Liverpool 1 Norwich 1: If Brendan Rodgers was pinning hopes of an improvement in Liverpool’s fortunes upon the shoulders of the forward partnership between Christian Benteke and Daniel Sturridge, then the good news from this draw is that Danny Ings has provided the increasingly beleaguered Anfield manager with food for thought.
The former Burnley forward scored his first Liverpool goal with practically his first touch of the game after appearing as a half-time substitute for Benteke but, and here follows the bad news, such are the depths of problems currently facing Rodgers that it was not long before Russell Martin and Norwich were gifted an equaliser.
The draw left Liverpool, who welcomed back Sturridge for an hour after nearly six months on the sideline for hip surgery, with just four goals from their six league games this term and with the paltry record of having failed to score more than one goal in 18 of their last 20 matches.
The Norwich fans who chanted “sacked in the morning” in the direction of Rodgers with predictable mischief and malice may have been well wide of the mark but the simple fact is that the patience of Liverpool supporters and hierarchy alike only has so much latitude.
“On the back of the last home performance, there was a bit of anxiety in the first half,” said Rodgers. “But I always say the biggest thing of playing for Liverpool is the beauty of playing at Anfield.
“You have to have courage to play here. You have to embrace it, make sure you take the risks, embrace the risks and play positive football. It was the same when I first came in here and there was a bit of anxiety about the place. We built a real fortress for ourselves here but unfortunately we have to build that again and focus on being positive at home.”
Rodgers appeared set for some respite when Ings scored three minutes after his half-time introduction with a demonstration of control and finishing that has been absent for much of Liverpool’s campaign to date.
A lofted pass from the impressive Alberto Moreno was taken by Ings on his chest and, without breaking stride, the forward sent a low, accurate finish past the diving John Ruddy.
The lead was short-lived, however, with Martin equalising just after the hour after Simon Mignolet unconvincingly punched Jonny Howson’s corner .
The ball fell to the unmarked Norwich centre-half who took the ball on his chest before hooking past the stranded home goalkeeper. For Martin, who had driven south to attend the birth of his child and flew backto Liverpool with club directors to rejoin the team late in their preparations, it was some end to the day.
“He got the call late last night, about 11pm, that his wife was having contractions and that he needed to make his way down there,” explained manager Alex Neil.
“He made his way down there and the baby was delivered at 10am. He was on the first flight back up with the directors then put in a real captain’s performance for us. That shows his dedication to the team.”
Sturridge might also have made a dream return with the best chance of the first half but he steered a first-time left-foot shot directly at Ruddy.
That sparked a strong end to the opening period for the home side as Lucas soon found Philippe Coutinho in the area for a header which flew narrowly wide.
The momentum continued in Liverpool’s direction upon the restart as Coutinho twice curled shots off target and Ings, speeding down the right, tried to centre for Sturridge only to see his cross easily cut out by Ruddy.
But Liverpool’s problems extend far beyond a lack of goals and, at the other end of the field, they conceded on Norwich’s first notable attack, with Mignolet demonstrating sharp reflexes to keep out a close-range Matt Jarvis shot from Nathan Redmond’s cross.
Moreno and substitute 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 setting Coutinho racing clear on goal with the Liverpool forward being denied by the legs of Norwich’s impressive keeper. Soon after, Adam Lallana and Ings combined for the latter to round Ruddy only to run out of space at the Norwich by-line. But defeat for the visitors would have been unjust.
Mignolet 5; Can 6, Skrtel 6, Sakho 7; Clyne 7, Milner 5, Lucas 7 (Firmino 71, 6), Moreno 8; Coutinho 7; Sturridge 6 (Lallana 62, 6), Benteke 5 (Ings 46, 7).
Ruddy 9; Whittaker 7, Martin 8, Bassong 7, Brady 6; Dorrans 7 (O’Neil 85), Tettey 6, Howson 8; Redmond 6, Jerome 5 (Grabban 71, 6), Jarvis 6.
A Taylor 6
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