Well, there you go, the highs and lows of football.
In so many ways we matched Liverpool today, in so many ways but one, quality. They had another gear to step into, we didn’t.
The game certainly wasn’t helped by the fact that we were down to ten men right from the start as the mercurial Stiliyan Petrov once again proved a liability and the fact Liverpool had 12 men, as Mike Riley might just as well have been in a Liverpool shirt. I’m sorry but he was atrocious today, must have been up for the ‘can I be any worse than Uriah Rennie’ award. Yes Riley, you can. Jermaine Pennant was on a yellow card. He raised his hands and pushed Wilf, that is a second yellow. Wilf got a yellow for his part but because Liverpool are a top four team, they can’t have red cards against them. Riley, you gifted them the game when Villa were already up against it.
Villa didn’t want for endeavour and hopefully against ‘lesser’ teams might be able to get some points, but when you look at the difference in the benches today, you can see why Liverpool will again be a top four side and why Villa again won’t be. They had Babbel to bring on, we have Harewood. No disrespect but if you buy at the bottom end of the market, you end up mid table or bottom end of the Premiership.
That said, our lads did as well as they could today, it isn’t there fault there haven’t been any quality additions to the team and they gave all they could. We tried to be fast on the ball but Liverpool at times gave us lessons on how to make insightful forward passes. We had our moments though and there are certainly glimmers of hope, I’d certainly back us to give most teams a battle and with a more solid keeper and hopefully a right back, I can see us pushing for Europe, trouble is I can see another 10 odd teams doing the same.
Today certainly wasn’t a disaster, Liverpool got lucky with their first goal after Martin Laursen (who went off at half time feeling sick and who had apparently not been well before the game – so at least it wasn’t an injury) scored an own goal. Villa of old would have let their heads drop but this season at the very least there appears to be a team spirit and they carried on fighting. We got the break in the 85th minute when Gareth Barry – who in my humble opinion looked a quality apart from the rest of our boys today – converted a penalty. That was it, we’d earnt our first draw most of us thought. But it wasn’t to be. Petrov gave the ball away once again, Liverpool came forward, one of their players got blocked and Riley gave an inevitable free kick. Up stepped Steven Gerrard, who to be fair had done very little all game hopefully thanks to Nigel Reo-Coker containing him, and one world class free kick later, the claret and blue hearts were broken.
On endeavour, desire and fighting spirit, it would have been great to see Villa get a point out of this game, but we don’t seem to get the luck and in my heart of hearts, I can’t say that a win for Liverpool was totally out of context for this game, bad refereeing or not. Some will agree, some will disagree I guess.
Our poll asked for your predictions, 25% were correct saying we’d lose. 25% said a draw and 49% had the wind knocked out of their sales as they expected a win. Our latest poll is asking for your man of the match, however there appears to be a technical glitch on the site so at present it isn’t showing!
Match stats: Click Here
Stuart Taylor 6.
Very mixed, came out and missed a few crosses and corners, but also made some very good reflex saves.
Craig Gardner 7.
Was tough in the tackles and determined but isn’t a defender or right-back and did get caught for positioning. An extra point goes for him taking one in the gonads to save what was a sure goal. Ouch.
Olof Mellberg 5.5.
Not at his best today.
Martin Laursen 6.
Haven’t seen a replay of the own goal but did well considering he was feeling sick.
Wilfred Bouma 6.
Some good tackles, kept trying to get forward, had acres of space at times but didn’t always get the ball. Only quibble is he gives the ball away cheaply. Looked angry coming off.
Ashley Young 6.
Fast, agile, tried to get forward, did end up running into a few blind alleys though and to be fair, the Liverpool defence was fairly solid and very big!
Gareth Barry 8.
A quality apart, some lovely touches, well taken penalty and deserves to see the squad built around him to fulfil his ambitions – if not he’ll be off.
Nigel Reo-Coker 7.
Played the holding role and seemed to keep Gerrard quiet, good full debut for us in the Prem.
Stiliyan Petrov 3.
What is the point? What am I missing? Put Gardner in there and buy us a right-back for goodness sake. Should have scored but shot right at Reina, gave the ball away far too often. Major disappointment, can’t blame a lack of pre-season now. I wish it was him rumoured to be going back to Celtic.
John Carew 5.
Clearly not fit, so not sure why he was on the whole of the game. At least I hope he wasn’t fit as he did little and we did once again tend to hoof the ball up to him, I think he is more refined a striker – big bugger or not – so doesn’t need long balls into him.
Gabriel Agbonlahor 5.
Didn’t see much today. If I was Luke Moore – having scored so many in pre-season, I’d have been gutted at not starting today.
(on for Wilfred Bouma 71 – Barry went left back). Didn’t really get any chances. The supply still isn’t get the right balls to the strikers.
Gary Cahill 6.
(on for Laursen at half time) Seemed to be ok, I like Cahill, think he’ll be a fixture in our side for years to come.
Nice to see Villa Park full and for the atmosphere to be so good. Lets hope we can keep it up when we play the smaller teams in the middle of winter! Great to see all the old faces around by me, win lose or draw, I do love the Villa !
Martin O’Neill was very animated on the touchline today, not sure how effective he is whilst shouting at the players but I did like his rants against the ref.
Rafa Benitez for some reason has decided to do a working mans club impression of Tom Jones, albeit a squat sized one, with his goatee beard. Not a good look Rafa, but sadly for Villa, a very good team. Still don’t think Liverpool will crack 1st or 2nd this season, not unless Mike Riley is their ref every week.