two before the game had reached 20 minutes when a fortunate ricochet fell to Roberto Firmino who played the Egyptian through on goal for a tidy finish.
And it was three inside half an hour when Virgil van Dijk thumped home a Mohamed Salah corner with his head without even needing to jump for the ball.
The Reds’ goalkeeper was forced off due to injury after slipping when taking a merely routine goal kick, slightly dampening the mood around Anfield as the Kop held concerns for their Brazilian goalkeeper.
Divock Origi soon lifted the mood though, picking up where left off last season with a fourth goal before half time in his 100th appearance for the club. The Belgian latched onto a delightful Trent Alexander-Arnold ball to guide a header into the net.
Teemu Pukki pulled a goal back just past the hour for Norwich with a crisp finish into the bottom left corner after substitute buerndia played him in behind.
Jordan Henderson would later hit the crossbar as the Reds chased more goals, but the Anfield faithful ultimately went home happy as the European champions got off to the perfect start to the new season.
Welcome back to the Premier League
Much intrigue surrounded Norwich’s return to the top flight under Daniel Farke after their rampant revival in the Championship that saw them win the league with 94 points after accruing just 60 points the previous season.
The Canaries started the game well and showed a great intent to get at the Liverpool defence and chase goals attacking the Kop end in the first half, but this proved to be a bold yet naïve mistake.
Norwich witnessed first hand the difference between the Championship and the Premier League. Against a Championship team they might have been two or three goals up by half time, but the Reds are a different proposition.
Each gap that Farke’s men left in their defence was exploited in an instant by the ruthlessness of Liverpool’s attacking play, a cutting edge that Norwich did not quite have going the other way.
With Chelsea and Manchester City still to play within their opening five fixtures, the Canaries can bring plenty of learnings from this and much better results will come for them.
Defensive frailties need work
Against a more clinical opponent, Liverpool might not have been so fortunate in recording a victory of this nature solely down to the chances that they allowed Norwich to create. Marco Stiepermann had two open shots at the top of the box that he blazed over the bar and fired a third that stung Alisson’s palms in the first half.
Moritz Leitner came on to hit the crossbar in the second half as Daniel Farke’s side continue to show bravery and what Jurgen Klopp labelled “cheekiness” in his post-match comments.
As commanding as Liverpool were going forward, they seemed to be susceptible to a ball played through the defence or to the likes of Stiepermann and Todd Cantwell picking it up between the lines.
The Reds kept clean sheets in each of their opening three games last season and did not concede at home until matchday 10, their fifth home game of the season.
There were glimpses of some lax defending at Wembley against Manchester City last weekend and again at Anfield in this match, and with Alisson now likely to be out for an extended period of time, Jurgen Klopp will be keen to iron out these problems as soon as possible.
Plenty more to come
The opening game of the season – and indeed much of the first few weeks of a new campaign – is always about teams finding their feet in the new season, getting back to playing football and piecing together all of the pre-season training. Neither Liverpool or Norwich played close to their best football in this game and there will be more to come from both for the remainder of the season.
For Norwich especially, this result will be an eye opener for what it is in store for them this season, but there was more than enough in their performance to suggest that they will have a successful campaign.
Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons were excellent at both full-back positions while Cantwell showed his ability to distribute the ball through the midfield, culminating in Pukki’s ability to finish inside the penalty area.
Liverpool’s attacking play was again superb, with Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi and Salah all amongst the best players on the pitch and Alexander-Arnold reacquainting himself with his tremendous range of passing.
Both sides will need to improve defensively and physical capabilities will continue to improve with more training and more games under the belt, but ultimately for both sides, in very different circumstances, there were positive signs to begin the new campaign.