Harsh lessons, shooting boots and determination – six things from Norwich City’s opening-night defeat at Liverpool
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As the Premier League roller-coaster ride begins, David Freezer assesses Norwich City’s loss to Liverpool with six lessons learned from a 4-1 defeat to the Champions League winners at Anfield.
1 - Top flight can still be so brutal
Teams outside of the top six know that the Premier League is an unforgiving battleground. One loose bit of play can lead to a goal in the blink of an eye.
Unfortunately for City on their big opening night, that happened twice within the opening 20 minutes.
Grant Hanley was clearly distraught at seeing the ball spin past Tim Krul off his shin, after Max Aarons had been unable to prevent Divock Origi's low cross. You had to feel for the Scot as he put his hands over his face in shock at his misfortune.
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Then just as the visitors looked to be settling back down, a Jamal Lewis interception catches the back of Tom Trybull's heels and Roberto Firmino is able to free Mo Salah. Game over.
It will happen again and it will be punished just as ruthlessly. The Premier League boasts some of the world's very best players and mistakes are pounced on an instant. Thankfully, not every team in the division is as brilliant as Liverpool.
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2 - Krul could take little of the blame
Strangely, after a 4-1 defeat, the Canaries' keeper could take very little of the blame - quite the opposite, in fact.
Tim Krul topped our online man of the match poll, with 36pc of over 4,000 votes at the time of writing, leaving any debate over who City's number one is on the back-burner for the time being.
The diving reaction stop from Firmino in the first half was only bettered by a superb parry of a Jordan Henderson onto the crossbar just three minutes after the break, which would have made it 5-0.
Add a fine denial of a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick late on to the mix and the Dutchman ensured the score wasn't embarrassing, with his kicking largely sound and plenty of vital handling needed.
He had little chance with any of the goals thanks to some clinical finishes when exposed but will no doubt still be frustrated he couldn't get closer. Krul looks certain to face his old club Newcastle on Saturday now.
3 - Pukki is ready for big chance
Should we be worried about the profligacy shown by Teemu Pukki during pre-season? The Finn answered that decisively.
Pukki stretched the Reds' defence and lurked on the shoulder of the last man, twice teeing up Marco Stiepermann only for both shots to be looped well over.
The Finland international looked sharp, being denied by an offside flag as he tried to chip Alisson after getting in behind again and also lashing across goal.
So he was ready for his moment in the 64th minute, bursting clean through with a perfectly timed run to reach Emi Buendia's through-ball, taking one touch and firing low into the bottom-left corner ruthlessly.
Pukki is up and running nice and early for City and, according to @OptaJoe on Twitter, made it an eighth successive season of scoring with his first shot on target. That's for Schalke, Celtic, Brondby and Norwich, a seriously impressive stat - but perhaps not surprising.
4 - It could all have been so different
Let's look back at those big chances for Stiepermann.
The first came at 0-0 and he was perfectly placed after fine work from Pukki, but could only blast well over, the second within two minutes of Hanley's own goal, with a similar result.
Pukki also fired across the face of goal and Stiepermann also tested Brazil keeper Alisson before it was 2-0. Liverpool may have laid claim to a lead thanks to some City misfortune but had the visitors had their shooting boots on, it could have been a different story.
Buendia slipped Pukki in, only for the offside flag to go up as he tried to chip Alisson and Buendia also fired a low effort at the Brazil keeper.
Then a total mismatch of Lewis up against Virgil van Dijk is allowed to happen and it's 3-0 within 30 minutes. Add a Tom Trybull header from a corner dropping just wide and it could easily have been different at the break. Few teams will manage 12 shots at Anfield this season, let alone five on target.
5 - Buendia looks like he belongs
There are plenty of players in the City squad who could find they find themselves better suited to the Premier League cut and thrust - and Emi Buendia is clearly in that group after a brilliant debut campaign.
The weight of pass through to Pukki in the 22nd minute was lovely but the striker was just offside and wasn't able to chip Alisson and it was more bright attacking from the Argentine which led to Stiepermann lashing a swerving shot at the keeper.
It was Buendia's corner from the left which was nodded just wide by Trybull and of course it was the 22-year-old's perfect pass to free Pukki before the lovely consolation goal.
One assist in the bag already, to add to the 13 he managed in the league last season. This wasn't Buendia quite at his best, City didn't really have enough of the ball for him to shine.
Yet the earliest glimpses of the former Real Madrid trainee as a Premier League player were encouraging.
6 - Youngster responded brilliantly
Canaries fans experienced the determination and passion of Ben Godfrey during last season's title success. You just have to look back at photos of goal celebrations for a reminder.
Yet the 21-year-old looked as startled by the Liverpool headlights tearing towards him as the rest of City's defenders during a first half which quickly went wrong.
The commanding display which followed after the break said everything about the England U20 defender's character though. If there was a ball flying into the box during the second half it seemed to be Godfrey reading the danger and repelling the attack almost every time.
He even managed to test substitute keeper Adrian with a stinging low drive during injury-time.
Godfrey clearly had the bit between his teeth, defending his goal like his life depended on it - and plenty more of that is going to be needed this season. After a horrible start for Hanley, the youngster showed genuine maturity.