Kuyt 8, Riera 33, Gerrard 39 pen, 50, 65 pen
Aston Villa 0
In January before Manchester United played Chelsea. Rafa chose to have a go at Alex Ferguson over his self appointed role of Premiership Overlord. Liverpool fans are used to Rafa having the odd wobbly moment but, in the eyes of many, the “Rafa rant” was born that day. If this was designed to throw The Mancs before their big game it failed. Chelsea were easily beaten and, to make matters worse, we drew with Stoke. If the answer to the talk off the pitch was to found on it that weekend the Mancs were clear winners. Fifteen love!
Scroll forward to this weekend and in the light of a 4-1 thrashing Fergie decides to up the anti with a rather tedious, pointless, diatribe about Rafa’s comments on the Mancs spending money of big name players. As if they would do such a vulgar thing! Again if the answer to this latest spat was to be found on the pitch then one only had to look at United’s 2-0 defeat against Fulham on Saturday and yesterday’s rout at Anfield. Fifteen all and, as far as the Premiership goes, new balls please?
This was a carefree performance. Free of nerves, full of confidence no choking and, above all, positive. From the moment Dirk Kuyt slammed in the first goal after eight minutes there was only one winner. Villa had their moments but we were simply unstoppable. No one was going to bar us from taking our chance.
Rafa made a few changes restoring Alonso and Arbeloa at the expense of Lucas and Sami. Probably our strongest side and one of our strongest performances? Any nervousness we might have had was banished after only eight minutes Riera by the corner of the area was upended by Reo- Coker. Gerrard’s free kick via, Alonso’s clever flick, hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced to Kuyt who lashed home the first.
After that Villa made a decent fist of trying to get back in the game with Carew bringing out two excellent saves for Reina. Villa didn’t sit back which despite the hairy moments played into our hands we were given space and time to attack which produced attractive, free flowing football from both sides. It was therefore surprising that our second goal was a result of football in it’s the basest form. Reina hoofed the ball up field and Riera latched onto the ball at the edge of the area and prodded it home. Route one and two nil. However, to call it this is to underestimate Reina’s quick wittedness and eye for an opportunity, this is not the first time he has set up a goal in this way.
The nature of the goal caught Villa up the field with their pants down and seemed to knock the stuffing out of them. Gerrard fired wide and then Arbeloa latched onto the mistake by Friedel and found himself in a one on one with the keeper. He elected to pass to Torres when perhaps he should have taken the chance on? Then Reo-Coker, not for the first time, came off second best in another tussle with Riera. This time it was inside the box. Gerrard made no mistake from the spot. No camera to kiss this time but the game in the can.
In the second half it was more of the same. Cuellar bought Kuyt down on the edge of the area Gerrard passed it home with a low hard placement when presumably Villa were expecting him to belt it? The knife was twisted in even further when Torres ran on to a through ball only to be collide with Friedel. A penalty yes but Friedel’s sending off was unnecessary. The keeper once he was beaten had nowhere to go neither did Torres who clattered not him. The applause that accompanied his walk to the dressing room had an element of sympathy as well as support for an ex-red. Gerrard beat Guzan to secure his hat trick and complete the rout.
So six points gained on The Mancs in only eight days and perhaps more significantly yesterday’s result gives us a superior goal difference. Yet it’s still a time to keep our nerve and, as Rafa often says, to just think about the next game. Anything else is premature as we can’t control it. The Mancs have to slip up again and we have to be there again to take advantage. It’s encouraging that if there is any pressure or nervousness, at the Theatre of Delusion then, on current evidence at least, we aren’t in the mood to give them the luxury of a get out. Title or no title, that is all one can ask for?
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa (Agger 76), Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Mascherano, Alonso (Lucas 66), Gerrard (Ngog 80), Kuyt, Riera, Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, El Zhar.
Aston Villa: Friedel, Reo-Coker (Guzan 64), Cuellar, Davies, Luke Young, Milner, Petrov, Barry, Ashley Young, Heskey (Agbonlahor 58), Carew (Gardner 88).
Subs Not Used: Delfouneso, Knight, Salifou, Shorey.