Aston Villa 1
So, we end the season on two defeats and a failure to qualify for Europe for the first time since in twelve years.
However we shouldn’t let this cloud the issue. Although Kenny Dalglish expressed disappointment that we failed to qualify for Europe not being on the “Thursday night naughty step” and having to play catch up on Sunday afternoon will have its plus points. Normally it would be seen as a failure but ending up in sixth place and being in with a very real chance of qualifying Europe shows, despite the two recent defeats, just how far we have come since Kenny assumed control of the team in January in what has been a very fraught and eventful season on and off the pitch. Dalglish’s influence cannot be understated however after the game he was quick to praise his players.
“We did not qualify for Europe because we lost a game today it was because we had a bad start to the season. If you start as badly as that you are lucky to be sixth come the end of it. To get so close is a great compliment to the players. I’m disappointed we didn’t finish on a high as they’ve done fantastic to get as far as they have done.”
Kenny made three changes from the Spurs game. Cole, Meireles and Aurelio replaced the injured Maxi, Johnson and significantly, given all the recent coverage of the under 21 squad, Andy Carroll.
Even though we had the European place to chase, this was a game that failed to ignite. Both sides seemed to want to go for it but they kept fluffing their lines giving the game a typical “end of term” feel. Steven Gerrard watched the game amongst the Liverpool fans, a rare sight almost on a par with the number chances each side had in the first half.
Things weren’t help by the untimely exit of Spearing and then Jamie Carragher (temporarily) with a head injury. Carragher returned in time to see Villa score the only goal of the game. Bent and Reo Coker combined in the centre before feeding Albrighton on the right. His cross missed everyone except Downing at the back stick who controlled it with his chest and smacked it home off the underside of the cross bar. The only major chance for us was from Lucas who saw his effort cleared off the by Ashley Young otherwise it was “ho hum” stuff
The second half was slightly better. Suarez went on a good run down the right. His “check” took about three Villa players out of the game making it easy for him to cross to the unmarked Meireles however, somehow Brad Friedel rolled back the years and scrambled across to palm his shot away with both hands.
After that we had the better of the game pressing for an equaliser. Aurelio went fairly close with a free kick and Suarez fired high into the away end. However it wasn’t to be and game petered out The Villa fans seemed content to celebrate the goings on at White Hart Lane that would send Birmingham down and although we had an interest in the same match, we didn’t seem too distraught by the outcome.
At the end of the game Kenny lamented the injuries to his side
“There were players that played who probably shouldn’t have played…. maybe the end of the season has come at the right time for us – I might have been in the side next week.”
He will be hoping that his time next year we will have more to draw on and, who knows, more to smile about?
Aston Villa: Friedel, L Young, Dunne, Collins, Walker, Downing. Young (Bradley 89). Delph (Albrighton 28), Petrov, Reo-Coker, (Agbonlahor 68), Bent, Substitutes: Marshall, Clark, Pires, Albrighton, Bradley, Agbonlahor, Heskey
Liverpool: Reina, Aurelio, Carragher, Skrtel, Flanagan, Meireles, Cole, (Ngog 68), Lucas, Spearing (Shelvey 12), Suarez, Kuyt, Substitutes: Gulacsi, Wilson, Wisdom, Robinson, Poulsen, Shelvey, Ngog