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vs Liverpool: Match Report


JohnCresswell
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Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

FA Barclays Premiership

Villa Park

Saturday, 11th August 2007.

Ah well, as my Dad said to me after the game - "Nothing really changes, does it?".

I've tried to 'rejig' the match report format to make it a bite fresher, this year. If its crap and you think we should go back to the old format, drop me a PM and if theres enough we'll turn back time.

Pre Match

Before the game started, there seemed to be a resignation amognst a lot of fans, myself included that we'd lose today. It's not shameful thing to lose against Liverpool - they are a top class team, full with fantastic players and we, well whatever you think of our summer dealings are certainly not that.

So back at VP after the summer break, and to be honest on a personal note I can't remember a start of the season which I've felt less excited about. It's just got to a point now where I've accepted that we aren't ging to be pushing the top teams this year, and got to get on with it and hope something happens next year. There's just too much af a gap between us now and the manager won't fill that in three weeks.

With the new electronic advertising boards around the stadium, theres something new to take your mind off the game during the dull or depressing parts. They actually look really good, though my one complaint would be that they could do with afew more companies advertsing on them - I got a bit bored of the "quality tyres" advert and had to go back to watching the football!

A few new things to the pre-game build up, too. First we have the fantastic videos of the players turning as their number is being called out in the team check - it's wonderfully camp and some of the poses are just laugh out loud funny. And secondly, we may not be the best on the pitch, but we are now the coolest off the pitch as we now have the Arcade Fire as the music for the players to walk onto the pitch too.

My pre-match bets: Villa to win 2-1 (12/1), Liverpool to win 2-0 (7/1), Liverpool to win 3-1 (14/1), and Steven Gerrard to be last goalscorer (7/1).

The Goals

The first goal of the game really showed exactly what is wrong with the team currently. Well, the biggest thing anyway. Our defence cannot defend. Which I'm sure you'll agree is a pretty bad thing to be poor at.

Taylor in goal has won plaudits for his performance in goal today, and he did make some good saves. However, he now finds himself as third choice goalkeeper at Villa, and he still showed glimpses as to why this is - he flapped at a couple of crosses and failed to hold onto the ball at first attempt.

It was on one of these occasions from where the first goal conceeded came from. Torres managed to beat the whole of the defence with one turn and his shot was saved but palmed away by Taylor. Bouma failed to reach the ball before Kuyt turned it into the six yard box. Taylor was stranded but no fear - there wasn't a Liverpool player near it and both Mellberg and Laursen were in the box to clear. However, a huge mix up led to Laursen putting the ball into his own net.

A goal which really, reaally shouldn't have been conceeded. It was sloppy stuff.

Villa struggled to threaten the Liverpool goal, but were given a lifeline when a penalty was given when the ball struck the hand of Jamie Carragher. Barry took the ball, and scored the penalty.

We weren't level for long though as Gerrard curled a peach of a free kick past Taylor, which nobody could have stopped. The free kick, for an alledged foul by Petrov, should never, never have been given but this won't be mentioned in the media due to the fantastic finish by Gerrard. And besides, the referee may have given them the victory, but they were the only team out there that deserved the points today.

Thoughts on the performance

I never expected anything but a loss today, but some things still stuck out to me. Firstly, Carew was very poor. Perhaps he wasn't fit, but he didn't look happy or as if he knew what his purpose on the pitch was. He struggled today.

I was also disappointed with the performance of Nigel Reo-Coker, who produced a display that was ineffecive and often invisible. This was the complete opposite of the performance last week against Inter, and perhaps an insight into what West Ham fans were saying about him last season.

And on the defence, the only defender from the first half who can come out of it with any credit was Craig Gardner, the stand in (though the latest quotes from Martin O'Neill suggests he will be more than that) right back. Mellberg waas poor, and Laursen didn't even come out of the dressing room for the second half. Another disappointing game for Petrov too - he's had the full pre-season that O'Neill said he needed - now it's time for the Bulgarian to start to deliver.

