Yesterday Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill warned his side about Liverpool’s recent resurgence, because after Liverpool’s victory against Wolves on Saturday, and Villa’s defeat to Arsenal on Sunday meant that just five points separated the two sides going into tonight’s clash.
Aston Villa’s heavy defeat to Arsenal on Sunday was certainly a harsh dose of reality, not to mention a big blow to their Champions League hopes; it also ensured that they would not complete a grand slam of victories over the so-called Big Four.
Tonight, the visitors arrived at Villa Park boasting an excellent record where they are unbeaten since 1998. In fact, since that year, Villa have not won at home to Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester United in the league, and now that run looks set to continue as Liverpool triumphed in dramatic circumstances.
There were adverse weather conditions to endure at Villa Park with heavy snow falling throughout. It was the home side who wasted no time in getting forward; winning a corner within 70 seconds of kick-off, however it was one of many wasted opportunity in the 90 minutes.
James Milner managed to continue Villa’s bright start by winning a free-kick about 10yards from the Liverpool goal-line after being pushed by Insua, the former Leeds United player drifted the free kick in but it lacked the clinical finishing needed to unlock the Liverpool defence.
The home side managed to keep Liverpool on the back foot for nearly 10 minutes before they actually managed to get out of their own half. As they slowly began to grow in confidence and push forward Steven Gerrard tested Brad Friedel in the 16 minute, but his shot from distance was tipped over from the American.
Ultimately the best chance in the first half came from the home side in the 30th minute. Villa won a corner out on the left hand side which was delivered in superbly by James Milner landing right on the boot of Stuart Downing who was unmarked at the far post. The former Middlesbrough winger struck the ball back across goal and had already began to swing away in celebration not before Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina to stick arm out and manages to block the ball away, but both teams ended the half how they started: level pegging.
The second-half started very slowly, especially with the Liverpool goalkeeper Reina holding up play all because he wanted a change of boots and being a goalkeeper it meant play was halted for everyone, the home fans were not happy, and rightly so.
Neither side managed to create clear chances throughout the second half but Liverpool were certainly the better side and looked the more likely to score. However, Villa did have claims for a penalty on a couple of occasions, but none came to fruition and were all waved away by referee Lee Probert.
Just when we thought it was all over, Liverpool managed to hit the back of the Aston Villa net in the 93rd minute, and after another unsurprisingly quite game the goal came from none other than that enigmatic Fernando Torres. The goal came from nothing, while the finish was cool and composed by the Spaniard, a cruel end to the game for Martin O’Neill’s side as they have every right to feel aggrieved.
This win now moves Liverpool back within six points of the top four, while two straight defeats for Villa asks questions about their quest for the Champions League spot, however, for their performance in this match they definitely deserved a point.