Luis Suarez’ love affair with Norfolk continued this afternoon as the Uruguayan once again ripped Norwich apart and left Chris Hughton’s men winless and in the bottom three – with Chelsea and Arsenal next on the fixture list.
The 25-year-old helped himself to a hat-trick last season; this season he was back with his sticky mits deep in the pick n’mix as an imperious Liverpool romped to an all-too easy 5-2 success – the first of his second, successive Carrow Road hat-trick arriving after just 67 seconds of a contest that will have only added to the manager’s concerns.
Minus the authorative presence of Sabastien Bassong at one end and goals when they matter at the other, it is proving a long, hard autumn for the new Norwich chief.
Steve Morison’s 61st minute strike was a rare bright spot as was Grant Holt’s first of the season four minutes from the end, but there were long spells in this afternoon’s contest when Norwich looked dangerously out of their depth as Suarez’ running, let alone his finishing, tormented a back four back to their indecisive Fulham worst.
Not the ideal manner to prepare for Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h). Or, indeed, to shape up for the Paul Lambert reunion gig thereafter.
Hughton made a big call even before a ball was kicked in anger this afternoon as Wes Hoolahan’s eye-catching efforts at St James’ Park last weekend counted for little, as he found himself back on the bench alongside club skipper Holt with Messrs Morison and Jackson trying to make the chemistry work up front.
With Bassong failing to shrug off his hamstring niggles, Michael Turner continued alongside Leon Barnett at the heart of that Canary defence; for now the midfield combination of Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson continued to hold the threat of Wednesday night cup hero Alexander Tettey at bay. He, too, found himself on the bench along with the fit-again Elliott Bennett.
First, however, there was a minute’s heart-felt applause for ex-Canary manager John Bond who passed away this week aged 79. How much Bondy would have enjoyed the next 70 seconds is, however,a moot point.
Suarez talked beforehand about missing that little bit of edge to his finishing. Handed little more than half-a-yard of space by Barnett, the Uruguayan continued where he left off last spring as he drilled a low, 18-yarder beyond John Ruddy’s despairing right-hand. It was a nightmare start for the home side – particularly given the damage Suarez inflicted on the Canaries last season, he was the last person anyone in Norfolk would have wished to see score with such a simple, early finish.
The shell-shock lasted for the next five minutes until Jackson finally got a glimpse of the Liverpool goal; Robert Snodgrass’ whipped low cross finding the Canadian sliding in unmarked at the far post and forcing Pepe Reina into a sharp, reactive save.
Suarez could have twisted the knife again in the 23rd minute as he squeezed in-between Barnett and the ball deep in the City box. Contact and a fall followed, but no penalty. A let-off, it would be fair to say.
Trouble being that Norwich failed to take full advantage a minute later as Javier Garrido’s deep cross picked out Morison; his header back across the face of goal, likewise, picked out a free Jackson – only for the finish to be high and less than handsome. Therein lay the difference; grabbing goals when they matter…
Ruddy would need to be alert to palm a Steven Gerrard header away off a fabulous Suarez’ reverse pass as Liverpool continued to look the more incisive; Norwich – in fairness – were still at this stage putting in a decent shift without any real reward.
Suarez was the story, however. On 38 minutes he added a killer second. Having pulled one wide only seconds earlier, he robbed a dawdling Turner before delivering the perfect finish with a flick of the outside of his right foot and on, inside Ruddy’s right upright.
As good as the finish was, the invite was again delivered by sloppy defending. Give Suarez and his Premier League ilk an inch, they’ll take a mile.
Come the break, come Holt on for Jackson. Within 30 seconds the skipper was almost on the end of a Morison cross; instead Andrew Surman was – his scuffy shot then being inadvertantly lifted over Liverpool’s bar from five yards out by Snodgrass.
Again, City paid an immediate price. Suarez – inevitably – skipped away all-too easily from first Barnett and then Turner before setting up Nuri Sahin for a simple tap-in. Three-nil and goodnight.
Holt would see Glen Johnson block, Surman would drift a subsequent shot wide, before Suarez completed his latest Norfolk hat-trick on 57 minutes – picking out the bottom corner as this time Russell Martin gave him a yard.
The latter would at least make amends moments later as his fierce drive found Reina gifting the ball back to Morison who finished sharply for a small City consolation. Not that it lasted long; Gerrard’s 67th minute strike taking a big, ugly deflection off Barnett to leave Ruddy wholly stranded as No5 rolled into his bottom right corner.
Holt’s first in the 87th minute was an individual confidence-booster only; its the collective confidence of the Canaries en masse which will now be of greater concern to Hughton and Co.