Aston Villa 0
Oh yes, what goes around comes around? Last gasp heart break, especially in the Champions League, has punctuated our season so far. So would it be too far reached to suggest that the Gods of irony dealt us a last gasp winner tonight which might …. well, dare I say it, there have been plenty of corners to turn this season but so far we’ve kept on, straight ahead into ignominy! Finally time to change?
For the moment let’s just enjoy the win and the manner of it. It was not especially pretty, there were plenty of errors but on the whole we deserved it and had the goal occurred say in the sixtieth minute no one would have complained. As history has proved you can’t keep a good man down for too long and although he’s been quiet recently, recovering for injury, Torres is a good striker! He chose the perfect match, and time, to remind us of what he can do. Cheers Senior, Christmas has come four days late!
The UK appears to be the only country that doesn’t have a winter break so what those players in our side who were used to this felt about playing two games in four days and in the snowy conditions that we experienced at Villa Park remains to be seen. Welcome to the UK guys. Our team had a degree of consistency with only Kuyt, returning for Aurelio. With the exception of the suspended Mascherano this could considered Rafa’s strongest side? Interestingly for Villa Emile Heskey was missing “ill”. Is this the sort of “ill” that often manifests itself when sides agree a January transfer window deal and then realise they are about to play each other? No offence to Heskey but I hope not!
The first third of the first half was uneventful. Perhaps the most noticeable thing was that Villa had a two or three set pieces which we managed to deal with without conceding! However, on the half hour the old habits came back to haunt us. Villa won a corner which found Downing completely unmarked. Kuyt was singled out as the man who should have picked him up but there were also two Liverpool players just standing in the box doing nothing. Reina instinctively fended the shot away but it begs the question just how long is this nonsense going to go on when the evidence is still staring the Liverpool coaching staffing the face after well over a year? Someone somewhere isn’t doing their job? In between all this Gerrard, after a pass from Torres, failed to chip Friedel whose fingertips saved the day. The resulting corner saw him easily save a weak Benayoun shot
Despite this we looked fairly comfortable and were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Dunne won the ball first but took the man out in a very dangerous and foolhardy way. Technically not a penalty but in these days? Although we were a bit toothless in the final third it was tight stuff and 0-0 was a fair reflection of the game and added grist to the mill of an argument that single goal would settle this.
Half time question over a pie and cup of tea. Rafa sold Stephen Warnock to Blackburn who eventually ended up at Aston Villa. Would our back four be any worse than it is now if Warnock had remained at Anfield and forced his way into the first team? Discuss!
Into the second half and may be we saw a glimpse of what we might be able to expect from Aquilani when he breezed a free kick nicely over the Villa wall but just over the bar. Gerrard, who normally steps up to the plate from this position, was more than happy to let him have a go and then encourage and commiserate him for the miss? After that Agbonlahor was denied by Reina again with Carragher outpaced. Then Carew, from the resulting corner, headed just wide of an unmarked post. Next Insua was involved in a penalty claim because his poor headed clearance hit his arm. Penalty? Well I don’t think Insua is clever, or stupid, enough to think “I’ll deliberately head this onto my arm as it’s the most sensible way of clearing it”!
As it looked we were heading for a forgettable goalless draw our season turned. Or did it? It is too early to say but in a season where we’ve been on the wrong side of the last gasp winners or equalisers it was nice, no very, very nice to be on the positive side of this loathsome scenario for once. Kuyt picked up the ball and fed Benayoun who was sandwiched by two Villa players. The ball acted as the “filling” and conveniently squirted its way to Torres whose cross shot evaded Friedel and found home just inside his right hand post. Thank you very much, it’s such an unexpected and delightful pleasure!
So, where does leave us. It would be nice to say “watch out, here we come” but this season has been full of false hopes. There is still work to be done but surely this will help, big style? Let’s just pray that hopes, rather than fears, going into 2010 are finally realised?
Aston Villa: Friedel, L Young, Dunne, Cuellar, Warnock, Downing (Sidwell 79), Milner, Petrov, Reo-Coker (Albrighton 72), Carew, Agbonlahor Substitutes: Guzan, Beye, Collins, Sidwell, Albrighton, Delph, Delfouneso
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson (Skrtel 89), Agger, Insua, Carragher, Aquilani (Babel 77), Gerrard, Benayoun (Aurelio 90+4), Lucas, Torres, Kuyt, Substitutes: Cavalieri, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Spearing, Babel, Ngog