Liverpool display shows Norwich City are not in the Premier League to make up the numbers
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil and his Norwich City squad know by now they will not get the full credit for a Premier League display that underlined City mean business in the pursuit of top flight longevity.
This will be portrayed beyond the borders of Norfolk in a negative light for Liverpool, another example Brendan Rodgers has lost his way after the Reds' inability to dismiss a newly-promoted foe.
For all Liverpool's obvious struggles in a fitful start to the new campaign, a point at Anfield against the five-time European Cup winners provided further evidence Norwich are not intent on being cannon fodder.
Liverpool were stung into a riposte following Russell Martin's leveller on a landmark day for the captain and his family, but they could find no way past John Ruddy in a desperate search for a winner. The 28-year-old evoked memories of his brilliance at Anfield on Norwich's first Premier League return back in October 2011 when he was a one-man barricade on that occasion in another 1-1 league stalemate.
Liverpool were less dominant on this occasion, however, and Norwich could have increased the growing pressure on Rodgers if Matt Jarvis had not struck the body of Simon Mignolet from close range on one of numerous counter-attacking forays.
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Neil made the brave call to drop Wes Hoolahan for the added central midfield ballast of Graham Dorrans and Norwich were no less resolute, no less inventive than they have been this season with City's stand-out player. Neil acknowledged that fact after the game but underlined this is all about the greater good; a statement which encapsulates Norwich under their bullish manager. No player, not even the mesmeric Irishman, is more important than the primary objective of not simply surviving but flourishing.
Rodgers recalled fit-again Daniel Sturridge for his first action after recovering from a hip injury in a potent-looking spearhead alongside Philippe Coutinho and Christian Benteke. The former Aston Villa frontman drew an early free kick from Alex Tettey 25 yards out but Robbie Brady headed Alberto Moreno's dipping cross clear.
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James Milner earned an early yellow card for a challenge from behind on Cameron Jerome just inside the Reds' half, but the England international's tumble under Seb Bassong's attentions at the other end inside Norwich's penalty area got short shrift from referee Anthony Taylor.
Liverpool opted to raid at will through the excellent Moreno down their left in the first period, Milner unleashing a goalbound shot in one moment of alarm that was blocked by Brady in an echo of his Bournemouth intervention the previous weekeend.
But their best chance of the opening period came from a turnover when Coutinho robbed Martin before feeding Sturridge, who found Ruddy in defiant mood 18 yards out.
City failed to heed the warning three minutes after the interval when Martin's spirit of adventure again proved costly as Moreno picked out the recently-arrived Danny Ings to slot past Ruddy from just outside the angle of the six-yard box.
Tettey picked up a costly fifth booking of the season in the maelstrom that threatened to engulf following a home breakthrough, but once City had cleared their collective heads there appeared some promise on the counter. Steven Whittaker rashly fired over with City flooding men forward but from Brady's corner they drew level, Mignolet's punch coolly sent back over his head by Martin's volley.
Mignolet then denied Jarvis from close range after the West Ham loanee looked favourite to score at the near post but Ruddy was required to tip over Moreno's rising strike seconds later as the contest lurched from one end to the other.
Lewis Grabban replaced Jerome for the final quarter, with Roberto Firmino on for Lucas, and it was the Liverpool substitute who brought another stop from Ruddy at his near post.
The City number one excelled himself to foil Coutinho in a battle of wills played out in front of a disbelieving Kop in the 79th minute after City were caught short from their own corner routine – Ruddy diverting the midfielder's sidefooted effort behind with his upper body.
Ings was left beating the turf in frustration after Adam Lallana danced his way through the heart of Norwich's central defence before Ruddy offered enough of a barrier to force Ings over the dead ball line. Emre Can then lashed wide in stoppage time with City dropping ever deeper to protect a battling point.