Now that is entertainment, Norwich and Liverpool-style. A match that hurtled breathlessly between breakneck attacking and comical defending reached an incredible finale, when Adam Lallana scored a stoppage-time winning goal for the visitors moments after Sébastien Bassong had equalised for the hosts.
Steven Naismith marked his Norwich debut with a goal, Roberto Firmino struck two beauties and Dieumerci Mbokani, Wes Hoolahan and Jordan Henderson also found the net as Liverpool took three points and Norwich were left perilously close to the relegation zone. Those are the bare facts from Liverpool’s first win of 2016, a match with enough incident to last a year.
Liverpool’s best performances in the three months since Klopp took charge have involved bold starts but here they began rather aimlessly.
Instead Norwich seized the initiative from the first minute, as if energised by the deployment of two January recruits, Naismith and the right-back, Ivo Pinto. The Portuguese defender made a bright early contribution, combining slickly down the right with Nathan Redmond before the winger’s cross was cleared by a stretching Mamadou Sakho.
Liverpool looked weak and muddled until the 18th minute when they suddenly conjured a goal utterly at odds with their display up to that point. The visitors cut their way down the left with a zesty move featuring Jordon Ibe, Alberto Moreno and James Miner before Milner nudged the ball through to Firmino. The Brazilian shot across the advancing Declan Rudd, who got a foot to the ball but could not prevent it bobbling in off the far post.
Liverpool were transformed, their play infuse with new energy. Briefly they showed their vaunted pressing skills. Milner should have increased their lead moments later after being sent clear by Firmino, but the midfielder’s dawdling allowed Robbie Brady to recover and poke the ball off his foot for a corner.
Firmino was fizzling now and there were calls for a penalty when he was tugged back by Bassong in the 27th minute. The referee judged that the foul had been committed outside the box, and Moreno fired the free-kick wide.
Liverpool were made to regret those miss all the more when their own well-established difficulty with defending set-pieces re-emerged in the 29th minute. The visitors floundered as they tried to clear the delivery, and when Brady nodded the ball back into the box, Mbokani collected it with his back to goal, held off Sakho and then backheeled the ball smartly through the Frenchman’s legs and into the net from seven yards.
Liverpool’s defence seemed on the verge of breaking down several times thereafter, as Norwich attacked with gusto, though not always with precision. They move in the 41st minute was, however, a beauty. A rapid advance down the right culminated with Wes Hoolahan collecting the ball on the edge of the area and slipping a lovely pass through to Naismith, who lashed a low shot into the far corner from an acute angle. It was a tidy finish by the striker but a goalkeeper who has just signed a new five-year contract at Anfield would have expected to stop it.
Simon Mignolet was given a chance to showcase his shot-stopping ability – and atone for a ludicrous foul on Naismith by Moreno – when Norwich were awarded a penalty in the 54th minute. The Spanish full-back is prone to rashness but the two-footed lunge from behind on Naismith was senseless even by his standards, and the referee seemed to have decided on the spot kick even before Naismith threw himself to the ground after Moreno aimed another clip at him a second later. In contrast to Moreno, Hoolahan was a model of composure as he dinked the penalty down the middle of the goal as Mignolet dived left.
The Carrow Road faithful were still crowing about their two-goal lead when Liverpool replied. Nathaniel Clyne hurtled down the right and delivered a cross that Firmino flicked on to Henderson, who had darted into the box undetected by any defender. Liverpool’s captain swept the ball into the net from 12 yards.
Klopp replaced Ibe with Lallana before the hour and the change made a difference, as the former Southampton forward played a key role in the equaliser. The move was started and finished, however, by Firmino, who flipped a cute pass on to Milner near half-way before spinning and dashing towards the box. Thus he was on hand to receive the ensuing cross from the left by Lallana and clip the ball past Rudd.
There was still more than half an hour to play and, with both both teams looking capable of offensive flourishes and slapdash defending, more goals looked likely. Neil will curse the way the next one arrived, however, as Russell Martin inadvertently put Milner through on goal with a reckless backpass. Unlike in the first half, Milner took the chance, slotting past Rudd to trigger jubilation among the away players and fans.