Liverpool came within a couple of points of winning the English title last season, settling instead for its sixth European crown in the end. But if Friday’s opening match of the new Premier League season is any indication, the Reds’ 30-year championship drought might well fall next spring.
Holders Manchester City obviously will have something to say about that. Still, the Reds’ utter and complete dominance of newly promoted Norwich City in the 4-1 win at Anfield was clearly a statement of intent.
Liverpool’s goals came early and often
It’s not like the Canaries are terrible. Norwich won the second-tier Championship last season by a wide margin. They have enough quality players to avoid going right back down this season.
They still had no answers for Jurgen Klopp’s team, which put them under relentless pressure from the start. It took less than seven minutes for the hosts to capitalize, when defender Grant Hanley inadvertently steered a Divock Origi cross past Norwich keeper Tim Krul and into his own net:
Mohamed Salah scored the second goal to double Liverpool’s lead before the contest was 20 minutes old, taking a slick pass from striker Roberto Firmino — who enters the season healthy after missing significant time last year because of injury — and quickly slotting past Krul with his left foot:
And so it went. Reigning PFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk made it a rout when he added the Reds’ third goal before the half-hour mark, and Origi made it 4-0 just before the teams headed the the dressing rooms at halftime. It’s only the sixth time in Prem history that a scoreline has been so one-sided at the break.
In truth, Liverpool’s advantage could’ve been even larger. Klopp’s side created chance after chance. Krul came up huge on one of them, diving to his left to stop Firmino’s acrobatic volley from close range.
Krul made another fine save with just over five minutes left in the match when he parried a wicked free kick from right back Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Look for Norwich to rebound
Again, the final score wasn’t an indictment of Norwich. Believe it or not, the Canaries actually outshot Liverpool 7-6 in the first half. Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson was forced to make a good save before leaving the field with a leg ailment (more on that below).
One could even make the case that the visitors were the better team in the second half. First substitute Moritz Leitner hit the crossbar with a tight-angle shot that beat backup keeper Adrian, then two minutes laster Teemu Pukki scored the only goal of the final 45 minutes:
Norwich even managed a few more half-chances before the final whistle blew, forcing one last stop from Adrian.
Alisson injury the lone negative for the Reds
All in all it was a banner day for Liverpool, with one big exception: the injury that took starting goalkeeper Alisson out of the match.
The big Brazilian has been one of Klopp’s most important players since arriving from Roma last summer, so it would be a major blow to the Reds’ title hopes if he was sidelined for a significant length of time.
It’s too early to know how serious the injury is, but the way it happened has to be worrying. Alisson went down clutching his right leg after a routine goal kick and had to be helped off the field.
And while the 32-year-old Spaniard Adrian is a capable replacement in the short term, he was beaten out for the starting job at West Ham last season. In other words, he’s probably not a guy that can backstop a club to a title.
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