I wrote this match review almost four years ago. It wasn't any better then. An already frustrating season, a bunch of shots but just one goal, a keeper error equalizer around the hour mark, an inability to reclaim the lead despite 30 minutes of pressure.
It's déjà vu all over again.
Sure, Liverpool played better than we've seen for the majority of the season. Liverpool were at home, Liverpool were against Norwich. But it wasn't good enough, and Liverpool still screwed it up, because Liverpool still couldn't finish enough of their chances, and Liverpool again conceded an unnecessary set play goal. Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Sturridge's return made Liverpool better, having a strike partner made Benteke better. The switch to 3-4-1-2 made Liverpool better. Sakho and Moreno back in the side made Liverpool better. It was more than a bit frustrating at the beginning – Liverpool's midfield struggled to assert control, Liverpool's forwards were close but not quite close enough to connecting, Liverpool still failed to create the amount of chances you'd expect from the amount of possession – but there was only one team in the match in the opening half.
Those are the sort of foibles you'd expect from an unfamiliar XI in a new formation, but Liverpool and Rodgers don't have enough credit in the bank to have earned much patience.
That Benteke had to go off with a tight hamstring at halftime caused concerns, but it was his replacement who opened the scoring: Lucas pressing Norwich into a mistake in their own half, Moreno's deft pass over the back line, Ings' lovely control and shot between Ruddy's legs. Finally, the breakthrough, the moment Liverpool needed to push on in this match and revive the already flagging season.
Not quite. Sturridge had a fierce shot blocked, Coutinho put two off-target, and Norwich settled down after a short-lived tilt. And, because Liverpool, Norwich's first corner led to Norwich's first shot inside Liverpool's box, which was Norwich's first shot on-target. And Norwich's equalizer. Mignolet charged out to punch Brady's cross – something he did to excellent effect against Bordeaux, something he's gotten better at since returning to the side last December – and wholly failed, pushing it straight to an open Russell Martin, the center-back who also happens to be Norwich's top scorer. Control, flick, goal. Sigh.
At least it didn't get worse? Liverpool should have been behind less than five minutes later, when Sakho made his only mistake of the match, Redmond charged down Liverpool's left, and both Skrtel and Can failed to intercept the low cross. Somehow, Mignolet saved Jarvis' point-blank shot. A small bit of redemption, but his mistake's going to last a lot longer in the memory.
Then, the usual "flurry" without reward. Lallana replacing Sturridge, Firmino replacing Lucas, a switch to 4-3-3. Good efforts from Firmino and Moreno denied by Ruddy; Coutinho released on the break, but shooting too close to Norwich's keeper; Lallana and Ings nearly dancing through the box, but the latter unable to take the shot after rounding Ruddy; Lallana's half-volley nearly-but-not-quite redirected on goal by Can. Another Liverpool failure, when there have already been too many failures this season, and there's already next to no room for error.
Liverpool haven't scored twice in a match since May 2nd, against relegated QPR, 11 matches ago.
Liverpool haven't scored three in a match since February 10th, against Tottenham, 27 matches ago.
Liverpool have dropped 17 points after scoring first since the start of last season – draws against Everton, Arsenal, Leicester, and now Norwich; losses against Palace (twice) and Chelsea – and that doesn't include cup matches against Boro, Ludogorets, Villa, and Bordeaux.
So, Liverpool still can't score, and even when they do, Liverpool often can't hold onto a lead. No matter if Rodgers' line-up and in-game decisions all seemed sound today, that's still a recipe for the manager getting fired. Were this a fluke, a one-off, then fine, take the point, grumble, and move on. But it's hard to call it a fluke when we've suffered through this movie for a full calendar year. This was what doomed the aforementioned 2011-12 campaign, and we at least had the consolation of cup runs then. Now, we're in season two of this nonsense.
If Liverpool continue to play like that, there's a reasonable chance things will improve. Sakho – the terrifying moment aside – and Moreno improved the side, Sturridge's return will make a world of difference, Firmino and Ings both had encouraging cameos when played in central positions. Ings' workrate terrorized Norwich's defense; Sturridge is going to adore playing with him. But it's hard to look ahead with any optimism when the past has been so dire and the present remains dire.
Liverpool need improvement now. Rodgers needs improvement now. Neither have the time to slowly improve, especially not with the already furious, divided fan base. The situation's quickly becoming untenable, if it's not already.
This four-match home run was supposed to be the fresh start everyone needed. And Liverpool's already fallen at the first hurdle.