Sterling grabs brace as Liverpool close in on league title

Sunday 20 Apr 2014
Sterling celebrates at Carrow Road

England international Raheem Sterling played a key role as Liverpool edged closer to a first league title in 24 years with a 3-2 victory against Norwich City.

The 19-year-old got Liverpool off to a dream start on four minutes - firing home from outside the box to give Brendan Rodgers' side the ideal opening as they looked to open up a five-point lead at the top of the table.

Liverpool were without the suspended Jordan Henderson - but did line up with Sterling's fellow England teammtes Steven Gerrard, Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson.

For the home side, England Under-21 international Nathan Redmond completed 90 minutes, and there was a second-half substitute appearance for U19 international Josh Murphy.

John Ruddy, meanwhile, kept goal hoping to end his dismal run against Luis Suarez - who had scored 11 goals in his previous four appearances against Norwich.

Jon Flanagan

England youngster Jon Flanagan celebrates a vital three points

However, he was unable to do so as the Uruguay international doubled the Reds' lead on 11 minutes as he netted his 30th league goal of the season.

Norwich refused to lie down and clawed their way back in to the game on 54 minutes through Gary Hooper - who slotted home after an aerial mix-up between Simon Mignolet and Martin Skrtel.

With the game stretched and Norwich pushing for an equaliser, Liverpool were always going to be a threat on the break - and it was a counterattack that led to the game's decisive goal.

Sterling picked up the ball in his own half after Bradley Johnson conceded possession.

With the ball seemingly glued to his feet, he ran at the Norwich defence and drilled a low shot towards goal.

An unfortunate deflection off Johnson, who had raced back himself, looped over the despairing Ruddy and into the back of the net.

Leighton Baines puts Everton ahead from the spot

Everton and England left-back Leighton Baines puts the Toffees ahead from the spot

Robert Snodgrass once again clawed the home side back into the game with a header on 77 minutes - but the Canaries could not find the extra strike they needed to earn a valuable point as they battle to avoid the drop.

For Liverpool, meanwhile, it was another giant step towards their first Premier League crown. The Reds welcome Chelsea to Anfield next, before travelling to in-form Crystal Palace and finishing with Newcastle's visit to Anfield.

Norwich face a daunting run of fixtures in their battle for survival -  with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal making up their final three fixtures.

Elsewhere on Easter Sunday - England left-back Leighton Baines was on target for Everton as the Toffees kept their hopes of fourth place alive with a commanding 2-0 victory against Manchester United.

England's Baines, Gareth Barry, John Stones, Ross Barkley, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck all featured in the game, as the Toffees condemned Manchester United to an eleventh league defeat of the season.

In the day's other Premier League game, the two FA Cup finalists met at KC Stadium as Arsenal won the dress rehearsal 3-0 thanks to a Lukas Podolski brace and a strike from Aaron Ramsey.

By Jamie Reid Senior Writer