The style of play for the large majority of the game was poor. Our main attacking plan seemed to be a long ball up to Carew, or a ball over the top for agbonlahor to run on to. It just wasn't working but we persevered with it. It's even more frustrating when our best play was from neat passing football - and we carved out chances such as the effort which ended with Petrov tamly shooting into Reina's arms.

When we did put some pressure on the Liverpool defence, players seemed to 'pass the buck', not wanting to shoot themselves. And seeing as we found it so hard to break down their defence, why wasn't Maloney brought on? He's the one player we have who offers the team something different if he's played in his proper position.

Another disappointing thing for me is that the players often looked like they didn't know their purpose or what they should be doing. When Villa switched to 433, Carew spent five minutes asking O'Neill what he should be doing. The players simply didn't look prepared.

The Ref

Ahhh. Mr M Riley. Was one of those infuriating displays from a referee today, where he'll have a go at the 'small' team's players like Villa but be all jokey and patting the bigger teams players on the back. Such as when Jermaine Pennant, who had been booked just moments earlier raised his hands and pushed Bouma and instead of being sent off got to have a laughing ang joking session with the referee instead. Martin O'Neill is right to be upset with the award of the free kick which led to Liverpool's goal to. But it was always going to happen - referees don't give penalties against Liverpool without gifting the Scousers something back.

Positives

Well, we don't have to worry about an unbeaten start to the season anymore.

Negatives

We've lost, with the next two games very hard and unlikely to get any points from.

The Opposition

Good luck to them. They've got some real top class players, and you could tell they were a class above us lot today. Their passing, movement and ability to create chances was fantastic.

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Oh, I forgot to comment on Gareth Barry being booked for Diving. If, after a reply it is proved that it was a dive, I hope Martin O'Neill punishes him for that. As captain of AVFC he is a rolemodel to the kids and young players of our own club, and to do that sort of thing is very disappointing.

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Oh, I forgot to comment on Gareth Barry being booked for Diving. If, after a reply it is proved that it was a dive, I hope Martin O'Neill punishes him for that. As captain of AVFC he is a rolemodel to the kids and young players of our own club, and to do that sort of thing is very disappointing.

....John for crying out loud don't take away what little bit of devilment they have.......it was one of the main reasons we lost today.

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The players simply didn't look prepared.

I was afraid this might happen. MON has spent the entire week trying to buy players and has probably done very little training himself. It will be the same for the next 2 or 3 weeks I guess. I know the assistants and coaches are very able, but its not the same.

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My thoughts on the game

A lot of same old , same old for me really ...

With the injection of pace we have in the team I expected us to play an up tempo hit them quick game ..Anyone remember the game where we had to beat Man U for a place in Europe ...We hit the Man U crossbar and 20 seconds and 4 passes later we are 1-0 down ..with Villa we break and then some one stops on the ball looks up and passes it back 40 yards

I thought Barry was a class act again today , of course everyone is going to be drooling about Gerrard but for my money Barry was the best midfielder on the pitch today ... yeah I know he put a bit of a dive in , but to be fair he had been fouled about 3 times before he decided to go to ground .

Gardner showed he is going to be a first team regular today as well ..sure he was caught out of position a few times but his tackling was good (the one near the end of the match where he and a Liverpool player had to both run for the 50 /50 showed he has heart and is a winner (shame the linesman then gave the throw to Liverpoll ,but what else do we expect!!) and as for his first half drag back when the forward was breathing down his neck ..loved it .. I see a lot of Jo Cole type of play in Gardner ..long may he continue to improve

Now for the controversal part ..Carew ... I actually think Harewood would be the better option for us playing this role .Carew looks slow and clumsy at least Harewood is fast and clumsy and I think will cause more problems for defenders ...maybe he has a knock still and i wont write him off after 1 game but he does seem to be going backwards over the past few game for Villa..the promise of Newcastle away and West Ham home seems but a distant memory now

