Thursday 19 April 2018

Lallana's late strike silences the Canaries as Liverpool edge nine-goal thriller

Norwich City 4-5 Liverpool

Adam Lallana (centre in red) watches his last-gasp winner fly towards the Norwich net. Photo: Getty
Adam Lallana (centre in red) watches his last-gasp winner fly towards the Norwich net. Photo: Getty
Alberto Moreno of Liverpool fouls Steven Naismith and gives away a penalty
The Liverpool players celebrate with manager Klopp after Adam Lallana scores the winner
Wes Hoolahan of Norwich City converts a penalty scoring his team's third goal. Photo: Getty

Paul Doyle

It is a good thing that celebrating players did not smash Jurgen Klopp's glasses until after the ninth goal because it would have been a shame for Liverpool's manager to have missed the chaos that preceded Adam Lallana's winner five minutes into added time. This was, as the German said, "spectacular, wild football" featuring marvellous attacking and slapdash defending.

The losing manager, Alex Neil, found words hard to come by after seeing his side relinquish the 3-1 lead they took early in the second half. "I don't know what to say, it's just really, really frustrating," said the Scot. "A draw would have been deserved for both teams," admitted Klopp. For much of the match, it looked like Liverpool were intent on giving things away. Luckily for them, Norwich outdid them in that regard. The visitors took the lead against the run of play in the 16th minute, through a superbly crafted goal. After a zesty move featuring Jordon Ibe, Alberto Moreno and James Miner, the latter nudged the ball through to Roberto Firmino, who shot across the advancing Declan Rudd and in off the far post. Liverpool were transformed, their play infused with new energy. Milner should have increased their lead moments later after being sent clear by Firmino, but his dawdling allowed Robbie Brady to poke the ball away.

Liverpool were made to regret that miss all the more when their difficulty with defending set-pieces re-emerged. Klopp's men floundered as they tried to clear, and when Brady nodded the ball back into the box, Dieumerci Mbokani collected it with his back to goal, held off Mamadou Sakho and then back-heeled the ball through the Frenchman's legs and into the net. Klopp was outraged at his defenders for not exposing the striker as offside.

Liverpool's defence seemed on the verge of breaking down several times thereafter, as Norwich attacked with gusto. The hosts took the lead in the 41st minute. A rapid advance down the right culminated with Wes Hoolahan collecting the ball on the edge of the area and slipping a pass through to Steven Naismith, who lashed a low shot into the far corner.

It was the perfect way for the striker to announce himself to his new home crowd following his £8m transfer from Everton. Naismith won a penalty early in the second half, although it would be more accurate to say that Alberto Moreno conceded it with a ludicrous foul. Hoolahan was a model of composure as he dinked the penalty down the middle of the goal as Mignolet dived left.

The Carrow Road faithful were still crowing about their two-goal lead when Liverpool cut it in half. Nathaniel Clyne hurtled down the right and delivered a cross that Firmino flicked on to Jordan Henderson, who swept the ball into the net from 12 yards. Klopp replaced Ibe with Adam Lallana before the hour and the change made a difference, playing a key role in the equaliser. The move was started and finished by Firmino. After flipping the ball to Milner, the Brazilian spun and dashed towards the box. Thus he was on hand to receive the ensuing cross from the left by Lallana and clip the ball past Rudd.

Neil cursed the way the next one arrived, as Russell Martin inadvertently put Milner through on goal with a reckless backpass. Unlike in the first half, Milner took the chance, slotting past Rudd. But it was not time for them to celebrate just yet. Because two minutes into stoppage time, Bassong plundered an equaliser with a ferocious low shot from 20 yards. "Well done Norwich, but I couldn't believe it," said Klopp.

Fortunately for the manager who had complained to the fourth official about five minutes time being added for stoppages, Liverpool came out the right end of the final twist. Steven Caulker made a nuisance of himself in the Norwich box and one of his shots was cleared only as far as Lallana, who battered a bouncing ball first-time into the net. Now Liverpool could celebrate, and as their players and staff staged a mass pile-on on the sideline, Klopp's glasses were crushed.


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