Pain often follows missed opportunities in soccer.
Liverpool is feeling that familiar sting following its 1-1 draw against Norwich City on Sunday at Anfield. Liverpool should have reversed its recent Premier League fortunes against the newly promoted Canaries, but its form remains stuck in a rut amid early season struggles.
Norwich City at Anfield was a game the Reds had to win, especially on the back of consecutive Premier League losses. But Alex Neil’s side abandoned its open and inventive attacking style in favor of determined defensive solidity. Liverpool bore the burden of carving open the visitors but didn’t do it often or well enough to earn a moral or actual victory. The hosts also were deficient defensively at a fateful moment in the second half, as Norwich made the most of its best opportunity.
Daniel Sturridge’s surprise appearance in the starting lineup after five months of injury hell couldn’t boost the Reds over the Canaries. Nor could Brendan Rodgers’ tactical tweak, in which Liverpool played with three defenders, five midfielders and two strikers — Sturridge and Benteke — for the first time this season.
If Rodgers sticks with his new plan for the foreseeable future, Liverpool fans should be both encouraged and concerned. On the one hand, the setup should provide genuine balance and width, which should translate into increased service for the strikers. On the other hand, it creates new problems of players playing out of their best positions. Emre Can playing on the back line and Nathaniel Clyne playing as a wing-back are the two latest examples.
Sturridge will help the Reds improve technically in the final third of the field, but Sunday was too early for him to reach his former heights, and his teammates still are suffering in that aspect of the game.
The Reds were technically, tactically and physically good enough to beat Norwich City on the day, but their mental frailties reared their ugly heads again. Liverpool took the lead and lost it within 15 minutes for the second straight game. Its second-string side’s failure to close out the game on Thursday in France against Bordeaux is one thing. A strong side’s inability to hold off Norwich City at home is something far more troubling.
With trips to Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City on the horizon, Liverpool really needed to beat Norwich City for no other reason than to bank three more points in the standings and restore some fading confidence.
That didn’t happen at Anfield, and Liverpool might pay a heavy price down the line for missing this opportunity to take flight.
Thumbnail photo via Martin Rickett/The Associated Press
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