Jurgen Klopp praised “top-class” Takumi Minamino as his two goals ensured Liverpool followed up their Carabao Cup triumph by beating Norwich to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.
The Reds beat Chelsea on penalties in a gruelling and thrilling Wembley encounter on Sunday and showed their strength in depth by winning this fifth-round tie at Anfield after making 10 changes.
Minamino was an unused substitute at Wembley but grasped his chance of a return to the starting line-up with two first-half goals against the Canaries.
The Japan international opened the scoring when he was teed up by Divock Origi to drive in from close range, adding a second just before half-time when he was left unmarked at a corner to hit a great strike into the roof of the net.
“It was an exceptional game of football,” Liverpool boss Klopp said of Minamino. “He looked extremely sharp. He showed all of the things he knows for sure he has in him. It was a complete performance.
“The two goals were great but all the rest he did was top class as well.”
Minamino had scored four goals in five EFL Cup games for Liverpool this season but was left out of the starting XI for the final.
Asked if he would have been disappointed by that, Klopp added: “It was disappointing, I can imagine.
“How he is, I don’t think that is the reason why he played so good tonight. He isn’t the kind of person for this sort of anger.
“Takumi was a massive part of the whole journey. Not playing in the final might have been hard in the moment but in the long term, he can look back [on the fact] that he won the League Cup and that can be a good thing.”
It was not a straightforward win for Liverpool as Norwich showed fight late on, giving their impressive away following hope when Lukas Rupp found himself in space to thump a fierce shot beyond Alisson.
The Liverpool goalkeeper then pushed over a powerful Jonathan Rowe strike as Norwich pressed but the hosts held on to secure their passage into the last eight.
Klopp’s side have now beaten Norwich four times this season – home and away in the Premier League and in the EFL Cup third round, along with Wednesday’s win.
It is also the first time in the Reds’ history that they have beaten the same team four times in a single campaign.
“I thought the team who deserved to go through went through,” Norwich boss Dean Smith said.
“But we asked enough questions of them. We created chances. A lot of players who haven’t had many minutes have come in and done exceptionally well. That’ll help us picking the team.”