Back 2 looked comfortable , couple of times they went for the same ball and the back 4 did seems to be playing in isolation at times but i think that was more due to the formation we were playing , but more on that later. Bouma looked in good condition , coped well with Pennant , shame he still seems unable to pass a ball or deliver a cross

Young looked great second half , amount of times first half when he was on the right when he woudl be asking for the ball in an overlap position and we would punt it 40 yards over to the left , but second half when we gave him the ball and let him run he created chances for us

Reo-Coker & Petrov had quiet games , i expected better form these 2 .. I don't think the formation helped them

Cahill came on and didn't look in any real trouble ..is Davies going to be any better than Cahill ??

Gabby again showed that playing him deepe doesn't suit him ..where as Young was taking a defender on with his runs from deep , Gabby doesn't know how to do this , so he needs to play up front on the shoulder of the target man .at times when Carew did win the flick the nearest Villa player was too far off him.

so onto MON .. lining up with 4-3-3 against Liverpool was in my opinion always going to be a mistake and lets be honest they strolled through our midfield at times , we already had Gardner playing out of position , but to have no RM in front of him was almost beyond belief .. second half we seemed to play more of a 5 man midfield leaving Carew up front on his own ..whatever it was it still didn't really work .. lets just play a nice 4-4-2 with Barry & Reo Coker in the middle with Young on the right and Berger on the left and see how we get on .... the trouble seems to be that MON wants to keep Petrov in the side and thus has to adapt the system to make it happen , not a dig at MON or petrov but I think we have to accept that Barry & Reo Coker is going to be our best option in that CM area.

I didn't expect a win yesterday, i did expect just a little bit more from us though ...but there is a long way to go yet so no need for doom and gloom just yet ..

Match Ratings

Taylor 8 - flapped at 2 crosses , but some great saves ...deserves to keep his place for Newcastle

Bouma 7 -

Melberg 7.5

Laursen 7

Gardner 8 - MOM for me , sure he made mistakes , but playing out of position and taking one in the nuts for the team says it all for me

Young 7

Barry 7.5

Reo Coker 6

Petrov 5

Carew 5

Gabby 5

Sub cahill 7

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I'm suprised to say I don't disagree with much of that report.....although I don't share your reservations about the coming season.

You seem to accept, as I think most would, that Liverpool may finally be a force this year, yet are then pretty unforgiving about us. I am much more optimistic - it's took Benitez a few years (from a much higher base), and it will with us, but I don't think too many teams will show the quality Liverpool did at times, particularly Gerard and the cheating scouse git Carraggaaaarrrr.

As regards the players not knowing what to do, the same occurred last year against the big clubs - MON reckpons they lack the belief against them - I agree ,I think they all knew what to do (and what not to, ie the long balls to JC) but it went - slightly -out the window, as it did last year. It's not easy to correct that, you need a few breaks.against most other teams I don't think it'll be a problem , and in the past MON has given his teams that self belief. It will come.

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Oh, I forgot to comment on Gareth Barry being booked for Diving. If, after a reply it is proved that it was a dive, I hope Martin O'Neill punishes him for that. As captain of AVFC he is a rolemodel to the kids and young players of our own club, and to do that sort of thing is very disappointing.

Was never a dive, if he was going to dive he'd have dived at the first opportunity not the seventh, Liverpool tackles were flying in left right and centre, it was a foul but Mavis chose to see it through the eyes of a hallucinatory LSD casualty because he is one of the worst refs in the country. Biased one eyed top 4 loving prat

Other end of the pitch it may have been but when I see comments on even Liverpool websites like "maybe it shouldn't have been a foul but what a Free Kick by Gerrard" I know for sure we got f***ed over by Rliey yesterday

I see a doomy outlook from many on VT after yesterday but in reality, one of the top 4 sides came to VP yesterday and scored from a freak OG and a wonderfully unstoppable Free Kick that should never have been awarded. They ballooned a couple of shots over. We scored from a pen and created about as much as them (ie next to sod all).

