Adam Lallana strikes late as Liverpool stun Norwich in Carrow Road thriller
NORWICH, England -- Three points from Norwich 4-5 Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp's men won after trailing 3-1 and drawing 4-4 in injury time at Carrow Road.
1. Lallana settles incredible match for vulnerable Liverpool
This was a Liverpool victory that took in all aspects of their chaotic current incarnation.
A cool finish in the 75th minute from James Milner, following a suicidal back-pass from Norwich captain Russell Martin, looked to have sealed a remarkable 4-3 Liverpool win. But then came a Sebastian Bassong equaliser in the second minute of injury time. That, incredibly, was not the last of it. Substitute Adam Lallana, scuffing a shot into the ground, broke Norwich hearts to secure an even more remarkable 5-4 Liverpool win, with seconds remaining of the five minutes that had been added on.
Having exposed Liverpool's defensive vulnerabilities with two superbly executed first-half goals to soar into a 3-1 lead by the 55th minute, Norwich exhibited even greater deficiency in conceding three goals in 20 minutes and then that final blow. Alex Neil's team will be relegated if they continue to defend anything like that.
Few could have predicted the madness lying in store when Roberto Firmino scored an 18th-minute opener. Eventually the high-octane Liverpool revealed itself, as opposed to the lackadaisical, lethargic outfit that appears far too regularly in red shirts, though that guise was evident for the period between Dieumerci Mbokani's equaliser and Wes Hoolahan putting Norwich 3-1 up from the penalty spot.
Mbokani's outrageous improvisation with a back-heel flick had halted Liverpool's dominance and when Steven Naismith grabbed a 41st-minute debut goal to celebrate his £8.5 million signing from Everton, Liverpool's defensive problems were again laid bare. Another piece of penalty box imagination, this time a flick from Hoolahan, and Naismith thrashed past Simon Mignolet.
It was Naismith's determination that took Norwich into a 3-1 lead they held for just 96 seconds, as Jordan Henderson went up the other end and pulled one back. Naismith's recovery of the ball on the byline tempted Alberto Moreno into an idiotic tackle, winning a penalty that Hoolahan converted impudently.
But then Liverpool skipper Henderson smashed in from close range. If Liverpool were suffering defensive problems, Norwich embraced catastrophe in a match that pinged from one end to the other in a truly breathless second half. As Firmino scored Liverpool's equaliser after a move the Brazilian had begun and finished, a Liverpool goal became by far the more likely result, but there would be another twist beyond that.
If Liverpool's season is headed for disappointment in terms of qualifying for the Champions League, at least their fans will remember this day. They then celebrated in disbelief as Lallana grabbed three points at the last.
2. Klopp's defence struggles again
A double-page spread in the match programme reminded fans of Liverpool's previous visit to Carrow Road, back on Easter Sunday in April 2014, when a Brendan Rodgers-led team were league leaders honing in on a title destiny that they fell catastrophically short of.
"We go Norwich," Steven Gerrard famously said as part of his on-pitch team talk that had followed a 3-2 defeat of Manchester City the previous week.
Gerrard and another nine of his colleagues have since moved on, the 18-man squad list from that day confirming the huge change that Liverpool have undergone since those days in the spring of 2014. And only one of Klopp's 18 men at Carrow Road, defender Steven Caulker, on loan from QPR, had been signed on the German's watch.
The presence of Kolo Toure at centre-back betrayed the injury problems that Klopp is currently having. The 34-year-old had been playing well since he was called into action but is an emergency option and he struggled badly with the physical power of Mbokani, who also proved a handful for Mamadou Sakho. When the Congolese striker supplied his moment of magic to make it 1-1, it came between Liverpool's centre-back pairing.
Like West Ham's Andy Carroll three weeks previously and Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini's part in Wayne Rooney's winning goal at Anfield last week, a tall, physical presence caused severe problems for a defensive unit that has kept two clean sheets in its seven matches so far in 2016. And one of those came against League Two Exeter. Liverpool's vulnerability to the crossed ball and at corners is now an open secret.
If Klopp is unable to improve that, Liverpool's hopes of challenging for a title again will become even more distant.
3. Naismith's promise
If Norwich are teetering above the relegation zone, the club appears determined to spend its way out of trouble. Neil's starting lineup featured two new signings in Naismith and Portuguese right-back Ivo Pinto, signed from Dinamo Zagreb, while Swiss international Timm Klose, landed from Wolfsburg, was on the bench.
Pinto began brightly on the overlap but an early alarm was sounded by how easily he was outpaced in the 13th minute by Jordon Ibe down the wing for Liverpool's first attack. It was from his flank that Firmino's goal came and it was an obvious weak spot against which Liverpool repeatedly pressed.
Naismith, who scored his first goal in English football for Everton against their Mersey rivals in 2012, had pledged his determination to sign off from Goodison Park, where he remains highly regarded, with a goal against his now-former club's old rivals. In a little-and-large combination, he played off Mbokani and had begun to cause problems for Liverpool's leaden defence even before that first-half equaliser.
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The initial signs are that Naismith is determined to play his part in rescuing his new club from relegation and he showed little sign of being nervous with his new colleagues as he issued frequent instructions and encouragement to those around him.
Norwich will require such leadership to haul themselves from trouble. And a defence worthy of the name, too.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.