The biggest problem for the Canaries today wasn’t even that they were playing at Anfield. In the end, the difference in quality between the two teams was so… severe… that the game could have well ended with an uncomfortable number of balls in the visitors’ net. But Norwich made a good account of themselves, got the freak goal they needed from a lucky deflection, and suddenly were one up. It was a lovely (from their perspective) little sting, and it would have sufficed to make for perhaps the most shocking result of the season – had they scored it thirty minutes later.
As it was, it seemed to remind the Reds that there was an actual football game to play and win, and with plenty of time to get their heads in it.
Which was when the sheriff stepped in. Look, I know Tsimikas had an excellent game and will likely be voted man-of-the-match everywhere. Van Dijk similarly had a fantastic outing, and may well be chosen by some. But for me, it was our captain who made the real difference. He was the one. There is something truly special about how Jordan Henderson reacts to misfortune, and even more so, in how he inspires those around him to do the same. And so it was today. You could almost see him pulling invisible strings to raise the heads of his compatriots, who were understandably downcast after that blow. And you could definitely see him roaring his way across the midfield, chasing everything and everyone and all at once. A few minutes later, the giant awoke, the machine switched up a couple of gears, and I muttered to nobody in particular, “this could easily end up 5-1”. Not a minute after that, Mane, off a brilliant Kostas pass (a Kopass?), finally drove that bicycle kick he has been trying to hit for a while into the back of Gunn’s goal, and the game was already all over even if it wasn’t quite yet.
Hendo’s sublime assist for Luis Diaz’ first Liverpool goal – and what a way to score it, right in front of the Kop – simply put the exclamation mark on that performance. That is not to take away from the goal itself, a gorgeous dink that showed the quality of the Colombian forward. His only miss was not to run towards the Kop at that point. No worries, though, as I suspect that he will have plenty of opportunities to remediate that aspect of his celebrations.
I saved the best goal for last.
An Alisson-to-Salah assist is one of the strange hallmarks of this Liverpool era. We’ve seen them before, and when they happen (who can forget the one against United?), they feel both awe-inspiring, and oddly expected. It’s the same thing with Salah when he turns in the box on the right side; you know he is going to unleash a curler at that far corner, and yet, because he is so versatile, you just can’t prevent it because you know you’ll get punished some other way if you try. He almost scored a couple of those today, and perhaps the most amusing was in the second minute, when he found himself with so much space he bundled the shot from the sheer surprise of it. Perhaps that’s the trick for opposition defenses? Similarly, those Alisson long balls to him are well-known and, I am sure, respected by the opposition. And yet, unusual in nature as they are, they keep happening. You can’t cover everything, so you just hope that the Brazilian doesn’t see the Egyptian making that run.
Thing is, Alisson doesn’t miss much of what’s going on. So they happen.
The goal itself was all Mo, all the way. He had tons of work to do to see the ball through to the back of the net. Controlling the pass without losing his pace; dropping Angus Gunn – twice; dropping the first line of the resolute Norwich defense; and then, instead of blasting the ball, guiding it gently away from the defenders as they end up wrong footed. It really does seem sometimes like the ball likes to stick to his feet like Gorilla Glue when he dances.
And so, in the end, the Reds did their part. Rooting for Spurs is a difficult proposition, but for the next couple of hours, I do what I gotta do.