Five of us piled into the car on Mothering Sunday, yours truly the unfortunate designated driver today, as we headed off on the 90 plus mile trip to merseyside, destination Anfield. Not a happy hunting ground over the years for the claret and blue boys, in fact in all the trips we’ve made there since the mid-late sixties, we’ve only returned home to Brummagem celebrating a victory on two occasions.
No worries or concerns today though. Secret weapon Mike has joined our away-day brigade, my brother in law over visiting from the good old U.S. of A., who has accompanied us on three previous trips to Anfield, and has yet to see us lose (one victory, two draws). He was also sporting his ‘America’s No1 Villan’ sweat shirt, and he alone out of the five of us, was confident that his unbeaten little streak would continue, and we’d be making the return trip back down the M6 singing and in celebration. I voiced the opinion that our lucky omen was going to be one very unhappy colonial cousin later this evening, but he’d hear none of it. 2-0 to us he confidently predicted. Yanks! You have to love ’em.
Neil Young was serenading us loud and proud as we journeyed to the north-west, while the discussions and debates in the car centred around ‘what’s gone wrong, why its gone wrong, and how we’re going to get ourselves back on track’.
As always we’ve all got differing views, about the players, the tactics, the manager, the board even, and we all thought that we could pick a team to go out and roll over Liverpool later this afternoon.
If the club had only listened to us over the years, our trophy room would be packed to the ceiling with World Club Championship trophies, european and domestic honours just too many to recall, and playing staffs throughout the last few decades, the envy of every major club out there.
Plenty of Villans headed north, plus the odd few ‘Liverpool vehicles’, which were receiving plenty of banter and abuse, but it certainly seemed as though our travelling following would once again be heavy in numbers, while loud and vocal in support.
So all we needed now was for Mart to select a starting line up, capable of testing The ‘Pool to the limit, hopefully picking up a point or three, and also putting some belief and pride back into the club following the recent set-backs and reversals.
Starting line-up:-Friedel, Reo-Coker, Davies, Cuellar, L. Young, Milner, Petrov, Barry, A. Young, Heskey, Carew.
Guzan, Shorey, Knight, Gardner, Salifou, Delefouneso, Agbonlahor on the bench.
So in came Curtis Davies and John Carew, replacing Zat Knight and Gabby Agbonlahor respectively. Carew starting alongside Heskey, interesting one that. A partnership probably worth looking at, although the general consensus amongst ourselves and the supporters in our vicinity, was that today probably wasn’t the right time to check it out. With few attacking options or alternatives open to us though, there really weren’t many routes open to O’Neill, as he attempted to give us that finishing ability that has been so lacking in recent weeks.
Latecomers were still making their way into their seats in the Villa section as we fell behind to a seventh minute strike.
Reina hammered a long ball downfieldfield, where Nigel Reo-Coker, chasing towards his own area hesitated, allowing Riera to get goal-side of him. Nigel upended the winger, giving Rafa’s boys a free kick, just outside the box, to the left of goal. Gerrard whipped the ball in towards the far post, Alonso, I think it was (others said it came off a Villa defender), flicked a header onto the crossbar – and with no Villan alert enough to react, Kuyt thumped home the rebound to leave us with an uphill task. If only we’d have all known that 1-0 down was as good as it was going to get all afternoon, we could have vacated our seats and the stadium, jumped back in the car, and headed back home there and then. Saving ourselves the humiliation that was about to unfold before our eyes.
We were under the cosh for the opening twenty minutes, lucky not to fall further behind, but then Ashley Young sent a low hard cross into the six yard box, a cross that Big JC was close to sliding home. Less than sixty seconds later Petrov and Milner worked the ball well down the left, Carew getting on the end of the resultant cross, only for the Pool keeper to palm the ball wide of goal. Nice bit of football though, and we started to think that we might just be working our way back into the game.
Gerrard was booked for a bad challenge on Davies, before JC again brought a fine save out of Reina, the keeper at full stretch to keep out Carew’s header that looked destined to bring the scores level.
On 32 minutes though we fell further behind. Reina setting up Riera to send a crashing volley past Friedel and into the roof of the net. 2-0. Head in hands time.
Friedel them almost gifted the home side a third, giving the ball straight to Arbeloa when attempting to find Luke Young. Fortunately the pass to Torres was misplaced, a certain goal averted, and we were able to breathe again.
Not for long though. A couple of minutes later, Reo-Coker upended Riera in the box, up steps Gerrard, its 3-0. Game well and truly beyond us. Damage limitation time.
Luke and Gareth added to the misery of the first half by both getting themselves booked, and by the time the half time whistle sounded, it had turned into a thoroughly miserable afternoon for all connected with AVFC.
I think though that its fair to say that probably for twenty minutes or so of the first forty-five, we’d actually looked the better team, yet there’s no argument to defend going in at the break 3-0 down.
Shortly after the restart it was 4-0, Gerrard sidefooting home an Alonso free kick, rolled a yard or so to the Reds skipper, following a challenge by Cuellar on Kuyt on the edge of the ‘D’.
On the hour Heskey was replaced by Gabby, the latter given a warm reception by the travelling Villans, but a couple of minutes or so later it`s the home fans who are cheering again as Liverpool go 5-0 up from another Gerrard penalty, a spot kick awarded for Brad Friedel bringing down Torres as the Spaniard attempted to round him. Red card for Brad Snr, Brad Jnr on, Nigel Reo-Coker hauled off.
Poor Brad Jnr. His first premier league action see’s him beaten by Gerrards well placed spot-kick. He hadn’t even enjoyed the experience of handling the ball in open play.
We tried to rouse the lads with a rendition of ‘We’re gonna win 6-5’. Well we had to do something to take our mind off the surrender on the pitch, and singing seemed as good as anything.
Craig Gardener replaced Carew on 90 minutes, yet still found the time to get himself booked, but I think that everyone was past caring by then.
As we left the stadium and headed back to the car, one scouser had the nerve to request of us, ‘For F***’* sake play your reserves at Old Trafford next weekend. That lot you had out there today have no chance of doing us any favours’. You had to laugh. Crying was the only alternative.
Right, my marks out of 10, on an afternoon to forget:-
Friedel – 5
Cuellar – 5
Reo-Coker – 4
Davies – 5
Luke Young – 6
Milner – 5
Petrov – 6
Barry – 5
Ashley Young – 4
Carew – 7
Heskey – 4
Guzan – 6
Agbonlahor – 5
not on long enough