Norwich City 2 Liverpool 3
14:05 20 April 2014
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Norwich City’s stirring second half fightback failed to halt Liverpool’s Premier League title march in a pulsating contest at Carrow Road.
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez fired Brendan Rodgers’ side into an early two-goal lead. Gary Hooper reduced the arrears after the interval before Sterling cashed in on Bradley Johnson’s square pass to loop a left-footed shot up and over John Ruddy but Robert Snodgrass rose majestically above Jon Flanagan to set up a grandstand finish.
The Reds’ held on to move five points clear but City were applauded off in their own fight for survival despite failing to pull away from the bottom three. Norwich remain two points above Cardiff who occupy the final relegation place with three matches left to play.
Adams made one change from his starting line up against Fulham with Hooper replacing Ricky van Wolfsinkel up front. Seb Bassong was again omitted from the matchday squad and there was no place for either Wes Hoolahan or Luciano Becchio.
Johan Elmander and Anthony Pilkington were also not involved for the Canaries. Liverpool made two enforced changes with the suspended Jordan Henderson and the injured Daniel Sturridge (hamstring) replaced by Lucas and Joe Allen.
Liverpool started on the front foot as you would expect from a team on a 10-man winning league run with Martin Olsson requiring some early treatment for a heavy challenge trying to subdue Suarez. The Reds needed just four minutes to signal their intent when Sterling swerved around Bradley Johnson to crash a fearsome 20-yard strike past Ruddy’s despairing dive.
City tried to respond with the overlapping Steven Whittaker’s deep cross whipped back in by Jonny Howson but Hooper miscued a difficult close range chance.
Ruddy kept Liverpool at bay seconds later when Allen raced into the home penalty box unattended but slammed a first time strike at the England keeper’s legs.
Suarez continued his personal vendetta against the Canaries when he rolled home a second with barely 12 minutes gone after losing Michael Turner far too easily to despatch Sterling’s cross.
Redmond lined up Glen Johnson at the concession of a corner before Allen bundled over Snodgrass wide on the left when City had managed to retrieve the ball again. Hooper was denied six yards out by Allen’s block after attempting a stabbed strike from Redmond’s free kick.
Glen Johnson took emergency action to halt Redmond after the youngster had nut-megged the full-back but Martin Skrtel won the aerial duel from Redmond’s teasing free kick.
Liverpool tried to regain their initial dominance of territory and possession after a flurry from Adams’ side when Suarez fed Allen to lash a right-footed shot wide from 25 yards.
Snodgrass was yellow-carded for a lunging challenge on Allen right in front of the travelling support who berated the Scottish international after his punishment from referee Marriner.
Skrtel’s timely intervention prevented Snodgrass’ cross reaching Hooper five yards out before Redmond ranged forward to test Simon Mignolet with a dipping long range shot.
Leroy Fer then picked out Olsson’s overlapping run but Mamadou Sakho’s faint touch took the ball away from Hooper. Hooper then tried to collect Johnson’s spiralling pass 10 yards out but Sakho was stronger to shepherd the ball through to Mignolet. Coutinho then rifled over following a counter triggered by Skrtel inside his own penalty area.
Whittaker picked out Hooper inside the Liverpool area after the restart but the impressive Skrtel was again on hand to quell the threat.
Liverpool countered with precision when Coutinho controlled a raking pass from Steven Gerrard to cut back for Sterling who guided a left-foot strike over 10 yards out. Hooper then raced in behind Sakho but Skrtel again was on hand to head clear with Howson in attendance.
City grabbed a precious lifeline in the 55th minute when the predatory Hooper swept into an empty net after Mignolet rashly misjudged Whittaker’s hanging cross met bravely by Johnson.
Norwich survived a scare when Suarez of all people dragged just wide after checking inside Johnson and Turner just inside the Norwich penalty area.
Johnson and Norwich suffered a cruel blow in the 62nd minute during their most vibrant spell when Sterling pounced on the midfielder’s square pass to burst clear before his left foot strike hit the retreating Johnson and looped up over the stranded Ruddy.
Snodgrass tested Mignolet in the 67th minute with a left-footed hit from 20 yards the keeper shovelled behind but the Scot dragged City back into the game with a fantastic glancing header after rising above Flanagan to despatch Olsson’s dipping cross.
Adams introduced van Wolfswinkel for Hooper in the aftermath and the Dutchman planted a free header at Mignolet’s body 10 yards out with the title favourites now exhibiting visible signs of distress.
Suarez’s speculative half-volley drifted over in the first of four additional minutes. Ruddy then denied Lucas with a superb point blank stop after Suarez fended off Johnson before the home keeper surged forward into the opposition area for a free kick Liverpool managed to repel to seal the victory.
• Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson, Johnson, Howson, Fer (Josh Murphy 77), Snodgrass, Redmond, Hooper (van Wolfswinkel 77). Subs (not used): Bunn, Gutierrez, Garrido, Bennett, Tettey.
• Bookings: Snodgrass (foul on Allen 29); Turner (foul on Sterling, 45); Howson (foul on Sterling, 72)
• Goals: Hooper (55), Snodgrass (77)
• Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan, Gerrard, Lucas, Allen (Agger 81), Sterling, Coutinho (Moses 76), Suarez. Subs (not used): Jones, Toure, Cissokho, Alberto, Aspas.
• Bookings: Skrtel (foul on Redmond, 65), Flanagan (foul on Snodgrass 79)
• Goals: Sterling (4, 62), Suarez (11)
• Added on time: 2 minutes / 4 minutes
• Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)
• Attendance: 26,857