Liverpool took another step towards a first league title since 1990 after winning 3-2 at Norwich City on Sunday to pull five points clear at the top of the English Premier League. Quick-fire early goals from Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez put the visitors in control at Carrow Road, before Gary Hooper replied for fourth-bottom Norwich in the 54th minute.
Sterling appeared to have made the points safe with a deflected shot minutes later, but a late Robert Snodgrass header obliged Liverpool to endure a nervy last ten minutes. It was Liverpool’s 11th consecutive league victory and means that they are guaranteed to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League, but Brendan Rodgers’s side now have a bigger prize in their sights.
They need seven points from their remaining three games to win the league and can eliminate Chelsea from the title race by winning at home to Jose Mourinho’s side next weekend. Chelsea’s shock 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland on Saturday, coupled with Manchester City’s draw against the same side in mid-week, had given Liverpool a huge opportunity to stamp their authority on the title race.
Rodgers was without the injured Daniel Sturridge and the suspended Jordan Henderson, but his side swiftly set about settling their supporters’ nerves by taking the lead in the fourth minute. Sterling collected the ball 30 yards from goal, shifted it inside Bradley Johnson, and then unleashed a 25-yard drive that flew inside the left-hand post via a slight deflection off Michael Turner.
After Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy had saved from Joe Allen, Suarez made it 2-0 in the 11th minute, steering a delightfully weighted left-foot cross from Sterling into the bottom-right corner. It was the Uruguayan’s 12th goal in his last five appearances against Norwich and made him the first Liverpool striker to score 30 league goals in a season since Ian Rush in 1987.
Norwich began to assert themselves, however, and nine minutes into the second half they pulled a goal back. Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet met Steven Whittaker’s deep cross with a weak punch that bounced off Martin Skrtel and into the path of Hooper, who tapped into the unguarded goal.
Momentarily Liverpool looked vulnerable, but in the 62nd minute Sterling restored their two goal-advantage. After picking up the ball inside his own half, the 19-year-old drove into the Norwich box and dispatched a left-foot shot that took a cruel deflection off Johnson and looped over Ruddy.
Snodgrass hit back for Norwich in the 77th minute, outjumping Jon Flanagan to head home Martin Olsson’s left-wing cross, but Liverpool held on for victory.
Arsenal cruise at KC stadium
Meanwhile, Arsenal comfortably won 3-0 at future FA Cup final opponents Hull City to maintain their slim hold on the final UEFA Champions League qualifying place.
Arsenal welcomed Mesut Ozil back from a hamstring injury and he played a part in the 31st-minute move that led to Aaron Ramsey drilling the visitors in front. In response, Hull midfielder Tom Huddlestone drove a low shot against the post, only for Lukas Podolski to emphatically volley home Arsenal’s second goal just before half-time from Ramsey’s chested lay-off.