Sadio Mane was the super-sub while Jordan Henderson was excellent yet again as Liverpool beat Norwich City 1-0 to move 25 points clear atop the Premier League.
In what was their first game since the winter break, Liverpool were not at their best as a unit. While the Reds dominated possession pretty much from the get-go, chances came few and far between. In fact, it was Norwich who had come the closest to scoring until the deadlock was finally broken midway through the second half.
Sadio Mane, making his return from a hamstring injury, collected a fantastic pass by Jordan Henderson before producing a sublime finish to give Liverpool the lead. That goal was enough to seal all three points, as the Premier League leaders went an astounding 25 points clear at the summit. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Alisson Becker: 8/10
This was an evening wherein Alisson was not really called into action a great deal. However, the Liverpool no. 1 was on top of his game in one of the most crucial moments of the game, diving to his right when up against Lukas Rupp to preserve his clean sheet.
Continued to remain assured while distributing from the back with one throw to initiate a counter-attack being especially delightful. Although he was surprised by Alexander Tettey in the second half, he had covered his near post, despite the upright bailing him out. An excellent evening.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 6/10
Surprisingly, this was a game in which Alexander-Arnold stood out more for his defensive acumen than his exploits in the final third. While the young full-back did provide two key passes, his end product was lacking, perhaps with the wind also being a factor.
At the back, he defended resolutely and did not let Todd Cantwell get the better of him. However, being one of Liverpool’s chief creative assets, this was rather underwhelming from Alexander-Arnold.
Joe Gomez: 7/10
In what could have been a difficult evening for Gomez, the young defender was solid at the back, keeping a check on Teemu Pukki for the most part, as the Finn looked to run off him. Commanding with the ball at his feet, Gomez built the play up efficiently.
Virgil van Dijk: 7/10
As is usually the case with van Dijk, he stood up and ensured that Liverpool remained organised and disciplined defensively. However, one uncharacteristic moment of lapse could have cost Liverpool dearly when Rupp beat his attempted offside trap. Nevertheless, there was no harm done as Norwich were denied a goal.
Andrew Robertson: 7/10
This was a performance that showed that all Robertson really needed was a small break. Back to his energetic best, Robertson was a constant threat down the left flank, linking up well with Roberto Firmino while exchanging long balls with Alexander-Arnold. Made as many as four key passes and was hardly troubled at the back.
Jordan Henderson: 8/10
Another top class showing by Henderson, who continues to boost his case for being named the Player of the Year. While the rest of the midfielders appeared a bit sluggish at times, Henderson was in his elements.
There were some poor moments, but they were only few and far between, as the Liverpool captain harried the opposition midfielders with his smart pressing. Passing was crisp as ever and it was a wonderful lobbed pass from Henderson that ended up being the assist for Sadio Mane’s goal.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 6.5/10
Surprisingly, it was Wijnaldum and not not Henderson who started the game as Liverpool’s holding midfielder. A bundle of energy to begin with, the Dutchman also did not shy from charging forward, with Henderson covering up for him. Looked a bit leggy at the start of the second half and was taken off for Fabinho.
Naby Keita: 6/10
Back into the starting lineup in the Premier League for the first time since recovering from injury, Keita looked to be determined to make up for lost time. However, the rustiness in his game was rather evident, which translated into a rather paltry 76 percent passing rate. Nevertheless, Keita worked hard off the ball to ensure Liverpool controlled the game.
Mohamed Salah: 5/10
5/10 might be a rather harsh rating, but Salah could honestly have done much better on the night. While the Egyptian had the Norwich defenders on their toes with his nimble footwork, his first touch deserted him at times and he struggled to apply finishing touches to the chances that did come his way. A rare blip, however.
Roberto Firmino: 8/10
The clear standout for Liverpool in the final third. Firmino was delightful with some of his classy touches. Linked up well with Henderson in one of the moments of the game and never stopped running. Another notable moment saw him scoop out a pass towards Wijnaldum. In fine touch at the moment.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6/10
With Mane not fit enough to start, Oxlade-Chamberlain was persisted with on the left flank. The English international cannot be faulted for a lack of effort, but his end product, much like several of his teammates was found wanting. Nevertheless, caused Max Aarons a great deal of trouble before being replaced by Mane.
Sadio Mane: 8/10
On for Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane was a clear upgrade on the left flank and it looked like he had not lost a step when out injured. Mane made all the difference in the end, collecting the ball from Henderson with a spectacular first touch before unleashing a superb volleyed finish to net his 100th goal in English football. Klopp would be delighted to have him back.
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 15, 2020
Fabinho replaced Wijnaldum and helped assert Liverpool’s control in the game, while also allowing Henderson to have more freedom. Seems to have regained sharpness, judging by some of his passes and movement off the ball.
James Milner: N/A
A late introduction, Milner helped see the game out.