Liverpool's sensational season continued as Sadio Mane's late strike secured a 1-0 win over struggling Norwich on a blustery Saturday evening at Carrow Road. Prior to kick off Storm Dennis threatened to steal the headlines, but it was Jurgen Klopp's side that was forced to do the huffing and puffing against a stubborn Norwich, who refused to bow to the prospective champion.
Mane's introduction dragged his side up another gear and the Senegal international produced another huge contribution when Liverpool needed it most with a classy finish from Jordan Henderson's pinpoint delivery that broke Norwich hearts and dragged the Reds ever closer to the title.
Twenty-five was the magic number for the relentless Reds, who secured their 25th league victory in just 26 games to go 25 points clear of second-place Manchester City in the Premier League. Incredibly, Klopp's men have recorded more points in 2020 than Norwich have all season and move to within two games of setting the longest ever run of consecutive Premier League wins, held by Pep Guardiola's City in 2017.
Despite their clear dominance, the visitors didn't create too many clear-cut openings in a frustrating first half that ended level. It could have been even worse had it not been for Alisson's ice-cool composure when Teemu Pukki looked certain to tuck away his 12th of the season late in the game, while Alexander Tettey rattled the post after the interval.
Manager rating (out of 10)
7 -- The German tactician made just one change as the Liverpool juggernaut rumbled on at Norwich, Naby Keita replacing Fabinho in the starting XI. This one proved to be a game of fine margins, but Klopp's introduction of Mane came at exactly the right moment to help his side over the line.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 8 -- The Brazilian keeper produced a wonderful intervention to somehow claw the ball out of the feet of Pukki as the striker shaped to tap into an empty net. That save alone was worthy of a third consecutive clean sheet -- a 10th in 11 Premier League games for Alisson --who also thwarted Pukki again late on.
DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 7 -- Given plenty to think about by the pace of Pukki and Todd Cantwell who have impressed in their maiden Premier League season, but the full-back stuck to the task well in a calm and assured display. His best moment saw the defender pick our Andy Robertson on the left with an audacious cross-field ball that dropped perfectly onto the Scot's left boot.
DF Joe Gomez, 6 -- The maturing centre-back has been in formidable form of late, but was thankful to see the wind deceive Pukki as the fantastic Finn looked to race away. Held the line excellently to thwart the same player with a well-executed offside trap and displayed a calm head in the thick of a period of intense second-half pressure
DF Virgil van Dijk, 6 -- Was grateful to see his goalkeeper bail him out when Lukas Rupp seemed to have beaten the offside trap. He wasn't at his incredible best, but he produced a vital header to divert the ball from Pukki as Norwich piled on some pressure of their own.
DF Andrew Robertson, 7 -- His desire to play with intensity was there for all to see as he gave Mane an earful for a sluggish contribution as ball boy. The Scot pressed superbly to help the Reds pen their hosts inside their own half for large spells and he twice came desperately close to assisting Roberto Firmino for the opener.
MF Jordan Henderson, 8 -- Hard to argue there's a harder working player on the planet. Henderson still got through plenty of skill work too, picking out Firmino with an insane pass over the top before assisting Mane with an equally stunning long ball for the winner.
MF Naby Keita, 6 -- Frustrated his opponents to no end in a terrier-like display that included plenty of "slightly mistimed" challenges one might say. It felt like he never really got beyond third gear on this occasion, although he stung the palms of Tim Krul with a powerful drive from 20 yards and was denied from a much closer distance by the Dutchman's chin seconds later.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 7 -- Almost conjured up a moment of magic with a clever return ball to Mo Salah that allowed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the chance to pull the trigger and threatened to cause chaos with a couple of mazy runs into the Norwich box. Quieter after the break, but a decent performance nonetheless.
FW Mohamed Salah, 7 -- The bustling Egyptian made himself a nuisance from the first whistle as he looked to tee up his teammates with a series of tricks and flicks, but a determined display from Grant Hanley kept the visitors at bay. Salah saw a number of his own strikes superbly blocked in a game full of "nearly" moments for the forward.
FW Roberto Firmino, 7 -- The Brazilian has earned the plaudits for his unselfish approach -- a rare find in a No. 9 -- and he almost played in Wijnaldum with a superb return pass to send his teammate into the box. The striker earlier saw his effort blocked by Hanley before the latter was booked for cynically bringing him down just outside the box.
FW Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 6 -- Took aim from the edge of the box and fired an early effort that seemed destined for the bottom corner at first glance, but the weather took the sting out of the shot. An otherwise quiet display from the Ox, who was replaced by Mane on the hour-mark.
MF Fabinho, 6 -- Replaced Wijnaldum in the 60th minute. Conceded a free kick with what was quite possibly his first involvement for pulling back Ondrej Duda. Picked out Mane with a nicely-weighted sprayed pass to the left before Salah was again thwarted by another Hanley block.
FW Sadio Mane, 8 -- Replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 60th minute. His introduction certainly seemed to help the Reds move up a gear and the Senegal man finally broke the Norwich resistance with an exquisite turn and finish in the 77th minute.