Liverpool got their Premier League title bid off to an untroubled start with a 3-0 win at newly promoted Norwich City.
Diogo Jota opened the scoring in the 26th minute, having been selected to start alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane up front.
Roberto Firmino, recently back in training following Brazil’s run to the Copa America final, replaced Jota with an hour played at Carrow Road and swiftly got on the scoresheet.
Salah claimed both assists – the second seemingly far more intentional than the first – and duly got in on the act, finishing emphatically with 16 minutes remaining and becoming the first player to score on five consecutive Premier League opening weekends.
Tim Krul extended himself to tip over an 11th-minute header from Portugal forward Jota before his opposite number was given some work.
Teemu Pukki got in behind the returning Virgil van Dijk on the end of Todd Cantwell’s dinked throughball and Alisson had to save sharply at his near post in the 19th minute.
A pleasing back and forth had developed as Salah crashed a volley just wide from Mane’s chipped delivery and it was Liverpool who found the breakthrough when the Egypt star failed to control Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross, with the ball falling kindly for Jota to slot home.
Salah made a truer contact on the volley when a left-wing corner was partially cleared, with his strike blocked by Ben Gibson before Pierre Lees-Melou got in the way of Joel Matip’s follow-up.
Last-ditch Norwich defending continued early in the second half as Max Aarons and Grant Hanley combined to thwart Mane.
Konstantinos Tsimikas, playing at left-back for Liverpool in the absence of Andy Robertson, stung Krul’s palms after the hour and the second goal inevitably arrived when Salah retrieved another blocked Mane effort and cut the ball into Firmino’s path for a simple finish.
The goal Salah’s endeavours deserved arrived when he snaffled a Gibson clearance and curled impeccably beyond Krul.
What does it mean? Salah’s customary brilliance continues
After joining Liverpool from Roma in 2017, Salah got straight into his work with an opening-day goal at Watford. He was on hand to punish West Ham a year later and welcomed Norwich with a goal at their expense in 2019.
Leeds United arrived in the top flight to ship a Salah hat-trick in the first day of last season and he now has 14 goals and 10 assists in 24 Premier League starts against promoted clubs.
Clinical Jota gives Reds welcome edge
Jota settled seamlessly into life at Liverpool last season, scoring five times in his first nine Premier League appearances and also netting a Champions League hat-trick at Atalanta. Of the 15 league games he then missed with a knee injury, the Reds won five and lost six to effectively end their title defence.
The former Wolves favourite hit the target with both of his attempts at Carrow Road, the second being the opening goal, and Klopp will hope to see plenty more of his clinical edge in 2021-22.
Same old story for Farke’s men
During the 2019-20 Premier League season, Norwich were generally easy on the eye but combined failing to create or score enough chances with being vulnerable in defence. As you might expect, that was a combination that resulted in relegation.
Almost all of those traits were in evidence here, as Norwich allowed Liverpool 19 shots and 13 of those from inside their penalty area. Salah’s fine strike was from just inside the box as he was inexplicably left unmarked from a corner – as was the case when he went close with a first-half volley. Norwich are going to have to learn lessons much quicker than they did here if they are to avoid the misery of two seasons ago.
Key Opta Facts
– Liverpool have won eight of their last nine opening-day games in the Premier League (D1), including five of six under Jurgen Klopp. The Reds have scored three or more goals in all six of their season openers under Klopp, netting 22 in all.
– Norwich City have now lost 11 consecutive Premier League matches; only Sunderland have ever had a longer losing streak in the competition’s history (20 ending in September 2005).
– Liverpool have won each of their last eight away league games against Norwich, their joint-longest away top-flight winning run against a single side (also eight v West Brom from 1983 to 2009).
– Norwich remain winless on the opening matchday of each of their last nine Premier League campaigns (D3 L6); indeed, they have lost three consecutive top-flight season openers for the first time since the 1976-77 campaign.
Liverpool host Burnley in their first home game next weekend, when Norwich’s testing start to the campaign continues at champions Manchester City.
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