Liverpool began their send-off for departing manager Jurgen Klopp by beating Norwich City 5-2 at an emotional Anfield on Sunday afternoon to secure their place in the fifth round of the FA Cup where they will face Watford or Southampton.
Curtis Jones opened the scoring in the sixth minute as he headed in unmarked before the Canaries struck against the run of play through defender Ben Gibson.
The Reds soon retook the lead as Darwin Nunez capitalised on sharp work from Conor Bradley to finish comfortably before second-half strikes from Diogo Jota, Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Gravenberch wrapped up proceedings, though Norwich did manage to reduce the deficit through a Borja Sainz thunderbolt.
How the game unfolded
It’s been quite a whirlwind few days for Liverpool fans and this fourth-round tie against Norwich might not have produced such a fervent atmosphere if not for Klopp’s announcement on Friday.
The German smiled as the camera panned to him while ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ blasted out around Anfield shortly before kick-off as the final stretch of his nine-year stint as Reds manager began.
“Don’t think about me anymore” was the message from Klopp to ITV before kick-off and his players started as if the earth-shattering news of his exit still had not been made public.
Had Joe Gomez managed to send his right-footed effort into the bottom corner from outside the box, it might have prompted one of Klopp’s greatest touchline sprints, but the versatile defender’s long goal drought continued as his shot screwed just wide.
Chaos fiend Nunez nearly took advantage of some overly ambitious play from Norwich near their own goal, but the Uruguayan’s curled shot came back off the post.
The Reds’ dominant start was rewarded with the opening goal of the contest. Young midfielder James McConnell was given space to float a cross towards the back post where Jones was lurking to nod in unopposed.
Norwich boss David Wagner had not seen his Huddersfield team score against close friend Klopp’s Liverpool in three previous meetings but the Canaries did manage to strike against the run of play here.
The Championship side made the most of a 22nd-minute corner as Gibson rushed to the near post and flicked a header expertly towards the back stick.
The goal looked to be a sign from the visitors that they would not roll over in a game of such emotional weight for the hosts, but instead, Liverpool powered forward again and went ahead through Nunez.
Bradley won possession in Norwich’s half and set off, playing a quick one-two Jota before finding Nunez in space, allowing the former Benfica forward to finish with little fuss.
Norwich might have equalised just after half-time when the ball arrived at the feet of midfielder Gabriel Sara, but the Brazilian’s powerful strike soared past the bottom corner. While not a gilt-edged chance, Wagner’s side were still punished for the miss five minutes later as Jota struck.
Gibson couldn’t backtrack quickly enough as Jones’ raking pass looked for Jota. Though the English defender got his head to the ball, he couldn’t clear the danger and the Portugal international lashed in his third goal in three games.
Andy Robertson came off the bench to make his first Liverpool appearance since the 2-2 draw at Brighton in October, having been injured while on international duty later that month, before the Merseysiders wrapped up the result by extending their already assertive lead.
It was an easy fourth goal for Klopp’s side as substitute Dominik Szoboszlai swung in a corner which was met firmly by fellow replacement Van Dijk.
Norwich had the ball in the back of the net as Sainz converted only to see the offside flag go up, but the Spaniard wasn’t to be denied and reduced the deficit fantastically moments later.
Sainz was gifted time by Trent Alexander-Arnold and then Van Dijk before producing a perfect strike from distance, leaving Alisson with no chance of clawing it away from goal.
There was to be no grandstand finish for the visitors as a strong Liverpool XI finished the game with a fifth goal, Bradley firing across goal for Gravenberch to head on from point-blank range.
GK: Alisson Becker – 5/10 – Not too many saves to make and given no chance with either Gibson and Sainz’s efforts.
RB: Conor Bradley – 8/10 – Showed some dogged determination down the right and excelled in the build-up before setting up Nunez. Got a second assist late on.
CB: Ibrahima Konate – 7/10 – Dominant in the air and didn’t give veteran striker Ashley Barnes much to work with. Subbed off before the hour.
CB: Jarell Quansah – 6/10 – Relatively untroubled, though will disappointed to have conceded twice.
LB: Joe Gomez – 7/10 – Probably better off waiting for a penalty in a dead rubber than going for goal in open play, again shooting waywardly in his attempts to score a first Reds goal. More importantly, had few issues defensively before coming off.
CM: Ryan Gravenberch – 7/10 – Regularly won tackles in midfield to keep his side high up the pitch. Took on a few shots and got the goal his display deserved late on.
CM: James McConnell – 7/10 – A memorable first Reds start for the 19-year-old, setting up Jones with a well-flighted cross. Made a couple of fouls but generally fit in well.
CM: Curtis Jones – 7/10 – Ghosted in at the back post and was free to nod in the opener.
RW: Cody Gakpo – 7/10 – A little more wasteful in front of goal than his teammates but still contributed with some neat touches in attack.
ST: Diogo Jota – 8/10 – Showed wonderful power by thrashing in Liverpool’s third and was a constant threat.
LW: Darwin Nunez – 7/10 – Showed the wide scope of his performances by striking the post shortly before putting Liverpool back in front.
Dominik Szoboszlai (55′ for Jones) – 7/10 – Swung in a corner for Van Dijk to head in shortly after his arrival.
Virgil van Dijk (55′ for Konate) – 7/10 – Great header extended Liverpool but might have closed down Sainz a little quicker before the screamer.
Andy Robertson (55′ for Gomez) – 6/10 – Received a hero’s welcome as he returned from a shoulder injury.
Alexander-Arnold (66′ for Nunez) – 6/10
Luis Diaz (79′ for McConnell) – N/A
Subs not used: Clark, Elliott, Beck, Kelleher.
Jurgen Klopp – 8/10 – Probably didn’t have to deliver a motivational masterclass to his players in the build-up to this game. Whatever he did was still more than enough as Liverpool proved too strong for the Championship opposition.
Player of the match: Conor Bradley (Liverpool)
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