Six things you might have missed following City’s defeat to champions-elect Liverpool
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After a narrow defeat to the world and European champions Liverpool, David Freezer takes a closer look at six things you might have missed following Norwich City’s 1-0 home loss.
1 - Another fine show of unity
In the bottom three since October and with just one win in the last 13 league games, yet applauded off the pitch with pride. This is not your standard top-flight relegation battle.
Liverpool had essentially just laid the first hand on the Premier League trophy, which will be their first since 1990, ensuring the relief was palpable in the away end as Reds fans finally started to accept their long wait for a 19th English crown is finally coming to an end.
Yet as the away end roared 'we're going to win the league' as their delighted players and coaches soaked in the importance of this 1-0 victory, it was the Norwich fans making the most noise.
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Chants of 'yellows' and 'one Daniel Farke' hailed the hard work that had just gone in to pushing the best team in the world all the way.
Had Alex Tettey's swerving shot found the bottom corner at 0-0, the roar would have been heard on Merseyside, that's how close City came to a truly remarkable upset.
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2 - Deserved praise for captain
That enduring unity among Canaries supporters is due to that run of just one win in 13 very much not telling the whole story.
Five draws which all could - and perhaps should - have been wins and five of the six defeats have been by just one goal, with the 4-0 flop at Manchester United being the only real no-show.
Much of that is due to the more solid base provided by the returns of Christoph Zimmermann and Grant Hanley from injury, with Hanley winning the club's Player of the Month award to big cheers ahead of kick-off.
Prior to the Scot returning during the 2-1 home loss to Wolves just before Christmas the average goals conceded per game stood at 2.1 but since the skipper's return 12 let in during nine games averages at an improved 1.3.
A central midfield duo of Tettey and Kenny McLean has also played a big part but Hanley seemed to be in the way of almost everything on Saturday and is getting some well deserved praise.
3 - Buendia must play a key role
There was plenty of surprise that Emi Buendia wasn't back in the starting XI for such a high profile game but Lukas Rupp's solid start to life at City meant there weren't many complaints.
Having made that decision it was also understandable that Daniel Farke hadn't made changes, with City in the ascendancy in the five minutes prior to Liverpool's winner, with Tettey's near miss cranking up the volume.
And once again Rupp was a solid presence on the right of midfield, although just 34 touches of the ball rivalled Teemu Pukki's isolation (30) and the German wasn't much more of a defensive presence than Buendia usually is.
That switch followed the goal swiftly and Rupp had also wasted a fine McLean pass in the first half, when he was probably offside anyway.
The Canaries need a truly special run of form to pull off a great escape now and it's hard to see goals flowing without Buendia - who teed up Pukki's late chance with a typical defence-splitting pass.
4 - Lewis is ready for his chance
Sam Byram's cruel injury luck returned in just the 27th minute, thanks to a painful hamstring strain.
It looks likely to end his run of 13 starts in 14 league games at left-back, which has kept Jamal Lewis on the fringes in recent months.
While City fans will keep their fingers crossed that Byram's injury is not too serious, having Northern Ireland international Lewis ready to reclaim his place is of comfort amid a testing search for survival.
The 22-year-old had been a pivotal player for Farke until recently and looked hungry to resume that role. Indeed, only three of City's players had more than Lewis' 51 touches of the ball, despite his belated arrival.
That was up against Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mo Salah, no less - two players nominated for the Ballon D'or. Yet had it not been for Pukki's bad timing, Lewis could finally have ended his long wait for a first league goal with one particularly impressive surge forward.
5 - Stature of opponents was crucial
Such pride in a 1-0 home loss is of course unusual, making for a second successive game without a goal scored. This was no ordinary game though.
The Reds are in a league of their own, taking a quite ridiculous 103 points from the last 105 available in the Premier League.
As world and European champions Jurgen Klopp has constructed a relentless machine that is now one short of equalling the record of 18 straight wins in the English top flight, set by Manchester City in 2017.
They are also unbeaten in 43 and closing on Arsenal's English record of 49, with the title almost a formality now. Even the might of reigning champions Manchester City will not overhaul a 25-point gap with 12 games to play.
It was the earliest point in a Premier League season that a gap of 55 points or more had existed between two teams - yet there was just one goal in it. Stormy weather may have been a leveller but City showed real character.
6 - Son adds welcome positives
For the positivity that could be taken from pushing the champions-elect all the way, it looked like City's survival hopes were about to take a hit at Villa Park on Sunday.
Aston Villa were leading Tottenham in the first half and on course to move four points clear of the bottom three, to leave Farke's team eight adrift of safety.
Thankfully Spurs turned it around but nerves set in again when Villa made it 2-2 early in the second half, only for Son Hueng-Min to snatch the win in the third minute of injury-time - to the delight of Canaries fans.
Yes, we're entering that stage of the season, when close attention to the results of City's rivals takes up more and more thinking space.
It's a nervous situation Canaries supporters are well accustomed to but that late goal also came with an added bonus, as Villa took over as Premier League's worst defence from City, being the first side to concede 50. All silver linings are welcomed at this stage of proceedings.