Roberto Firmino has been likened to Eric Cantona as he spearheads Liverpool’s bid for Premier League glory.
The Brazilian came off the bench to inspire his side’s 3-1 comeback win over Newcastle that moved them five points clear at the top.
And, for Toon manager Steve Bruce, it was reminiscent of Cantona, the flamboyant French forward who proved the catalyst for Manchester United when they ended a 26-year wait for a top-flight title in 1993.
Firmino, alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, is integral to Liverpool’s hopes of winning a championship for the first time since 1990.
And Bruce, who captained United during Cantona’s era, sees similarities as he said: “Ah yes, similar in that he’s one that drifts into that little area and he naturally does it, where it’s so difficult for defenders to go. And his attitude and work rate, it’s so important.
“Cantona is as good a player as I’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen Firmino week in week out like that, but just when you see him here and what he gives them, it’s a perfect balance. Cantona gave us that.
“Back in the day, we had [Ryan] Giggs and [Andrei] Kanchelskis who had frightening pace and stretched sides so much like Liverpool’s two, and Cantona dropped into that hole and people couldn’t get anywhere near them. That’s what you see with Firmino.
“Firmino is the one that drops in, but the pace of the other two is frightening, he drops in and the other two are running over your shoulder. Look they are a very, very good team, as good as you get. At this moment in time is there anyone better?
“The one down the road [Manchester City] I suppose is there at the minute, but they are certainly as good as you get.
“The way they play with the intensity, the full backs are only young and the delivery and presence they bring to the box, you can see why they are Champions of Europe.”
Liverpool begin the defence of that trophy in Napoli tomorrow with Andrew Robertson keen to put his Scotland troubles behind him by shining for the Reds.
The left back came under fire as his national team suffered Euro 2020 qualifying defeats to Russia and Belgium and he added: “Darren Fletcher dealt with it for 10, 12 years when he was at the top at Manchester United and now I’m facing it.
“That’s something I have to deal with up in Scotland and I need to deal better with. In terms of not letting it affect me and try and concentrate on my game and things like that.
“I lock myself away, I don’t like to talk to anyone. That’s up to me to deal with and I dealt with it in the way that I felt was right and I’ll continue to do that.”
“It’s a team game, it’s not just one person, and unfortunately we didn’t perform as a team last week.”
Frank Lampard’s fledgling reign as Chelsea boss has taken a turn for the better, while promoted Norwich are gradually getting to grips with life in the top flight having secured a famous win.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what we learned from the latest round of fixtures.
Norwich turned in a fine performance to secure an unlikely 3-2 victory at Carrow Road, but they were aided and abetted by some shambolic defending from the visitors, who will be without the injured Aymeric Laporte until the new year.
Kenny McLean and Todd Cantwell took full advantage to give the home side a 2-0 lead, but Teemu Pukki’s third was a study in incompetence as Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones combined to present him with a simple chance.
Good day for Buendia
Emiliano Buendia is living proof that there are bargains out there in an increasingly expensive transfer market.
The 22-year-old Argentinian, who cost Norwich around £1.5million when they signed him from Getafe last summer, played a key role in their promotion campaign and starred in their win over Manchester City, repeatedly breaking up play and charting a way through Pep Guardiola’s press to set his team on their way.
Lampard has placed a huge weight on Tammy Abraham’s shoulders, and the 21-year-old has responded in impressive style with seven goals in his last three games.
His hat-trick in Saturday’s 5-2 win at Wolves demonstrated the talent at his disposal, scoring first with a well-placed shot in the turn, then a bullet header before saving the best for last when he tricked his way past defender Conor Coady and fired inside the far post to leave keeper Rui Patricio helpless.
Magpies pay the price
Former Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez was repeatedly criticised during his time on Tyneside for adopting an ultra-defensive system against the Premier League’s big guns, and his successor Steve Bruce has attempted to shift the balance.
He was rewarded for a slightly more progressive approach with a fine win at Tottenham and he was given hope of a repeat at Liverpool when Jetro Willems blasted the visitors ahead.
However, errors from wing-back Emil Krafth and then midfielder Christian Atsu and keeper Martin Dubravka allowed Sadio Mane to turn the tide.
There was little anyone could do to prevent Mohamed Salah from sealing a 3-1 win after running on to Roberto Firmino’s breathtaking pass.
Luck deserts the Blades
Sheffield United have more than made a fist of life in the big time, but they discovered this weekend that when your luck is out, it is out.
They thought they had taken the lead against Southampton when Oli McBurnie turned home Oliver Norwood’s free-kick only for his effort to be correctly ruled out for offside, and then had strong penalty appeals waved away before striker Billy Sharp was sent off for a challenge which might have warranted only a yellow card as they went down 1-0.
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Rodrigo insists Manchester City have to “wake up” following their shock defeat at Norwich.
The Canaries stunned the defending Premier League champions as they won 3-2 at Carrow Road on Saturday despite missing a host of first-team players through injury.
Pep Guardiola’s side were guilty of a number of defensive mishaps – Kenny McLean nodding Norwich in front when he was picked out unmarked from a corner with Todd Cantwell then doubling the lead.
Sergio Aguero pulled one back for the visitors before the break only for Nicolas Otamendi to be robbed of possession on the edge of his own box by Emi Buendia, who then squared for Teemu Pukki to restore a two-goal cushion.
Rodrigo, a summer signing from Atletico Madrid, fired in a late consolation as Norwich hung on for the win to leave Manchester City five points adrift of leaders Liverpool.
“I think we lost this game because of us,” the Spain international told mancity.com.
“I think they don’t do many things to win this game. Of course, congratulations to Norwich, they play really good football, but today we gave them chances.
“That’s something we have to look at ourselves and solve our mistakes. It’s not normal. The three goals are mistakes.
“The team is working, we are down now but we have to wake up because we have matches every three days.”
Guardiola said after the game that it is too early in the season to consider the defeat as a blow to their quest to win a third successive league title – something Rodrigo agreed with.
“The season is very long,” he said.
“You are going to have matches like this, at least two or three. It’s normal. We are not perfect, and the good thing is we are at the start of the season not the end.
“That’s the only positive thing we can say. We are five points behind the leaders and that’s bad news but we are working and we will keep pushing.”
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