Monday 6th December 2010
Liverpool 3 – 0 Aston Villa
A game overshadowed by the return of Gerard Houllier to Anfield seemingly stole the Frenchman’s attention from actually preparing his team for Monday night’s clash with Liverpool. As a consistent defender of the way in which Villa have been playing despite the lack of results, last night’s game was indefencible. Yet more negative first half tactics proved Villa’s undoing who, after reportedly working on ‘a new shape’ to make them ‘more solid’ (Ha), crumbled within the opening 15 minutes. A first in which the home side dominated, despite only being able to field one of the clubs weakest Premier League line-ups in years, saw Liverpool stroll into a 2-0 lead early on. Slack marking from a corner led to number 1 before a mistake in midfield led to number 2, which was offside. Villa improved after the break, though it would have been impossible not to, and controlled possession whilst only making one real chance in the half and indeed the entire game. The more attacking set-up paid off but Villa were caught on the break once again when a slick Liverpool move was well finished by Maxi Rodriguez to end the game at 3-0.
Houllier welcomed back Marc Albrighton after having his appendix removed three weeks ago though Barry Bannan and Ashley Young were both out through injury and suspension respectively. This meant a start for Stephen Ireland in a centre midfield 3 which saw Ciaran Clark and Jonathan Hogg keep their places.
Liverpool lined up without long term absentees and key players Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. Joe Cole was not deemed fit enough to start but did manage a place on the bench while the visitors received a massive boost when it was revealed that Fernando Torres was out after his wife had gone into labour. This meant starts for two of Liverpool’s fringe players out to prove a point. David N’Gog and Ryan Babel lined up in a striker pairing that surely wouldn’t worry the Villa defence too much would it?
Yes it would!
Villa struggled from set pieces all night with Dunne and Collins far from solid once more, begging the question what does King Carlos have to do to start? After N’Gog had two bites of the cherry with headers from Meireles crosses the ball broke to Dirk Kuyt for the first chance after 3 minutes. The Dutch winger sliced his wide of Friedel’s goal.
Another Meireles corner from the right led to the opening goal in the 14th minute. Skrtel rose above the defence to return a header back across goal and find the unmarked David N’Gog. The French forward slipped his marker all too easily to dispatch his diving header (above) from close range.
It took just two minutes for the hosts to double their lead when out of nothing, Ciaran Clark gave away possession in the middle of the park and Liverpool broke. A lofted ball from Lucas found Babel in a marginally offside position but the flag was not raised and the Dutchman slotted coolly into Friedel’s net from the edge of the box.
Another set piece saw Kyrgiakos head just wide before Babel popped up again but his swerving effort beat Friedel as well as the post in the only other real chance before half time. Notice how I haven’t mentioned Villa up until now? There’s a reason for that!
In the second half Houllier saw sense in bringing on another striker but many will feel it was the wrong one. With Villa constantly adopting the long ‘ave it’ hoof up the park, a more suitable replacement for the outgoing Clark, finally found out in an unfamiliar centre midfield role, would have been John Carew but Houllier, possibly still harboring a grudge, chose Delfouneso to partner Agbonlahor.
Villa began to keep the ball on the deck and more importantly, just keep the ball though much of this was down to Liverpool stepping off the gas. The away side had a real chance to get a goal back when Ireland, relishing the newly found space in the second half, found Downing in space on the left. The winger was probably Villa’s best on the night, which isn’t anything to brag about, and he found Agbonlahor on the 6-yard box. Despite doing all he could with a slid effort, Reina was out well to deny the striker a second goal in successive games and ensure he kept his 100th clean sheet for the club in 198 games, a club record.
Villa were made to pay for their one missed chance of the match when Reina collected a Downing cross, most of which had been decent but with no-one to aim at perhaps John Carew for example! The keeper rolled the ball out to a wide open Maxi in centre midfield. The Argentinian found N’Gog who broke down the left before neatly laying the ball back to Maxi who had continued his run. The winger steered his shot expertly into the far top corner and out of the reach of Friedel.
Villa lost momentum after this killer blow and despite the belated introduction of Carew along with the immobile Robert Pires, they could not create any more chances after ingeniously deciding to ditch the long ball with a big man to aim at!
With 15 minutes remaining Villa were out of ideas and could have been embarrassed further if Glen Johnson had converted a chance of which his creation deserved a goal. Kyrgiakos had the final chance of the match, again from a corner, but his header was well cleared off the line by Hogg.
All in all it was pretty woeful and although relegation may be a bit too far, on this form we don’t deserve to be in the Premier League!
Villa Player Ratings
Brad Friedel – 6 – could do little to prevent any of the goals on his return
Luke Young – 6 – bossed by Maxi on the left
Richard Dunne – 6 – far from assured once again
James Collins – 6 – lacking form since injury
Stephen Warnock – 6 – struggled to deal with pace
Marc Albrighton – 6 – not 100%, ineffective
Jonathan Hogg – 6 – industrious but with little end product
Ciaran Clark – 5 – worst display of his season, booked and subbed after mistake led to second goal
Stephen Ireland – 7 – poor first half but much better second in a midfield 4 with space
Stewart Downing – 7 – decent deliveries and effort, Villa’s best on the night
Gabby Agbonlahor – 6 – one chance but little support
Nathan Delfouneso – 6 – worked hard
John Carew – no time
Robert Pires – no time
- Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs Aston Villa – Prediction, Team News, Line-ups
- Huge Test for Emery – Aston Villa Predicted Lineup and Preview vs Tottenham Hotspur
- Aston Villa eye Europa Conference League success after impressive 2022-23 season
- Aston Villa forward Cameron Archer set to join Sheffield United in £18.5m deal
- Aston Villa in July: Four preseason fixtures as Emery aims for another excellent season
- Aston Villa make formal offer to sign Villarreal star Pau Torres
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Brighton & Hove Albion – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Newcastle United – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Aston Villa in April: Next seven Premier League fixtures
- Manchester City vs Aston Villa Preview – Prediction & Potential line-ups