Photo Gallery: Liverpool’s Luis Suarez exacts his belated revenge on Norwich City
Norwich City 0, Liverpool 3: To be on the wrong end of a hat-trick from a world-class South American striker once may be regarded as a misfortune; to suffer the same fate a fortnight later looks like carelessness.
Norwich City director Stephen Fry, who once played Oscar Wilde on the big screen, will perhaps forgive the corrupting of a famous line. But while there was no doubt that Liverpool’s Luis Su�rez produced a memorable treble at rainswept Carrow Road – which included one of the great goals in the Premier League’s 20-year history – he did not need quite such generous assistance.
The controversial Uruguayan international perhaps felt he owed the Canaries some overdue punishment after being brilliantly denied twice by goalkeeper John Ruddy and once by a combination of Russell Martin’s toe and the woodwork when the two sides met at Anfield in October.
If so, he gained his revenge in devastating fashion. While two of Carlos Tevez’s three goals in Manchester City’s 6-1 win at Norwich two weeks earlier were gift-wrapped, Su�rez was presented with all three of his opportunities, but the degree of difficulty and the quality of the finishing was far greater.
All in all, it was a depressing afternoon for most of those in City’s biggest home crowd for more than 29 years, and not just because of cold and wet conditions more akin to November – and a bad November day at that.
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It was, in fairness, the first time City had lost three successive league games in nearly three seasons under manager Paul Lambert, a remarkable feat in itself, but it was also their seventh defeat in 11 “live” TV appearances this season, and their seventh in the last 11 league games.
Much of the disappointment may well have dissipated by yesterday afternoon, when the Canaries’ top-flight place for next season was finally confirmed by Queens Park Rangers’ mauling at Chelsea.
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But after such a memorable victory at White Hart Lane just three weeks ago, it would be an anti-climax for City’s season to peter out in a string of defeats. A trip to Arsenal next Saturday offers little in the way of relief, but at least draw specialists Aston Villa’s continued need for points could yet make the last home match a meaningful and – for all manner of reasons – an intriguing contest.
Contest was not a word that really applied to Saturday’s match once Su�rez had struck twice in the space of four first-half minutes.
City, showing five changes and with Anthony Pilkington prominent early on, looked sprightly in the opening quarter of the game despite the swift loss of full-back Adam Drury with a groin injury.
But Liverpool moved ahead in the 24th minute as they cashed in on an uncharacteristic error by David Fox.
From substitute Martin’s pass, the midfielder was caught in possession by the fit-again Steven Gerrard and the Reds’ skipper slipped the perfect ball inside for Su�rez, who struck a powerful left-foot shot past Ruddy.
Gerrard had a shot blocked by Ryan Bennett before Su�rez doubled the lead after another dreadful mix-up. Kyle Naughton tried to find acting captain Elliott Ward on the left touchline but left his pass well short and Suarez robbed Ward before drilling a mean shot out of reach of Ruddy.
Striker James Vaughan replaced Fox at the interval – when one might also have expected top scorer Grant Holt to accompany him from the bench – and City reverted to a diamond formation.
Five minutes after the break, Liverpool ’keeper Jose Reina was finally given something to do when he dived to his right to push away Elliott Bennett’s 20-yard shot, but most of the chances came at the other end.
First Su�rez connected with Stewart Downing’s cross but Ryan Bennett made an important block, Jonjo Shelvey heading against the bar from the rebound.
Downing then shot over after Su�rez teed him up and Shelvey missed an open goal, clearing the bar as he slid in to meet Jose Enrique’s cross.
Gerrard’s diagonal pass set Downing off on a twisting run that might have brought a third goal, but Ruddy got down to his right to make a fine save.
Su�rez could have completed his hat-trick after 63 minutes after Ward and Ryan Bennett both made errors, but in attempting to float the ball over Ruddy, he also cleared the bar. Jonny Howson then cleared off the line from a glancing header by Daniel Agger.
Vaughan’s enthusiasm saw him booked for tripping Reina before he flashed a shot and a header wide, and he later had a shot blocked by Carragher.
By then, Holt had finally been introduced for Steve Morison, but with eight minutes left, City’s miserable evening was complete when Su�rez completed his hat-trick with an incredible goal.
A long ball out of defence from Glen Johnson found Ward unable to control on halfway as Su�rez whipped the ball away from him and, from only just inside the Norwich half, he floated an amazing shot over Ruddy as the stranded ’keeper back-pedalled in vain.