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Talk lfc match report

Preview, report, and player analysis by Robbie Amins at talklfc

After the disappointment at Old Trafford and Gerrard's injury adding salt to the wound, Liverpool will be looking for three wins in three matches at Anfield this season as they entertain Norwich today before travelling to Greece for a tricky Champions League tie against Olympiakos on Tuesday.

Rafa Benitez's midfield has been further dismantled as Australian winger Kewell (who had a poor game against United) is ruled out of the match after picking up a thigh strain and former Real Madrid midfielder, Antonio Nunez, will not kick a ball for at least the next six weeks.

Didi Hamann is expected to come into midfield as Steven Gerrard's replacement alongside Xabi Alonso. Youngster Stephen Warnock looks set to get another first XI opportunity in Kewell's absence.

Nigel Worthington's side have found life tough in the Premiership so far and are still looking for their first Premiership victory after winning the First Division last season. Against Tottenham at White Hart Lane they were unlucky not to score and put up a very good performance.

Their best performance so far this season has to be coming back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Newcastle at St James' Park last month. But that also had a lot to do with the poor defending by the Magpies.

To be fair they certainly had a tough start to the campaign. After drawing 1-1 at home with Crystal Palace, Norwich then had matches with Man Utd, Newcastle and Arsenal. They were outclassed by Arsene Wenger's team but they were unlucky to lose 2-1 at Old Trafford especially when on loan Arsenal forward David Bentley rattled the United cross bar with a sensational effort.

This will be the first top flight clash between Liverpool and Norwich since the 1994/95 season when Liverpool did the double over the Canaries, winning 4-0 at Anfield and 2-1 at Carrow Road.

Liverpool team from: Jerzy Dudek, Josemi, Sami Hyypia, Jamie Carragher, John Arne Riise, Stephen Warnock, Dietmar Hamann, Xabi Alonso, Steve Finnan, Luis Garcia, Milan Baros, Djibril Cisse, Florent Sinama-Pongolle, Salif Diao, Igor Biscan, Djimi Traore, Chris Kirkland.

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Match Report

Milan Baros, Luis Garcia and Djibril Cisse grabbed the goals, but the instrumental architect of everything good that Liverpool achieved in maintaining their 100 per cent home league record (so far) spun from the glittering boots of Xabi Alonso.

After the loss of Steven Gerrard to a foot injury and Harry Kewell missing the game with a thigh strain, Rafael Benitez started with two strikers instead of one. Milan Baros reuniting with Djibril Cisse upfront, while youngster Stephen Warnock took over on the left of midfield.

The Spanish coach also rested full back Josemi, no doubt with the Champions League game away to Olympiacos in mind, and returned Finnan to his more usual right back role. His intentions were clear. It was an attacking line-up and the Reds attacked from the word 'go'. John Arne-Riise and Steve Finnan played more like wing-backs rather than the usual conservative defensive fullbacks.

Norwich were under intense pressure from the start, as Alonso took command of midfield, spraying a succession of perfectly weighted passes to all corners of the pitch. But the Canaries could not do anything about it as they had other factors to worry about. Luis Garcia, starting on the right flank, made himself the third striker on many occasions. While the pace of the Cisse-Baros partnership are always a worry for defences.

Alonso's first involvement came when he spun a 40-yarder to Warnock, who chested it down to John Arne Riise's path. The Norwegian surged into the box but slashed his effort just wide. Luis Garcia then cut in from the right and his superb left-footed curler hit the frame of the goal, while Cisse, off balance, headed over after a Warnock cross spun to him a couple of yards out.

The chances kept coming for Liverpool, Cisse had a close range effort blocked and Warnock a bouncing effort held by Robert Green. And Riise had Robert Green scrambling with a curler off the outside of his left boot.

It was no surprise when the goal the crowd were waiting for finally arrived in the 23 minute. Milan Baros took over possession of the ball from Didi Hamann at the edge of the box, shaped up to shoot, pushed the ball to the right and cracked a fierce 20-yarder into the bottom corner.

The Anfield outfit were not satisfied with the one goal and kept on going. Just 3 minutes later, they struck again. Djibril Cisse did well to spot the running Luis Garcia and played the ball through to him. Garcia jinked past two challenges before shooting. The deflection off a defender fooled Robert Green and he had no chance with the shot.

Norwich were lucky they got to the break just two goals down. It was all Liverpool and Green had to be alert to tip over a Baros cross that looked destined to creep under the bar. The Norwich keeper then got down to keep out another low Baros effort, and was grateful that Cisse opted to cross rather than shoot when well placed. And Garcia flashed a shot wide. The Premiership newboys were struggling with the quality of the Reds especially with the dominant Alonso pulling the strings in midfield.

The Canaries were far more competitive in the second period, working hard to close the space Alonso was operating in. Francis was warned for one late challenge on the Liverpool man, and he was certainly under more pressure now. Stephen Warnock brought a save from Green after a lovely move had allowed Garcia to play a little reverse pass in the box.

Liverpool continued to pile on the pressure and a third goal inevitably arrived just after the hour mark.

A freekick routine from the Rafa Benitez's men fooled Norwich. A freekick just outside the box was played into the path of Xabi Alonso who looked as if he was to shoot. The intelligent Alonso then pushed the ball short to Cisse and he drilled a low shot into Robert Green's bottom right hand corner, before celebrating with a spectacular somersault. It was just reward for the French striker for his hardwork and enthusiasm in the match.

