Liverpool’s starting line up was solid. It wasn’t the diamond that many people wanted, but there was still a natural left wing back, a sentient left center back, and Daniel Sturridge. Unfortunately, a combination of poor central midfield play, missed chances and questionable substitutions doomed Liverpool to a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Norwich City.
Let’s start with the central midfield. In a 3-5-2 set up, James Milner played alongside Lucas. Once again he proved that he’s unable to perform up to par in a double pivot, and while the rest of Liverpool’s starting eleven looked ready to move forward from its recent downward spiral, Milner’s poor play held the team back.
Chances were scarce in the first half, as Liverpool’s weakness in the middle prevented them from taking full control of the match. Sturridge had an opportunity to curl a first-time effort from an open position at the top of the box, but he hit it straight at John Ruddy. Later, Milner connected well with a long-range volley, but that too was kept out.
Alberto Moreno was the star of the first 45. He looked a constant threat down the left wing and defended well when he was forced into action. Meanwhile, Sturridge and Christian Benteke flashed the potential of a great partnership, but failed to put it all together. The pairing was cut short when Benteke was forced off at the half with an apparent hamstring issue.
Liverpool began the second half well and got a goal to show for it. Moreno played in Ings, who came on for Benteke, after a series of mistakes by Norwich at the back, and Ings calmly finished under Ruddy with his left foot. That should have been it for Norwich. At Anfield with a lead over a bottom dwelling side, Liverpool should win almost every time.
But it all unravelled after Simon Mignolet punched a corner kick straight to Russell Martin, who chipped neatly over Mignolet’s head to pull the visitors level. Norwich should have had a second goal minutes later when Matt Jarvis was denied at point blank range by Mignolet.
Brendan Rodgers made things more difficult for his team with his substitutions. He brought on Adam Lallana ten minutes before he threw on Roberto Firmino, and he decided to take off Lucas instead of Milner even though the Brazilian was much better throughout the match.
Still, Liverpool had chances to win it. Philippe Coutinho was one-on-one with Ruddy and somehow managed not to score. It was a brilliant reflex save by Ruddy, but Coutinho has to finish from that position. Ings also had a chance to be the hero, but after touching the ball around Norwich’s goalkeeper he pushed it out of play. As Liverpool grew more desperate, Firmino shined with his slick dribbling and incisive passing, but ultimately his substitute performance wasn’t enough to avoid the 1-1 result.
Rodgers did some things right today. However, as the match progressed, his decision making worsened, and what’s left is another uneven performance by a teetering team. Will he last another week? Probably, and the overall performance indicates that things might get a little better soon. But a draw against Norwich isn’t going to buy him any more time or keep the critics away.