Norwich City 0-3 Liverpool: Minamino crushes Canaries' hopes

By Sports Desk September 21, 2021

Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino delivered for Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool heaped on more misery for Norwich City by powering to a 3-0 win at Carrow Road in the EFL Cup.

Both forwards scored for the first time this season, Minamino's double sandwiching a fine header from Origi, as Klopp's fringe men proved too good for the Canaries.

There was a scare for Liverpool at 1-0 when Norwich were awarded a penalty, but Caoimhin Kelleher saved from Christos Tzolis as the hosts squandered their best chance.

With Norwich bottom of the Premier League after five consecutive defeats, this was a chance to lift spirits, but it only served as a reminder of their squad's shortcomings.

Liverpool took a fourth-minute lead when Minamino turned sharply inside the six-yard box after Divock Origi headed down a corner from Tsimikas. The Japanese forward fired low past Angus Gunn for the swift breakthrough.

Ibrahima Konate powered a header just over the bar from another corner as Liverpool chased a quick second goal.

Kaide Gordon, a 16-year-old winger, showed promise for Liverpool and cut in from the left in the style of Mohamed Salah before flashing a left-footed shot just wide of the right post, while Curtis Jones shot just over from 18 yards.

Norwich lacked a punch up front and that was summed up by Adam Idah's tame side-footed shot that Kelleher smothered easily, and doubly so when the goalkeeper saved the spot-kick from Tzolis with his feet after 18-year-old debutant Conor Bradley fouled Dimitris Giannoulis.

Security of a second goal came in the 50th minute when Tsimikas played a lovely cross from the byline to Origi on the edge of the six-yard box, and the striker did the rest with a precise header into the right corner.

Origi went close again as he placed a shot just wide, before Gordon smashed the ball over from a presentable chance, 10 yards out, lacking the composure that will come with experience. Minamino showed him the way with 10 minutes remaining, slotting past Gunn after being set up by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

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    Mane has scored 23 goals in 50 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions this term, helping Klopp's team to win the EFL Cup and FA Cup trophies, while the Reds could yet add the Champions League when they face Real Madrid in Saturday's final in Paris.

    The 30-year-old scored when Liverpool faced Madrid in the 2018 final in Kyiv, though substitute Gareth Bale netted a brace to condemn Klopp's side to a 3-1 defeat.

    Liverpool are bidding to win their seventh European crown at the Stade de France, and Mane has been touted as a potential Ballon d'Or contender after also firing Senegal to their first Africa Cup of Nations title earlier this year.

    However, things could have been very different for Mane, who said he had the chance to join Liverpool's rivals United when he departed Southampton in 2016.

    Speaking to former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher in an interview for the Telegraph, Mane recalled how a phone call from Klopp, who had attempted to sign him for former club Borussia Dortmund on a previous occasion, saw his head turn.

    "I have to say, I was really close to going to Manchester United," Mane said. "I had the contract there. I had it all agreed. 

    "It was all ready, but instead I thought, 'no, I want to go to Liverpool'. I was convinced to go with Klopp's project. 

    "I still remember the first time I got the call from Klopp. He said, 'Sadio, listen, I want to explain to you what happened at Dortmund'. 

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    Mane scored in both legs of Liverpool's Champions League semi-final win over Villarreal, setting up the Reds' ninth European Cup/Champions League meeting with Madrid.

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    At the halfway point of the season, you would have been forgiven for suspending betting on at least the Premier League's player of the year, and arguably the Ballon d'Or as well.

    Salah was unstoppable as Liverpool looked to push Manchester City in the title race, as well as steer their way through a tricky Champions League group.

    The Egypt international scored a hat-trick as Liverpool demolished Manchester United 5-0, becoming the first away player to score a hat-trick at Old Trafford for over 18 years, since Ronaldo did so for Real Madrid back in April 2003 in the Champions League.

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    He had 23 goals in all competitions to his name by the time he left to compete in the Africa Cup of Nations in early January, where he helped Egypt reach the final in Cameroon.

    It was heartbreak for Salah and The Pharaohs though, losing on penalties to Senegal, before experiencing exactly the same outcome against the same opposition in their World Cup qualifying play-off almost two months later.

    Salah returned to score crucial goals against Inter in the Champions League last 16 and Norwich City in the Premier League, but after that went 11 games in all competitions without scoring a goal in open play, before bagging another two against United in a 4-0 win at Anfield.

    There were a further seven games without a goal at all after that, though when he came off the bench to score against Wolves on the final day of the season, if it had not been for City's comeback against Aston Villa, Salah would have scored the goal to win his team the Premier League title.

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    If he can get the "revenge" he is openly seeking against Madrid for their 2018 Champions League final victory against the Reds and make it a trophy treble, he could well be top of the list in the Ballon d'Or voting.

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    Like Salah, Mane had an impressive start to the season as he scored in nine of his team's first 16 games in all competitions, though had a drier period just before the Africa Cup of Nations, scoring just once in 10 outings.

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    He netted a pressure stoppage-time penalty in the opening game against Zimbabwe that turned out to be their only goal in the group stage, therefore crucial in them progressing. Mane then scored the opener against Cape Verde in the last 16, and a late clincher against Burkina Faso in the semi-finals.

    Mane then took the weight of a nation on his shoulders as he slammed home the winning penalty in the shoot-out against Egypt in the final.

    By the time he returned to club action with Salah, Luis Diaz had arrived at Anfield and already taken up residence in Mane's usual position on the left of the front three.

    It wasn't a problem, though, as Mane simply reinvented himself as a central striker, scoring a vital winner against West Ham before repeating the trick of scoring a pressure penalty against Egypt to send Senegal to this year's World Cup.

    Mane really started to motor as Liverpool looked to win an unprecedented quadruple, scoring nine goals in his last 13 games, including in both the league draw and FA Cup semi-final win against Man City, and then in both legs of the Champions League semi-final against Villarreal.

    His numbers still might not quite match up to Salah or Benzema, with 23 goals and two assists in 50 appearances in all competitions at club level, but he did only score two fewer non-penalty goals than Salah (25).

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    Calling Benzema the man for the big occasion still doesn't feel like it quite does him justice. The 34-year-old is in the form of his life, showing that age really is just a number.

    Benzema has made headlines throughout the season, mostly for his uncanny ability to come up with important goals in the Champions League, and he is without doubt the main reason Madrid made it past the last 16, let alone all the way to the final.

    Five goals in the group stages from Benzema helped Los Blancos to a last 16 meeting with Paris Saint-Germain, with Kylian Mbappe and company taking a 1-0 lead into the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.

    Mbappe was dominating again that night, making it 2-0 on aggregate and getting through time and again, until Benzema took over.

    His 17-minute hat-trick turned the tie on its head, and sent Carlo Ancelotti's team through to face Chelsea, who Benzema also scored a treble against at Stamford Bridge.

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    Two more goals from Benzema in the 4-3 defeat at the Etihad Stadium gave them a fighting chance, and though it was Rodrygo who caused all the drama in the closing stages of normal time of the second leg, it was Benzema from the penalty spot who ultimately took his team to the final.

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