City boss Chris Hughton tonight struggled to contain his anger after watching his Norwich side once more hand Luis Suarez the freedom of Carrow Road as the Uruguayan helped himself to his second, successive hat-trick in the midst of a 5-2 defeat by Liverpool.
It left Hughton still searching for his first Premier League win with his new charges; it also left Norwich in the bottom three of the table with Chelsea and Arsenal now to come.
Little wonder that the Canary manager was left ‘seething’; his task is not about to get any easier over the next two games. And with Aston Villa to follow in the Premier League thereafter, Hughton knows how the story-line will run by the time all concerned bump into Paul Lambert again.
“One of the things that we haven’t been doing is shipping in goals,” he told the BBC afterwards. Sebastien Bassong’s arrival post-Fulham had steadied that particular ship.
Take the Cameroonian out of the equation with that tight hamstring and the nightmares of Craven Cottage return. Norwich simply could not afford to give someone of Suarez’s class and liking for the Norfolk air the room and the opportunity that they did today.
As sharp and as stunning as his finishing was, City played their own part in his latest Carrow Road hat-trick as Leon Barnett and Michael Turner had a ‘torrid’, as dressing room parlance would have it.
“You can’t afford to be giving a very clinical Liverpool team the opportunities that they had and expect to win a football match,” Hughton admitted.
“We managed to fight on and get two back and make a little bit of a fist of it, but the damage was already done – and it was always going to be a tough day for us.”
The ringing round of applause for ex-Norwich boss John Bond was just 73 seconds distant when the damage started to be done as Suarez picked his spot after being handed little more than half a yard of space by Barnett. It was all he needed; all he ever needed to give new Reds boss Brendan Rodgers his first win in charge at Anfield.
Hughton still has to wait for his. And with the best will in the world, few would fancy that position changing when Norwich face Chelsea next.
His luck also needs to change. Bassong is – potentially – a big, big player for Norwich this season; he has to stay fit. Anthony Pilkington is another who has a finish on him. He too continues to be sorely missed.
“The Gerrard goal takes a big deflection – that’s how it was today,” he said. “But the goals before that were goals that we could have done something about.
“The second goal is the one that hurts us. They’ve scored early, but we’ve got ourselves back into the game and while we would have liked to have been a bigger threat we were still very much in the game.”
Not the time for Turner to lose concentration and let Suarez in on the luckless John Ruddy’s goal.
“They had some clinical finishers today – and we’ve made some bad mistakes.”
Straight after the break City had a chance for 2-1 only for Andrew Surman’s far post shot to flick up and over the Liverpool bar – off Robert Snodgrass. Even Grant Holt’s first goal of the season four minutes from the end failed to offer anything by way of consolation. Norwich were heading back to the drawing board next week.
“At the moment, we’re just not getting that little rub of the green,” said Hughton.
“The last four games, we’ve been in every game and could have got more points than what we’ve got. We’ve been in it. “But to go from that to taking a backward step today is really disappointing.”