Date: 31st August 2008 at 10:22pm
Written by:

Well, I must admit I’m confused…! I thought we drew against a team who have finished in the top four for the last ten odd seasons. I thought we’d battled and in patches looked by far the more likely to win. I thought we cancelled them out and snuffed out most of the threats from them and I also thought that most of our players gave their all today to compete against a club who are regulars in the champions league and who have spent millions and millions of pounds more than us assembling their team.

How wrong I must have been as listening to the Tom Ross phone in on the way home, it all seemed doom and gloom with some of the players being slated and many fans whining about all sorts.

When did the memo go round that Villa have a Paul McGrath (God) given right to win and why didn’t I get a copy?

From start to finish today Villa competed, we definitely gave as good as we got and I’m sorry, I don’t care that Steven Gerrard wasn’t playing, they aren’t a one man team are they? Their players are worth millions, they have plenty of world class and international players but rarely if ever did you feel that they would get the better of us. Villa are still building, today although we could have won a draw is not exactly a disaster, hopefully the players will have got a bit more belief from today and will keep building up so they really do realise they are a match for any team on their day and that they don’t need to fear any opponents.

I say we could have won and sorry to point fingers but John Carew had the best chance and just ‘passed’ it towards Liverpool’s goal. That chance was far easier than the great goal he scored against Stoke, so why so tame? That proved to be our main chance and unfortunately our star striker fluffed his lines. That said, I’d rather see someone fluff their lines rather than the other – Gabby Agbonlahor – just strutting around, usually totally out of position and mostly ten paces behind where he should have been. The supply might not have been great today but he did not help the midfield one bit by not running into decent positions and threatening.

That is the only criticism I can come up with, the one striker was pretty much a liability – which is such a shame after the great hat trick to start the season – and the other tried and tried but missed his best chance. I guess you can say he just flicks the ball on all day but then, if the likes of Michael Owen (hint hint Villa, go get him!!!) was on the pitch he would feed off those flicks all day long.

I really enjoyed the game, I thought it was one of the best 0-0’s I’ve seen in years, maybe I’m just in a chilled mood and having a laugh with he people around me at Villa, but I don’t think so, I think it is just that the belief is returning and whereas in previous years Liverpool would have come and been guaranteed 3 points, today we walked out disappointed not to have taken maximum points ourselves. Is that not progress in itself?! Some seem to forget just how good Liverpool’s defense is.

Some have said that both teams played for a draw. I don’t see that and especially Martin O’Neill tried to shake things up and made changes. Both full backs were brought off with Nigel Hokey-Cokey – who had a storming game today, what a difference a new right sided midfielder makes ! – and Gareth Barry, who wasn’t as bad as some would have you believe, moving back to make way for Craig Gardner and Milner. Some have asked why the full backs were brought off? Well, Shorey was only just back from injury and Young is only just getting to know the team. It might have been a slightly confusing change but at least MON was trying things and bringing on James Milner was a sign that MON was trying to win the game.

I’ve just eaten three packets of sweets and now feel sick. I digress…

The only thing I’d question is why Gabby wasn’t brought off to give Harewood 10 or 15 minutes to give the Liverpool defense something to think about. But then I’m sure MON, who knows a little bit more than me about his players, would point to the Hare’s no show on Thursday in the UEFA cup game. That said, he is an impact player and Gabby wasn’t exactly doing anything. Again, it just shows how much we do need another striker, just over 24 hours to find one, tick tock, tick tock! I reckon we’ll get one you know.

So some see this as a wasted opportunity, maybe it was, but to come out of Villa Park disappointed that we’d not got all three points against Liverpool is a sign that Villa are on the way back and you have to applaud the fact we kept a clean sheet. So whilst others aren’t happy, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the day, I’d obviously have loved to see us win it, especially if we’d knicked it right at the end, but hey ho, things are on the up and I’m loving it!

Player Ratings

Brad Friedel 7
Didn’t really have a great deal to do but what he had to do he did well…. how bad is that sentence!

Nicky Shorey 6
Not the best, not the worst, I’m sure he’ll settle and come good, if not Freddy will be back before we know it!

Curtis Davies 7
Solid game and not afraid to put his head where it hurts. I used to be the same, I often got my head stuck in gate railings as a kid!

Martin Laursen 7
same as Davies, just gets totally stuck in and didn’t look like he was willing to let anyone passed him.

Luke Young 7
Looked good to me, certainly contributed well.

Nigel Hokey-Cokey 8
Outstanding game, looked knackered after one long run! Would be lovely to see him take defenders on a bit more and shoot.

Stiliyan Petrov 7
Another good game from Petrov, looks like he is far more up to speed this season BUT PLEASE carry on with your runs and shoot, he doesn’t need to check his runs and pass backwards all the time!

Ashley Young 6.5
Heavily marked today, he will have to get used to that. Still a good contribution.

Gareth Barry 6.5
Not his best, not his worst, certainly don’t believe when some say he wasn’t interested today, of course he bloody was!

John Carew 5.5
Needed more supply, better support etc, but missed what appeared a fairly easy chance.

Gabby Agbonlahor 4
Press reports this morning illustrated why the lad looks knackered. He needs to be careful not to believe the hype and go the same way as many players who are on the verge of being very good. Once you get to be a first team regular, that is when the hard work starts. Look to Ryan Giggs for a role model instead of some of the bling laden numpties of the modern era!

James Milner, on for Shorey on 64.
Difficult to get up to speed but did well.

Craig Gardner, on for L Young on 79.
I do like Gardner, think he’ll develop into an Andy Townsend type player and if he is half as good, we’ve got a gem! Decent enough 11 mins on the pitch.

Manager Rating
Martin O’Neill – tried to shake things up, nearly got the win and hopefully will have a very busy 24 hours now bringing us in a new striker!

Opponent Rating
Rafa Benitez – took a lot of abuse today, hopefully that is now the end of it but I doubt it will be!

The fans.
A great atmosphere, thought the Villa fans contributed well and cheered on the team + helped keep the travelling Liverpool fans, who are always vocal, a bit quiet. Thought the Rafa is a fat C word was a bridge too far though!

Young Fan!
Had a lovely young kid sit a by my dad today, his dad and granddad were just two rows back. I always bang the hoardings (you might here me!??!?) and he started copying. I’d not realised but at half time he was told off and told not to do it. Second half I started banging, his dad thought it was him and told him to stop. 5 minutes later I started again and the youngster (he must have been about 6) shouted at the top of his voice – whilst attempting to eat a pizza pod – STOP IT. Suffice to say, my mate ended up with pizza pod all over him !!!!!!!!