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Torres steals the points!


John
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Two defeats in three days has taken us from fourth to sixth and from eight points clear of Liverpool to being just two points ahead of them. We now face a season defining month and must ensure that a second season of immense promise does not implode with a dismal run of results!

Neither side wanted to lose this one. That, the inclement weather and the resultant difficult playing surface last night made a draw the most likely result for most of the game. But, if there was to be a decisive killer goal then it always looked likely to come from a slip or error that the wintry conditions might play a crucial part in. That it came so late in injury time and at a time when we were the team pressing for the winner proved a bitter pill to swallow.

This was the worst Liverpool team I have seen turn up at Villa Park in the last 40 years although Souness’ side ran Rafa’s outfit quite close. That they took the points so late in the game as they so often do against us does not change that. Take Gerrard and Torres out of their side and they would be a mid table side at best. Put those two in our team and we would be a shoe in for Champions League football next season. But, when Torres has an opportunity he has the knack of finding the net and that was the difference between these two sides last night. I think we just about shaded the game through our strong finish and were very unlucky to have taken nothing from it but we failed to put one of our chances away and ultimately paid a heavy price for that.

My player ratings from a game that has left us on the verge of what could prove to be a mid season slump or on the verge of a Wembley appearance, another long cup run and a renewed top 4 challenge are:

Brad Freidel – 7 – Did well on 16 minutes when he touched a decent Gerrard effort over as he did when he clutched a Torres header on 35 minutes and when beating Torres to the ball on the edge of the box on 45 minutes. Had little chance with Torres’ clinical finish that found the gap between his outstretched leg and the far post.

Luke Young – 6 – Another solid enough display.

Richard Dunne – 7 – First to a corner on 13 minutes which Reina’s hands flapped at and kept out but might have conceded a penalty on 38 minutes but for once referee Probert ruled in our favour. Steadied our defence on all but one occasion that this proved necessary.

Carlos Cuellar – 7 – Solid once again alongside Dunne in the heart of our defence.

Stephen Warnock - 6 – Did well to win the ball in injury time but then threaded it back towards Dunne whose slip ultimately proved so costly rather than sought row Z.

James Milner – 7 – I think we missed his presence in the centre of midfield as we did Ashley wide. Involved in most of our positives as he usually is.

Stiliyan Petrov - 6 – Worked hard to keep our central midfield competitive in conditions that made flowing football impossibility and a midfield battle the order of the day.

Nigel Reo Coker – 6 – Worked very hard and was influential in keeping our midfield a solid enough unit. Replaced by Albrighton on 71 minutes in a tactical move that was designed to see us get forward more in search of a late winner.

Stewart Downing – 6 – So unlucky on 29 minutes when his rasping close range effort hit Reina’s hopeful arm and was kept out.

John Carew – 7 – MOTM – Held the ball up well and was a handful for the Liverpool defence. Won the ball in the air on a frequent basis, produced a committed overall display and was only a couple of inches from winning the game for us on 69 minutes when his glancing header just went wide of the far post from a corner.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 6 – Quiet until late in the game when he began to run at the Liverpool defence and show what might have been. He ran clear on 69 minutes and was left with Reina to beat but hit his effort at him and the ball was pushed for a corner. Carragher was aware that Gabby had him beaten for pace but referee Probert allowed him to get away with the odd nudge or twenty that allowed him to come away with the ball more often than not from their challenges.

Substitutes:

Marc Albrighton – 6 - Replaced Reo on 72 minutes and made at best a limited impression during the time he had available to do so.

Steve Sidwell – Replaced Downing on 80 minutes not on long enough to earn a rating or to make a positive impression.

Up the Villa & a Happy New Year to all my readers!

John Lewis

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Thanks for that John. In my opinion I couldn't shake the thought that it would be them that might nick it all th way through. I also thought they shaded the overall play. We relied on breaks here and there. They spent considerable time camped in our half. I thought there was a huge difference in the technical competenecy of both teams on the ball. Only Downing and perhaps Petrov seemed comfortable on the ball for us whereas they could pass it around much more easily despite the conditions. I think in the space of 3 days we've been given a better idea of just how far we have still to go before we can count ourselves anywhere near the equal of this lot. We need to remember we are still pretenders at the moment. Having said that, it is our form against the bottom half of the league that needs to improve, not the top half, so January will be crucial.

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It's those top top players that are making the difference.

Chelsea v Fulham, Chelsea needed something - Drogba

Man U v Hull, ManUre needed something - Rooney

Arse v Villa, Fabregas

Villa v Plop, Torres

Until we get one of those we will always run the risk of missing out. And until our manager see tired playing who need replacing we will too....

Last night we deserved at least a point, the fact we didn't get one means that the upcoming games are must wins. Given that they are mingled with three cup games we really need to use the squad better than we are otherwise we could easily go into freefall again. Tired players make mistakes as has been seen in the last two games.

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Sound points BOF & Lancs. I just did not think they posed the threat they usually do last night but all that changed on the 93rd minute and I agree that the first month of the year and particularly the next 2 games against Blackburn are vital for us. We do also lack that impact player who can change a game. We are a hard working side and are no easy touch but if Martin could find an impact player who would not unsettle the team spirit we have in January that might be the final costly piece in the jigsaw.

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