The biggest and baddest challenges of the Premier League haven’t tripped up Liverpool.
Neither did one of the unlikeliest.
Last-place Norwich City resisted for nearly 80 minutes before Sadio Mané scored the winning goal in Liverpool’s 1-0 victory at Carrow Road.
It’s the 25th league win of the season in 26 fixtures for the Reds, extending their own record for best start to a season in Europe’s top five circuits. More importantly, it’s another hurdle cleared by the champions-elect.
They’ve already beaten Manchester City — who’ve suddenly got a crisis to tend to — and built an eye-popping 25-point lead atop the table. They handled the holiday fixture congestion with aplomb, despite criticism and ultimately drastic measures to address it by manager Jurgen Klopp.
On paper, a game against the worst team in the league seemed straightforward. But Norwich is desperate as it sinks further away from safety, and the Canaries have already beaten Man City and drawn against Tottenham and Arsenal at home. Plus, Liverpool’s last trip to Carrow Road was a white-knuckle escape.
That was in 2016. This is 2020, when Klopp’s Reds always have an answer.
On Saturday, it was Mané. Jordan Henderson played a long ball forward that Mané did well to bring down before finishing with authority past Tim Krul:
VAR took a momentary look at whether or not Mané shoved Norwich center back Christoph Zimmermann before the ball arrived, but the goal stood.
As expected, Liverpool dominated possession and peppered Krul with shots, while Norwich offered periodic threat going the other way. The Reds never seemed fully at their best, and it also never seemed it would cost them.
The win secures them Champions League football on the hilariously early date of Feb. 15. Sheffield United, which is currently fifth place, can finish with a maximum of 75 points. Liverpool now has 76.
It’s hard to wrap your head around the run Liverpool is on. They sure aren’t letting Norwich or anyone else loosen their grip on the Premier League.
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