Photo Gallery: Luis Suarez hits the boos as Liverpool trounce Norwich City
Norwich City 0, Liverpool 3: South American scourges were few and far between for Norwich City in the Football League.
Right now, the Canaries seemed bedevilled and bewitched. The script is both depressingly familiar as it is captivating. Carlos Tevez left the Carrow Road pitch last time out in possession of the match ball and a remodelled golf swing.
Luis Suarez the footballer is a goalscorer blessed with sublime gifts. Luis Suarez the man is reviled by large swathes of the footballing public outside the confines of L4.
Suarez should let his football do the talking. John Ruddy and an over-worked defence combined to frustrate the Uruguayan at Anfield earlier in the season. Revenge was brutal.
City's big keeper was beaten with a left-footed curler, a right-foot strike of unerring accuracy into the opposite corner and an audacious lob way beyond impudent.
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Suarez again had plenty of detractors on foreign soil in Norfolk, but he did at least have the decency to provide some advance warning when he carved a chip into the Lower Barclay during the visitors' second half exhibition; an act indicative of the whole contest.
Liverpool toyed with the Canaries from practically the opening seconds, when Ruddy had to advance right to the edge of his penalty area to thwart Suarez who had slipped his bind to career after Glen Johnson's diagonal ball. Steven Gerrard owned midfield. Jamie Carragher turned back the clock to a phase of his career when the Liverpudlian-bred duo were the Mersey heartbeat of this famous institution.
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Suarez was a pest; an incessant force of energy and movement – harrying Ryan Bennett and Elliott Ward with a performance that bordered on cruelty. Gerrard and Suarez in perfect harmony would trouble any defence in the land. At times the red tide threatened to engulf.
The Uruguayan's hat-trick was the bare minimum Liverpool merited for a measure of control that makes a mockery of their on-going efforts to avoid a lowest top flight finish since 1954 when they were last relegated.
Yet for all the precision, Kenny Dalglish's side profited from fresh indecision in the home ranks. Recent Norwich games have contained echoes of those first, uncertain steps on the journey of discovery during the opening month of a campaign when a hesitant group of players were their own worst enemy. Individual errors plagued the impressive play against the likes of Wigan, Stoke and Chelsea and punishment was swift. If not entirely eradicated, those initial frailties had been counter-balanced by an attacking vigour and fearless approach to bridging the divide.
Now in the final throes of combat, City are again struggling to carry a threat at one end, allied to a brittleness at the other.
Their body of work during the intervening period has guaranteed Premier League survival - which is the only criteria anyone should apply to Paul Lambert and his squad. Norwich will finish higher than 17th place, irrespective of what happens over the remaining fortnight.
Given City's travails since a memorable Easter haul against Everton and Tottenham, the inherent danger now is to adopt a skewered view of the club's overall impact.
The pessimists will brood over the by-products from stalled momentum, of limping over the line and the potential hangover into the start of next season. The eternal optimists will focus on what has gone before. Of an expected renewal process to replenish the squad during this summer for another crack at beating the odds. To successfully tip toe again between the likes of Liverpool and Manchester's finest to win those key battles against the rest.
The cold reality lies somewhere in between. When the fixtures were published last summer and optimism was tinged with trepidation over that fear of the unknown, few would have expected many league points to be earned over such a potentially hazardous run-in.
Back in 2005, games at this stage of the season had to be won to revive a lost cause. Now, City approach the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool and Arsenal this coming weekend looking to embellish what has gone before. Norwich could well still have a part to play in the final day drama – a voyeuristic support role if Aston Villa head to Carrow Road needing anything tangible to put the seal on a season to forget.
Lambert rejects the idea fatigue has started to set in. To accept that notion is to concede weakness; to give opponents a fillip and his own players a ready made excuse. The available evidence suggests mental and physical exertions have taken a toll. Confidence, that most fragile of commodities, must also begin to erode since Manchester City's mauling when they moved through the gears to such devastating effect.
That sure-footed, inner belief which characterised Norwich's play around the turn of this year with a string of results that effectively guaranteed survival has been singularly lacking over the final furlong.
As a result. some of the best strikers in the business have made the most of a collective malaise afflicting Norwich during periods of their recent league games.
Suarez and Gerrard are top class operators. When David Fox needed fractions of a second longer to control Russell Martin's pass, the England midfielder had pounced and slipped in his man all in one seamless motion. Suarez the cold-eyed assassin did the rest. No thought of bringing it back onto his right. Or sizing up whether Ruddy had worked out his angles. The ball was whipped across the Norwich number one with all the precision of a skilled surgeon performing a routine operation.
The second was even better, barely five minutes later. Kyle Naughton's sloppy back pass left Ward exposed. One glance towards Ruddy assessed the degree of difficulty prior to a right foot shot drilled into his bottom corner.
The tariff soared again for Suarez's party piece. Ward was once more an unwilling participant in a failed bid to control Glen Johnson's relieving punt on the greasy surface. The Uruguayan had no such issues with the elements as he first touch brought the ball under his spell before advancing into enemy territory and lifting over Ruddy's towering frame.
It was a breathtaking moment to set alongside Tevez's swerving strike to open the scoring earlier this month and Sergio Aguero's exocet that put Roberto Mancini's men in command. There must be something in the DNA of these men from the Americas; same continent, same clinical razor-sharp finishing.
Elliott Bennett had tested Pepe Reina just after the interval with a strike from range that appeared to brush Daniel Agger in flight but the watchful Spaniard beat it away before Bradley Johnson's glancing header from the resulting corner dropped wide. James Vaughan was bright in a late second half cameo that threatened to unsettle the implacable Carragher, but Liverpool always carried the greater menace.
Any hopes Lambert and his coaching staff could work their motivational magic at the interval evaporated quicker than it took Gerrard to exert a growing influence from Liverpool's left flank.
No longer the marauding presence of his youth, but possessing the experience that allows him to distil his immense influence on a game. Gerrard knew a third would quell any faint prospect of City launching a fightback. A cushioned pass into Suarez created a sharp chance for Stewart Downing. The former Middlesbrough man lifted over.
Jonjo Shelvey headed against the bar after Suarez had been denied at the near post then embarrassingly miscued from close range when the ball reared up from Jose Enrique's cross with Gerrard the catalyst. Downing tricked his way inside Naughton, but Ruddy was down quickly to parry the angled strike.
There were shades of that glorious passage of play in the first 20 minutes or so at Anfield back in October when Norwich had kept the Red Sea at bay.
Suarez's signature lob secured the win here. Norwich continued to press. Liverpool continued to remain vigilant. Craig Bellamy tracked back in front of the rain-sodden Dalglish to scupper a potential home raid.
The prospect of an FA Cup final start this coming weekend appeared a powerful motivational aid to ensure there was no collective let up from the visitors.
In truth, Norwich never threatened to rouse themselves in the closing stages. Liverpool may have one final peak to scale this season. The Canaries have already conquered their Everest.