And of course 27,023 supporters back in the ground, Carrow Road bouncing and waving amid a plethora of sponsored flags and chants in the stands calling on neighboring Ipswich Town rivals to do something or other unsavory.
As befits fans returning along with top-level football, and as it has been across the country this weekend, the atmosphere was electric: loud and passionate, deafening at kick-off and smiling. in its sheer volume with Norwich’s first attack.
The Canaries were bright and energetic at the start, challenging themselves and playing directly on the canals to keep visitors on the back foot.
Norwich’s right flank combo of Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell is much admired, but here the latter was often a waste despite a plentiful industry. Instead, on the other side of the pitch, left-back Dimitris Giannoulis was often the better outlet, while the impact of lender Billy Gilmour was noticeable in both defensive play and construction play.
It was everything the home fans could have asked for, apart from the first goal. The chances were somewhat limited for them, however.
Liverpool’s attack quickly started to kick in, with a strong press almost seeing Grant Hanley stolen and Diogo Jota in goal. A flurry of effort then saw Jota get a header knocked down by Tim Krul, Salah make room in the zone and shoot the keeper and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, so brilliant in the preseason and with a deserved place in the 11. here, drill out of range – all within five minutes.
Still, it was almost Norwich who made the breakthrough, a Cantwell ball behind Van Dijk freeing Teemu Pukki, only to have his practice at the near post parried behind by Alisson Becker. It inspired a surge of pressure from Norwich, which reinvigorated fans and reminded the Reds that there was no way they were headed for victory.
And then, just like that, the home crowd was silenced, the deadlock shattered: a cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold, a touch of Salah that eluded him but snapped at Jota, and his finish stuffed in. Krul’s legs, who seemed to anticipate that the ball was going in the opposite direction.
The Portuguese forward has been the fit man in front of goal for the past few months for the Reds and has continued to look extremely sharp here, not only with the goal but his bonding play and willingness to run behind. Jota continues to come up with his name as a go-to starter.
A second-half dribble saw him take three defenders and charge into a danger zone, before Cantwell’s raw lunge ended the push and saw him reserved. The Liverpool striker was reportedly disappointed to be substituted on the hour mark, but the double change came at a time when Jurgen Klopp had seen his side come in second in a succession of challenges and seem sensitive on the clock. Roberto Firmino and his compatriot Fabinho were needed.
So if his place is at greatest risk due to Jota’s form and fortune in front of goal, what would the No.9 produce?
Suffice to say that Klopp’s changes worked. Four minutes later, the original top three, the Champions League-winning troika, combined in devastating and marginally lucky ways, with Firmino sweeping the house after more deliberate help from Salah this time around.
Norwich’s enduring resistance and hopes have come to an end, as the Reds have found additional late-game gear that so many of the top teams flaunt so frequently. This is, in the end, what sets the title challengers apart from the rest.
Salah curled up in a brilliant third, then nearly dribbled through the entire defense to score again before Harvey Elliott stepped in for a late appearance.
So Norwich is losing, an 11th straight Premier League loss dating back to pre-pandemic days, but other than the last 15 minutes or so they are unlikely to stress too much – there is reason to be optimistic, something to build on.
Liverpool’s season begins once again with the attack, following the story of endless defensive sobbing from last year.