Liverpool could bask in an evening of good news and, if they wanted, an agreeable omen from history. At the outset this had the hallmarks of a banana skin but they showed little sign of slipping up against foes clad in yellow. Instead they enjoyed as comfortable an opening assignment as they could have wanted and the upsides did not end there.
It bodes nicely that, for the fifth consecutive year, Mohamed Salah wasted no time in getting off the mark. He also recorded two assists, even if one of them owed mainly to good fortune, but the vicious finish that beat Tim Krul all ends up to guarantee the outcome was ample evidence he is in fine nick. He and Liverpool could have scored more but there was pleasure to be taken at both ends of the pitch.
When Alisson made an exceptional double save at the death to prevent Ben Gibson and Adam Idah from offering Norwich some consolation, it meant Liverpool could take a clean sheet home. The significance was lost on no one, even if this was hardly the most exacting workout. Liverpool’s back line had been marshalled by Virgil van Dijk, back in competitive action after 10 months out, and another returnee in the form of Joël Matip. It was Matip’s first outing since January: a fully-stocked central defence could make the world of difference to their hopes of clawing back the gap Manchester City opened up last season.
“It was really good to see him again and have him back on the pitch,” Jürgen Klopp said of Van Dijk. “After that long time being out and the pre-season he had, being back on the pitch feels different. You could see all his class; it was hard for him to go for 90 minutes.”
Liverpool turned the game in their favour at the point when Norwich, bewitchingly slick when working through the thirds but jarringly scratchy at the back, had begun to compete on equal terms. Teemu Pukki had escaped the away defence and forced Alisson into a parry, with the unmarked debutant Milot Rashica screaming for a pass, and for a few minutes the examples set over the previous 24 hours by their fellow newcomers Brentford and Watford did not seem impossible to follow.
Then the sting arrived and it relied partly on luck, Salah miscontrolling a clipped cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold but applying enough purchase to wrongfoot Gibson and play Diogo Jota through. Jota could hardly miss, although his finish was not the neatest and Krul was frustrated to see it skid through his legs.
Salah could not claim the most audacious of no-look passes, and nor did he try to. His next intervention was cleaner. Norwich had cause to feel encouraged that the early stages of the second period had hardly been free-flowing, although Konstantinos Tsimikas had drawn a sharp stop from Krul. Then Roberto Firmino, introduced just after the hour, led a break down the left that resulted in Sadio Mané’s shot ricocheting off Grant Hanley. It fell to Salah, who laid the ball sideways for Firmino to convert from eight yards.
That would have been enough but Salah, who had produced several sighters of varying accuracy, provided the party piece when Gibson’s half-clearance reached him on the 18-yard line. The shift on to his left foot was portentous; the shot was sublime and Klopp could depart feeling content.