23 January 2016

Liverpool 5-4 Norwich

Firmino 18' 63'
Mbokani 29'
Naismith 41'
Hoolahan 54' (pen)
Henderson 55'
Milner 75'
Bassong 90+3'
Lallana 90+5'

Thankfully, Norwich were more Norwich than Liverpool were Liverpool. Five bloody four. I can't even.

It was the best of Liverpool and the worst of Liverpool and nothing in between. And the best eked out a victory over the worst. Barely. So many Liverpool mistakes at the back – from set plays, from open play – and not for the first time, but a surprising amount of fight up front. The much-mocked "character." Five goals in a league match for the first time since Luis Suarez was a Liverpool player. Coming back from two goals down, then finding an 95th minute winner after conceding an equalizer in the 93rd.

12 shots on-target from the two sides led to nine goals. Defending is dead, and you're urinating on the ashes.

Stop me if you're heard this one before. Liverpool score first, but the opposition equalize. The opposition equalize from a corner, its first corner no less. The opposition equalizer from its first shot on-target.

Firmino's opener came from a surprisingly decent move: Moreno bombs down the left, centers to Milner, a throughball to Firmino, his shot off Rudd but also off the post into the goal. But Liverpool fail to push on from the opener, Milner fails to even get a shot off when one-on-one with the keeper three minutes later, delaying just long enough to allow Brady to make a recovery tackle. And Norwich grow into the game. And 11 minutes after Liverpool score, Liverpool concede: a corner not cleared, Norwich beating Liverpool to three of four aerial duels, Toure losing who he's supposed to be marking and Mbokani controlling in front of Sakho before a clever back-heel which beats Mignolet. It took Liverpool 13 minutes to concede an equalizer from a corner after scoring the opener in the reverse fixture.

You're supposed to be getting better, not worse.

It's the 10th-consecutive league match where if Liverpool concede, it's from the first shot on-target that Liverpool allow. It's the 9th time that Liverpool conceded an equalizer after taking a 1-0 lead: five times in Rodgers' 11 matches, four times in Klopp's 24 matches. This was the first match that Liverpool won, at least within 90 minutes, needing penalties to beat Carlisle 1-1.

29 minutes gone, an unnecessary but not unexpected equalizer conceded. Liverpool knocked back. Liverpool on tilt, conceding a second when Can and Lucas obstinately refused to track Naismith's run, a no-angle shot somehow beating Mignolet. Liverpool conceding a third when Moreno twice fouled Naismith in the box, the first uncalled, the second so obvious it actually hurt, with Mignolet guessing correctly on Hoolahan's penalty but unable to stop it.

Three Norwich shots on-target. Three Norwich goals. Combine that with Arsenal's third goal and United's lone goal, and Liverpool had conceded five goals from the last five shots on-target in the league. Mignolet's certainly earning that new contract.

1-3 down. An early kickoff away from home. An underwhelming, to say the least, Liverpool performance. Opposition that Liverpool should really be beating, that has no right to be two goals ahead of Liverpool before an hour's gone. Seemingly, 0-2 at West Ham all over again.

But a minute after Norwich's third, Liverpool pull one back: Liverpool build from the back, Clyne's cross, Firmino's touch on, Henderson's half volley from 12 yards out. And Liverpool slowly, surely, reassert themselves upon proceedings, aided immensely by the often (and rightfully) criticized Adam Lallana. Firmino gets his second, Liverpool's equalizer, when Liverpool quickly break from the back down the left: Firmino to Milner to Lallana, a first-time cross to a wide-open Firmino, one touch, goal. Milner gives Liverpool the lead thanks to Russell Martin's unbelievable blind back-pass, Liverpool finally scoring when a player's one-on-one with the opposition keeper, making amends for the earlier untaken chance in the 21st minute.

4-3, with 15 minutes to go. Just don't do anything stupid. Ha.

For 18 minutes, Liverpool "succeeded." Hoof, clear, regroup. Fine. Sure, it's Norwich, but any port in a storm. Then, in the 93rd minute, a deep free kick when Benteke was stupidly, unnecessarily caught offside. Thumped forward, Liverpool unable to win the header. A bouncing ball, hammered in by Bassong – off all people; a player who hadn't scored a league goal since December 2012 – from just outside the box, only the second league goal that Liverpool have conceded from outside the box this season. It was 1-1 Everton from last season all over again, Jagielka's injury-time stroke of fortune from the exact same spot.

4-4. Two points dropped, then three points gained, then two points dropped, again. Yet another draw despite having the lead. Twice, in fact. Everything gained, then everything lost, then everything gained, then everything lost.

Sigh. Norwich hadn't scored four in a Premier League match since May 2013. 62 matches before this.

Somehow, Liverpool weren't done, and it was Lallana – Lallana! – with his first league goal since May, after Can's left-footed cross, Caulker and Benteke in the box and refusing to let Norwich clear, Lallana finding the loose ball with a left-footed strike into the ground that looped over Rudd. With basically the last kick of the game.

Football is insane sometimes. This is why we watch football. Of course, it'd be much easier to appreciate the insanity of this game, the brilliance of this comeback, if we hadn't seen these mistakes from Liverpool time and time and time and time again.

Liverpool live at DEFCON 1, imminent danger perpetually imminent. Liverpool can concede against any opposition from any position, early and often. Corners and opposition shots on-target have become a self-fulfilling prophecy, the side clearly aware of the same awful statistics that we're aware of, always expecting the worst. And rarely disappointed.

But Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool can also, at least, battle back. Liverpool can take four punches and sometimes, somehow, deliver their own fifth. Liverpool can go absolutely mad at both ends of the pitch, then go absolutely mad with their manger in celebration in the final minute of added time. As against West Brom, as against Arsenal, with the added bonus of all three points this time. Three very much needed points.

Football is brilliant and football is stupid, and that's why we love it. Football should be emotional. Football should be ecstatic yelps and emphatic tears. Football should be 90 minutes of hell and heaven, not 90 minutes of sterility. This is why we watch sport.

Never forget to enjoy it when it works in your favor.


read said...

can we talk about how awful Ibe was today? Basically refused to play defense, letting Norwich run through on the right repeatedly after little give and gos. And then had the temerity to look peeved when subbed out rightfully as the worst player on the pitch. Would not be surprised if Ojo comes into Ibe's spot in the 18 come Stoke.

nate said...

Ojo's both cup-tied because Wolves and wasn't on the roster for the first leg.

E Coutinho Can said...

Agree with the non-defending part but to be fahe looked dangerous everytime he got the ball against Norwich. Moreno on the other hand had a real rush of blood to his head.

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