Warm words not arresting Norwich’s decline

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty ImagesNorwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy was the victim of four Luis Suarez goals in the Canaries' 5-1 defeat at Anfield.

Brendan Rodgers' sympathy must have been cold comfort to Chris Hughton after Liverpool and Luis Suarez tortured Norwich City at Anfield.

Suarez became the first Liverpool player in their illustrious history to score three league hat-tricks against the same opponent after his four-goal salvo swept away the Canaries in a 5-1 romp on Merseyside. Suarez even turned provider for the late fifth, dispatched by Raheem Sterling, five minutes after Bradley Johnson had reduced the arrears.

- Report: Liverpool 5-1 Norwich City

The contrast between the managers deep in the bowels of Anfield following this one-sided Premier League affair underlined the gulf in quality between the sides. Rodgers positively purred over Suarez's world-class display and revealed he had even felt sorry for the Norwich defence, tasked with containing a man at the peak of his powers. The Uruguayan treated his adoring public to the full repertoire. John Ruddy was subjected to a surgical barrage of brilliance; headlined by a 35-yard dipping half-volley that lifted the Kop to its feet after the Canaries had improbably started in positive fashion.

Suarez was the difference but Norwich were left to rue fresh defensive charity. Suarez's second owed less to his individual talent and more to another abdication of duty from the Norwich backline who allowed Steven Gerrard copious time to make a darting near-post run and glancing flick that Suarez hooked home from seven yards.

It was the killer blow for Hughton. Norwich's manager acknowledged his side were brushed aside in brutal fashion by a special footballer, but his body language and frustration were never far from his measured exterior and it portrayed a different story. For perhaps the first time in public, Hughton's manner barely concealed his irritation at the lack of personal responsibility from his players.

Men like Suarez need no invitation to terrorise Premier League defences, but the deferential manner of the second concession, coming in identical fashion to the opener conceded last month at Newcastle, hints at a squad and a management unable to learn from past misdemeanours.

Norwich's worsening goal difference is not the least of their troubles, but the degree of difficulty increases exponentially with each fresh hammering. Few, if any, felt Norwich could emulate Hull's achievement of stunning Liverpool on home soil, but the same frailties exhibited at Newcastle and Manchester City on the road in recent weeks were evident again once Suarez had lashed the Reds in front.

Ruddy's shot-stopping prowess ensured the final scoreline did not rival that abject low at the Etihad. Nor will Norwich's Premier League future be defined by trips to the country's best, but Hughton and his players are now firmly in deficit with a frustrated support who rightly demand tangible signs of progress after a club-record summer transfer outlay.

Hughton's future has been a routine topic in recent months, but Norwich's solid home form has insulated the Canaries' experienced manager when their sparse efforts on the road subject him and his methods to forensic scrutiny. Hughton opted to keep Gary Hooper on the bench at Anfield after his weekend match-winner against Crystal Palace. That may well have been a nod to a potentially less exacting league trip to West Brom this weekend but it does little to dismiss the perception Hughton is reaching a defining moment in his Carrow Road tenure.

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