Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admitted that Norwich City had given his team a scare, but was delighted with the way they held their nerve to take a five-point lead on top of the Premier League with a 3-2 win at Carrow Road.
• Brewin: Job done
Two goals from Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez with his habitual strike against the Canaries proved enough to hold off the relegation battlers, who made Liverpool sweat with second-half goals from Gary Hooper and Robert Snodgrass.
“It was a brilliant win for us, that,” Rodgers told a news conference after the game. “It was a great game tactically. The first 15-20 minutes we showed great quality and we were nerveless.
“They changed their shape and they got a goal and it gave them and the crowd a bit of momentum. In the second half we had to show our resilience.”
The win allowed Liverpool to capitalise on Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to Sunderland on Saturday evening, and Manchester City’s 2-2 draw with the same opponents last week. City play West Bromwich Albion on Monday night, and have to win to keep their hopes of a second Premier League title alive.
Rodgers, while trying his best to sidestep too much title talk, celebrated his team meeting a key objective. “We can finish no lower than third, which guarantees Champions League football,” he said. “We’ve cemented our first objective which everyone would have taken.”
Liverpool were given a prematch lift at their team hotel, when news of Chelsea’s home loss to Sunderland came through, but Rodgers preferred to keep the credit for his team.
“No-one's helped us to win 11 games or score 96 goals,” he said. “We really focus on ourselves. We never get too wrapped up in other managers and their games. It counts for nothing if we don’t do our own job. It certainly helps with three games to go, but you have to help yourselves.
“The players give me everything. Eleven games on the spin is an incredible achievement.”
Luis Suarez reached 30 Premier League goals for the season when scoring Liverpool’s second, and is within one strike of equalling the record jointly held by Cristiano Ronaldo (in 2007-08) and Alan Shearer (1995-96) for a 38-game season.
"It is important for myself but my target is to help the team every time,” Suarez told Sky Sports afterwards. “We are on the top now and we enjoy that."
Next Sunday, should Liverpool manage to defeat Chelsea -- who will be midway through a Champions League semifinal with Atletico Madrid -- then they will be on the brink of their first title in 24 years.
"In football you never know what will happen,” said Suarez. “We will keep calm and focus on the next game against Chelsea."
Rodgers spoke of his excitement of the Chelsea crunch match. “It's going to be a brilliant game, Chelsea coming to Anfield,” he said. “The supporters will be right up for it, the team will look forward to it.”
Norwich are just two points from the drop zone, and face an arduous fixture list in their final three matches -- Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
"I thought we deserved something from the game, particularly with the second-half performance,” said Canaries manager Neil Adams to Sky Sports.
"We had that belief we could go on and do something against a top side and the key message from that is that we've got three key games coming up. The second-half performance is what we need in those three and if we can do that we're still very confident we can get enough points to stay in the division."
“Brendan Rodgers has been generous enough to say what a second-half performance [it was] from us, and he means it as well,” added Adams in his news conference.