Liverpool 5, Norwich City 0
PUBLISHED: 17:03 19 January 2013 | UPDATED: 16:17 21 January 2013
Norwich City were sent crashing to their fifth defeat in six Premier League games as Liverpool hammered five goals past them for the second time this season.
The game at Anfield beat the weather but the Canaries must have been wishing it had not as they were completely swept aside by their hosts.
Chris Hughton’s team currently look a shadow of the side that went 10 league games unbeaten before Christmas, and though they were without key defender Sebastien Bassong, it was hardly an excuse for such a capitulation.
Ryan Bennett, who replaced Bassong, might have given City an early lead when he planted a free header straight at Liverpool keeper Brad Jones, but from the moment Jordan Henderson fired Liverpool ahead on 26 minutes, it was a virtual procession.
Luis Suarez made it 2-0 after 36 minutes from a Lucas pass, and any hope of a fightback was extinguished on 59 minutes when £12m signing Daniel Sturridge scored the third from Stewart Downing’s cross.
Steven Gerrard’s low drive made it 4-0 after 66 minutes and the fifth came eight minutes later when Ryan Bennett diverted Raheem Sterling’s effort into his own net.
After their 5-2 defeat by Liverpool at Carrow Road in September, their goal difference took another battering in a totally one-sided affair.
There were four changes to the City starting line-up from the 0-0 draw against Newcastle. Defender Bassong was a surprise absentee from the squad, with Ryan Bennett brought in to partner Michael Turner in the back four.
Wes Hoolahan, Anthony Pilkington and Simeon Jackson were dropped to the bench with Jonny Howson, Elliott Bennett and skipper Grant Holt back in the side – Holt making his first start since the Boxing Day defeat by Chelsea.
Only Russell Martin, Bradley Johnson and Elliott Bennett survived from the City starting eleven in the corresponding fixture last season.
Liverpool gave a first Premier League start for the club to Sturridge as one of four changes. Sturridge, Henderson and Jamie Carragher replaced Sterling, Joe Allen and Martin Skrtel, while there was also a change in goal with Brad Jones replacing Pepe Reina, who was out with a thigh strain.
Despite fears over the weather, and it was a bitterly cold day, snow had not fallen in the amounts forecast and Anfield and its surrounds were perfectly clear for the game.
Liverpool created the first opening in the third minute when Downing headed wide from a cross by Suarez after Glen Johnson had made good progress down the left.
City were operating with four across midfield, Elliott Bennett taking the left-sided role, and Howson supporting Holt in the role normally given to Hoolahan.
Holt won a free-kick under challenge from Gerrard and the dead-ball kick almost provided the opening goal as Snodgrass picked out the unmarked Ryan Bennett but the defender put his free header straight at Jones.
Downing fired just wide as Liverpool hit back, and with 12 minutes gone, there was a better opening as Suarez set up Sturridge for a low shot that Bunn smothered.
Suarez showed some dazzling footwork to get away from Turner and tried to set up Henderson for a shot and, as the ball came back to Suarez, he produced a smart effort from a tight angle that Bunn grabbed as the second attempt.
Garrido cleared at the expense of a corner, which Downing played short, but Holt was back to hammer the ball clear. Gerrard then let fly from long range from Suarez’s pass but was well off target, and Bunn came out well to claim a cross from Glen Johnson.
City forced their first corner when Elliott Bennett’s cross was deflected out, but the kick by Snodgrass was headed away.
But it was Liverpool who went ahead on 26 minutes with a cracking goal by Henderson.
Howson managed to harry the ball away from Suarez but Elliott Bennett’s attempt to poke the ball away fell perfectly for Henderson to swivel and strike a powerful half-volley from 20 yards that gave Bunn no chance.
Henderson, encouraged by that success, tried another half-volley from further out on 35 minutes, but this time Bunn was right behind it.
But one minute later it was 2-0 as Sturridge dummied a pass by Lucas, leaving Turner in his wake, and Suarez raced clear to tuck a right-foot shot past Bunn via the foot of the post.
City rallied quite well and after Tettey had a shot deflected wide, Holt struck a powerful volley that Wisdom headed clear, just in front of Jones.
Glen Johnson earned the day’s first yellow card for bringing down Snodgrass in full flight, but Garrido’s free-kick was easily cleared.
Bunn saved well in first half stoppage time from Sturridge after Suarez had put him through, just about keeping the Canaries in the game at the interval.
• Half-time: Liverpool 2, Norwich City 0
Four minutes after the break, Tettey volleyed wide from the edge of the penalty area, and at the other end Johnson wriggled through but his cross drifted across the six-yard box, and Bunn had to save from Gerrard, though the flag was already up for offside.
Wisdom fired horribly wide after bringing Gerrard’s crossfield pass under control, to spare the keeper having to make another save.
Downing was well off target with another effort as Liverpool continued to press, but with 59 minutes gone, he had a hand in goal number three.
Henderson picked out Downing on the right and while there was a hint of offside, the winger’s first-time cross eluded Bunn and Sturridge had the simple task of scoring his third goal in as many games for Liverpool.
A foul on Snodgrass gave City a free-kick on the right, but his kick was headed away by Agger, and with 25 minutes to go the first change was made as Hoolahan replaced Elliott Bennett, with Howson switching to the wide left role.
Hoolahan was on the pitch only a few seconds, however, when it was 4-0. Glen Johnson made unhindered progress on the left and squared the ball for Gerrard, who had all the time in the world to pick his spot and drill a low shot inside Bunn’s right-hand post.
Liverpool made a double change with just over 20 minutes to go as Sterling and Borini replaced Lucas and Sturridge.
To their credit, the City fans who braved the journey were still in good voice but as “On the Ball, City” rang out, Liverpool scored a fifth.
Substitute Sterling got away from Turner and slipped the ball across goal where Ryan Bennett got the final touch, poking it into his own net.
With 13 minutes left, Liverpool made their final change with Allen replacing Henderson.
Snodgrass was booked for a foul on Sterling and Russell Martin needlessly conceded a corner as the afternoon continued on its grim path towards the final whistle.
With four minutes left, Snodgrass made way for Pilkington in City’s second change.
City fans were congratulated by the public address announcer for their efforts in travelling to the game and wished a safe journey home – but had little reward for their loyalty.
• Liverpool: Jones; Wisdom, Carragher, Agger, Glen Johnson; Downing, Lucas (Sterling, 69), Gerrard, Henderson (Allen, 77); Sturridge (Borini, 69), Suarez. Subs (not used): Gulasci, Shelvey, Skrtel, Robinson.
• Norwich City: Bunn; Russell Martin, Turner, Ryan Bennett, Garrido; Snodgrass (Pilkington, 86), Tettey, Bradley Johnson, Elliott Bennett (Hoolahan, 65); Howson; Holt. Subs (not used): Rudd, Tierney, Barnett, Jackson, Kane.
• Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
• Attendance: 44,901
• Goals: Liverpool: Henderson (26), Suarez (36), Sturridge (59), Gerrard (66), Ryan Bennett (og 74).
• Bookings: Liverpool: Glen Johnson (42). City: Snodgrass (80)