Alonso who deserved at least a 9 out of 10 in this match was given a rest by Benitez. The Spanish genius came off the pitch to a standing ovation as Salif Diao took his place in midfield.

Norwich, still looking for their first league win of the season, had a good spell of possession but they did not manage to trouble Jerzy Dudek in the Liverpool goal.

3 nil to the Reds. It could have been more. Alonso was the star of the show but many of those in the red shirt performed yesterday and it was a great team performance. There were encouraging signs too from Baros and Cisse. One can see that they are trying hard to strike up a partnership and even though it has not quite work out yet, both were rewarded for their efforts. A nice warm-up for Liverpool before they travel to Greece on Tuesday to take on Olympiakos in the Champions League.

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Player-by-player


Jerzy Dudek
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Clean sheet for the Pole who was rarely troubled by Norwich. The supposed threat of Huckerby and Bentley never materialised and credit have to be given not only to his defence but to the rest of the team. The defenders were solid but because the Reds were attacking most of the time, the Canaries struggled to string more than a few passes together, let alone make efforts on the Liverpool goal.

Steve Finnan
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After playing at right-mid for the last few matches, Steve returned to a more familiar role for this match. Like Riise, there were occasions when he looked more like a winger rather than a defender. That was how dominant Liverpool was in this match.

Jamie Carragher
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Nothing went past Sami and the scouser in the heart of the Reds' defence and the Canaries hardly had a sniff at the Liverpool goal. Yet another solid performance by Carra who is earning his spurs as a central defender.

Sami Hyypia
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The vice-skipper - the captain during Gerrard's absence, had a rather easy game. There were even times that he turned up as a winger! (Of course that was after a corner had been taken and cleared.) The Finn's understanding with Carra is improving and as they play more and more matches together, there will certainly be more clean sheets for Liverpool.

John Arne-Riise
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Riise has been in a rich vein of form this season and it continued yesterday. Darren Huckerby was a frustrated man after the match after trying many times but failing to beat the Norwegian. Riise's long passing was top-class and his switching of positions with Stephen Warnock down the left created confusion for Norwich and with a bit more luck, he could have scored too.

Luis Garcia
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The home crowd were delighted to see the nippy Spaniard's simple but sensational lay-offs, vision and off-the-ball running. This time starting on the right flank, Luis was superb. Liverpool have lacked this kind of player in recent times and Garcia despite his size has shown that he is not afraid of the bigger buggers in the Premiership. He was unlucky when his first effort hit the post. He became more quiet though after switching to a forward position following Cisse's withdrawal from the match.

Didi Hamann
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The calming influence of Didi Hamann was what allowed Xabi Alonso to dictate the play from central midfield without worrying about his defensive side of the game. Steven Gerrard (watching in the stands) must have been delighted that Didi and Xabi are linking up well and making sure that Liverpool did not miss him. More of that please...

Xabi Alonso
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The star of the show. The man of the moment. Xabi sprayed passes to every corner of the pitch with ease and assuredness of a veteran. He has settled into the Liverpool team like a fish to water and his distribution was what I would call world-class. There was an uproar in Sociedad because their fans felt they were shortchanged. They felt that Xabi was worth at least twice the 11M Liverpool splashed on him. And you could see why from this match. Xabi Alonso - a legend in the making.

Stephen Warnock
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Warnock has done well whenever his services has been called for this season. Harry Kewell has been criticised by some for not willing to get stuck in and avoiding challenges. Stephen would not have any of that. The Academy graduate went in hard whenever he could and he had an effective game on the left flank. Like any youngster just getting into a team, his enthusiasm was a joy to watch. And he linked up very well with Johnny Riise.

Djibril Cisse
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'Djib' was more quiet than in recent matches. But he worked hard, closed down on the Norwich defenders and never gave up. It was a very good pass to pick out Garcia for the second goal of the match. And when he was limping with a hamstring injury, the fans thought that was the end of Djibril's match but he wanted to sign off with a goal. And he did. He scored a goal in front of the delighted Kop, celebrated with a trademark somersault before coming off for Djimi Traore.

Milan Baros
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Milan was lively as usual. He always wanted the ball and always wanted to take on the defenders down the right. But the difference this time round was that the infamous 'look down on the floor' technique that he always uses was lacking. Milan tried to play in Djibril when he could and the link-up play between him, Garcia and Cisse tormented the Norwich defence. His goal was reminiscent of the one he scored against Leeds last season.

Salif Diao
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The Senegalese international midfielder came on to give Xabi Alonso a well-deserved breather in the 65th minute. He then switched to centre-back after Igor Biscan's introduction into the game. Norwich's best spell in the game coincided with his time on the pitch but he made sure there was no way back for them in the game with some precise tackling.

Djimi Traore
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The lanky defender played at left back after Stephen Warnock's substitution but Norwich did not try to invade his territory. Djimi is definitely now ahead of Stephane Henchoz in the pecking order at Anfield.

Igor Biscan
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It was heartening to see the crowd encouraging Igor. They cheered him on and started chanting his name just after he did well to keep the possession of the ball. Igor looks a much happier and more confident player under Rafa Benitez and the fans are hoping that he can prove his critics wrong.

Man of the match: Xabi Alonso

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