Danny Ings’ first Liverpool goal could not ease his side’s early-season woes as their winless run stretched to five games in a 1-1 draw with Norwich City on Sunday.
Ings had only been on the field for three minutes, after replacing Christian Benteke at half-time, when he controlled a lofted pass from Alberto Moreno on his chest before impressively drilling home.
The hosts’ lead was short-lived, however, with Russell Martin equalising just after the hour when Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet punched unconvincingly in an effort to clear a Jonny Howson corner.
The ball fell to the unmarked Norwich centre-back, who showed neat control by taking the ball on his chest before hooking past the stranded Mignolet.
Brendan Rodgers’ side at least stopped the rot following successive losses to West Ham United and Manchester United, but they remain without a win in five games in all competitions and sit 13th in the Premier League table.
Liverpool manager Rodgers was able to recall Daniel Sturridge for his first appearance in nearly six months following hip surgery and the possibility of seeing the England striker associated with new signing Benteke would have enthused the home fans at Anfield.
But despite Sturridge’s phenomenal career goal-scoring record of 35 in 44 league starts for Liverpool, early indications were not particularly promising and and he left the game after just over an hour.
The best chance of the first half fell to Sturridge, from a poor Martin pass that was intercepted by Lucas Leiva, whose through-ball picked out the recalled striker in the area.
But he steered his first-time left-foot shot directly at Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy.
That sparked a strong end to the opening period for the home side as Lucas found Philippe Coutinho in the area for a header that flew narrowly wide.
– Ruddy denies Coutinho –
The visiting goalkeeper was also required to punch clear to thwart Benteke before making more routine stops to keep out Coutinho’s tame effort and James Milner’s volley from the edge of the area.
Still, it was an improvement on Liverpool’s last Anfield outing, the 3-0 humbling at the hands of West Ham, with the Canaries’ first-half threat limited to a late cross-shot from Cameron Jerome that was easily dealt with by Mignolet.
The Liverpool goalkeeper also showed keen awareness in rushing out to prevent Jerome from rounding him as he chased onto Howson’s pass in the opening minutes of the second period.
Ings’ superb finish moments later put the visitors on the back foot, albeit momentarily.
Sturridge saw a 20-yard shot blocked, Coutinho curled an effort just over the bar and Ings, speeding down the right, tried to centre for Sturridge to score but had his cross easily cut out by Ruddy.
Sturridge then found Coutinho in the Norwich area with a pinpoint pass that allowed his team-mate to take his time and send a chip sailing just wide as a period of Liverpool domination continued.
But such are Liverpool’s problems in the early part of the campaign that they conceded from Norwich’s first notable attack and might have gone behind just moments later, with Mignolet demonstrating sharp reflexes to keep out a close-range Matt Jarvis shot from Nathan Redmond’s cross.
Moreno and substitute Roberto Firmino tested Ruddy, but the home side’s best chance of a winner came from a counter-attack following a 78th-minute Norwich corner.
Firmino set Coutinho racing clear on goal, but the Liverpool forward was denied by the legs of the impressive Ruddy.
Soon after, Adam Lallana and Ings combined for the latter to round Ruddy, only to run out of space at the Norwich byline.