Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool
0-1 Benteke (31), 1-1 Henderson (47), 1-2 Gerrard (60) pen
A cold, miserable Easter weekend which eventually, despite a good start, chilled Aston Villa’s survival hopes more than saying anything about how we’ve improved.
For us of course there was a little warmth in the manner in which we eventually go back into the game after going one down, eventually looked reasonable value for the win and bounced back from the horror show at Southampton but…..
It may sound grossly disingenuous but let’s be honest this was ordinary and at times naive Villa side who we should be expected to beat. By more than we eventually did I guess one has to make allowances for Villa fighting for their Premiership lives however, any headlines of “comeback Kings” would ring hollow? This was one of the many bog standard wins we’ve had this season against teams below us in the table, nothing more nothing less. At the end of the seasons BR and his team wouldn’t be judged on this sort of win, it is the minimum standard? No offence to Paul Lambert and his team but it will on performances, or lack of them, against better sides than Villa. “Christ, what more do you want, you won?” I hear you say yes, and noted, but also I hope you know what I’m getting at?
BR made four changes from the Southampton game two weeks ago. Jose Reina returned from injury, Martin Skrtel (who had a mere at St Mary’s) was replaced by the fit again Jamie Carragher. Allen out with shoulder injury and Sturridge, for no apparent reason, were replaced by Lucas and Henderson. The decision to leave Sturridge on the bench will no doubt have people asking questions. Was there some doubt over his fitness or was BR trying to shore up the midfield that was pummeled at St Mary’s?
The start was promising with Suarez, due to absence of Sturridge going into “solo mode”. His first two chances were typical using his low centre and gravity and speed to winkle out chances which were dealt with easily by Guzan in the Villa goal. The third summed up our pre Sturridge story Suarez after excellent work fashioned a shot which was palmed away by on to ball to bounce away apologetically across the Villa goal area with not a black shirt in sight to follow up.
In between Villa should have gone ahead. Lowton’s cross flatfooted our back four leaving Agbonlahor with the ”simple” task of beating Reina from six yards. Reina just stood there and psyched him out as a result was the only hurt we felt was to Jose as the ball was slammed into his chest. Despite that Villa were to open us up again exposing the lack of organisation and general tightness in our defence that has been a consistent factor in recent performances. Westwood’s long ball found Agbonlahor who let it run through to Benteke giving the Belgium the easy task of smacking it home on the half volley past a helpless Reina. Gerrard tried to make amends with a good effort but that was it for the first half nothing of note to blow Reds fan’s socks off which was just as well given the temperature!
In the second half we finally woke up. After only two minutes the increasingly impressive Coutinho picked up the ball on the left and threaded a slide rule pass to the on running Henderson who won the one on one with Guzan by clipping it past his right shoulder for the equaliser. Minutes later Suarez returned the favour putting the Brazilian through this however Guzan won the day as the ball rolled agonisingly wide of his right post.
The incident seemed to spur us on. Johnson, via a deflection, rapped the post and after that Baker fouled Suarez in the area. No doubting this penalty even if Suarez had decided to dive he couldn’t have as he was about four feet in the air as result of the challenge! Gerrard turned everything around by making no mistake from the spot.
Villa, perhaps sensing the enormity of situation, rallied Delph had a shot blocked and it was left to Gerrard (it you want something doing do it yourself) with the back four nowhere, to head Benteke’s effort off the line. However, there was more from us, Suarez nearly made it three with a mesmerising run that saw him off balance with the goal open. By the time he’d regained it Villa had recovered. It remains to be seen if same can be said for their Premiership survival hopes or our “end of term” report.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Vlaar, Bennett, Baker, Lowton, Westwood Booked, Sylla (El Ahmadi – 76′ ), Bannan (Delph – 62′ ), Agbonlahor, Benteke, Weimann (N’Zogbia – 62′ ), Substitutes: Given, Lichaj, El Ahmadi, N’Zogbia, Delph, Dawkins, Bowery
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Jose Enrique, Agger, Carragher, Gerrard Booked, Phillippe Coutinho (Sterling – 77′ ), Henderson, Downing, Lucas, Suarez Substitutes: Jones, Coates, Skrtel, Sterling, Shelvey, Sturridge, Suso