Liverpool have secured their place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a 2-1 win against Norwich at Anfield.
Having overseen a 3-1 victory against the same opponents in the Premier League last month, Jurgen Klopp had every reason to feel confident before kick off. He made no fewer than 10 changes to the side which beat Chelsea on penalties in the Carabao Cup final at the weekend, with Jordan Henderson the only player to retain his starting spot.
After a slow start to the game, the hosts showed they meant business when Curtis Jones made a darting run forward, cut in off the left and clipped a shot onto the top of the crossbar. While Norwich had a good chance when the ball broke for Teemu Pukki on the edge of the area and he dragged narrowly wide, that would turn out to be their only shot of the first half.
Liverpool opened the scoring with 27 minutes on the clock, Kostas Tsimikas whipping in a cross from the left which fell to Divock Origi five yards out. Rather than shoot himself, he swivelled and teed up Takumi Minamino to smash in from close range.
Klopp’s side were in cruise control at half time, with Minamino adding a second at a corner when the ball fell for him at the back post and he thundered in off the underside of the crossbar.
While Norwich were marginally better after the break, twice going close through substitute Josh Sargent, Alisson remained untested until, out of nowhere, Lukas Rupp scored a thunderbolt from distance with a little under 15 minutes remaining. It failed to inspire an unlikely comeback, however, even if Alisson was called into action to deny teenager Jonathan Rowe late on.
Reds lose their sense of urgency. Having established total dominance by the end of the first half, Liverpool gradually allowed their tempo to drop after the restart. While it looked like they might meander to full time without breaking a sweat, Rupp’s goal gave them a nasty shock and made for an uncomfortable finish.
Speaking to ITV afterwards, James Milner conceded that they had made life difficult for themselves. “We should have seen out the game and kept the ball better in the second half, definitely,” he said. “We tried to keep it but the movement probably wasn’t there, we didn’t move it quick enough, which was disappointing.
“There are reasons why – obviously, the weekend, the emotion of that – but that doesn’t make it right. We know we can do better.”
MAN OF THE MATCH
Kostas Tsimikas (Liverpool). While Minamino is the obvious candidate given that he scored both of Liverpool’s goals, the second of which was an exceptional finish, neither would have happened without Tsimikas.
Not only did he provide the cross which led to the opener, it was his corner delivery which set up Minamino for his brace. He also ran tirelessly throughout the match, creating constant overlaps in the first half and continuing to go full tilt even as his team-mates slowed the pace.
Liverpool: Alisson 7, Milner 6, Konate 6, Gomez 7, Tsimikas 8, Oxlade-Chamberlain 6, Henderson 6, Jones 7, Minamino 8, Origi 7, Jota 6
Subs: Elliott 6, Morton 6, Diaz 7, Mane 6
Norwich: Krul 5, Byram 5, Zimmermann 5, Gibson 6, Giannoulis 5, Rupp 6, Normann 4, Lees-Melou 4, Placheta 5, Pukki 5, Rashica 5
Subs: Sargent 5, Rowe 6, Dowell 5, Gilmour 5, McLean 5
8’ LIVERPOOL HIT THE WOODWORK! Jones makes a bursting run to the left of the box, cuts inside and skims the top of the crossbar. That should serve as a warning for Norwich.
27’ GOAL! Liverpool score a well-worked opener, Tsimikas crossing to Origi who turns on his heel and tees up Minamino to lash home from close range.
39’ GOAL! What a hit. From Tsimikas’ corner, the ball falls for Minamino at the back post and, from a tight angle, he absolutely leathers one in off the underside of the crossbar.
47’ CLOSE! Sargent makes a statement of intent, getting in behind and firing just wide. It was enough to give Alisson a scare, if not to force him into a save.
61’ BIG MISS! Sargent gets on the end of a good ball into the box from Dimitris Giannoulis but, with the goal at his mercy, he can only balloon his header over the bar.
76’ GOAL! Just as the two sides seemed to be meandering to the final whistle, Rupp scores a belter from distance. Could that be the start of a Norwich revival?
84’ GOOD SAVE! Having barely had anything to do all match, Alisson is suddenly called into action when Rowe gets in behind on the left and lashes an angled shot on target. That could prove to be a match-saving intervention