I have a few personal niggles about players being on the pitch but I came away from the match with a sense of loathing for Riley more than anything else. Liverpool were mediocre at best, so were we. Little in the contest itself to be honest just the bast**d in the black

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I thought GB dived, I must admit. I also saw Jamie Carragher fall over and get a free kick for it, and Riley give Liverpool a number of dodgy decisions.

I thought Liverpool were the better side, as they created more chances - they were better in midfield, basically. Gerrard was excellent. But that said they won through a combo of a great free kick and a ref helping them out in giving it when he never should have.

Before the match we were all positive about the season ahead, hopeful of signings to bring us up to the level we want to be at.

There were signs of what's good and bad about Villa. Players off form, players bang on form, small squad, inability to replace the people struggling through lack of numbers.

We didn't really learn anything new, which is a shame, really, as I'd like to have seen some form of progress on last season. Still plenty to do for MO'N

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I missed most of the first-half yesterday because Setanta accidentally sent through Wolves v Watford for the first half-an-hour. I was not amused. My comments that follow are based on the last few minutes of the first half and all of the second.

Firstly, as much I love Barry, in my opinion that was definitely a dive. There was one camera angle - straight on from the front - that clearly shows no contact at all. The best you can say is that he was avoiding an imminent foul.

I thought we played very poorly today. We had no confidence and little cohesion. It was disappointing and frustrating to watch...but it was only the first match of the season and I'm trying to be realistic and not overly pessimistic. My biggest concern for the season remains as it was before yesterday's match: lack of depth.

Liverpool were not as great and wondrous as many of the reports suggested. We had more corners and only one less shot on goal. That doesn't suggest all out dominance to me. Their goals came from an own-goal and a wrongly-awarded free-kick. Yes, overally they were the better team and we certainly didn't deserve a win, but although they dominated us periodically, we were never run off the park as you'd think from some of the reports.

The officiating was appalling. This was a clear a case as any of a referee giving every 50/50 call to the 'bigger team'. It was nothing short of a joke and we were robbed of a point today by Mike Reilly. Yes, he gave us a penalty because he had no choice. That was as blatant and obvious a hand-ball as you will see - but three minutes later he made up for it, didn't he?

Taylor, Gardner and Barry were our best players I felt. Young ran his legs off but never really got anywhere. Petrov continues to disappoint, although I now wonder if I'm being unfair to him and am making him a scapegoat - you have to have one, don't you? Most of the others were average and never really picked-up their game. However, it is early days yet.

Carew was apparently ill yesterday, as was Laursen. Hopefully that's why Carew was out of sorts. He looked good late last season and made all the right noises pre-season so hopefully he'll be flying next week.

Newcastle will be a struggle. They have a solid side, a decent manager and good depth.

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Was never a dive, if he was going to dive he'd have dived at the first opportunity not the seventh, Liverpool tackles were flying in left right and centrek

It was a dive i'm afraid dude and a shocking one at that, Barry should be fined for that especially as he is club captain.

No protest because he knew what he had done!

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Good report, John, except you - nor anyone else - comments on the report that both Laursen and Carew were both ill before the match, and that's why Laursen went off (and probably explains why he looked so harrassed in the time he was on the pitch). Mind you, more the reason to have brought on Marlon if it was size needed up front.

This, plus the fact that MON needs to sign (and acknowledges the fact) at least two more players, is bound to have caused us to be lop-sided against such opposiiton as Liverpool.

The next match (at Newcastle) does look like another defeat, but I would think a fit Laursen and a good new full-back would make Newcastle have to fight very hard to get that win. Having said that, I'm impressed by their start.

It's very early days yet. Lets keep the optimism boiling - both optimism and negativity are contagious, but I think the former is preferable.

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