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Tonight the Monkey Dies - Liverpool Away report


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by blandy

All teams lose games. It’s the norm rather than the exception, and so Villa returned to the realms of normality this afternoon. Deservedly so, too - Liverpool were the better side today, by a distance. The monkey of the last unbeaten record has gone.

Truth be told this was always going to be a tough, tough fixture - Liverpool having been easily beaten last week by Man Utd were always likely, I felt, to be wanting to make up to their supporters. Added to that their manager, unlike ours, has also been given a fair old bit of grief of late in order to fill up some newspaper columns and the the irrefutable fact that they have a squad packed with a lot more talent in depth than we do and all the signs were there.

It’s probably also worth pointing out that Villa, over the previous 2 or 3 games have started to look slightly less invincible than we were all beginning to believe in our new found moods of joy and optimism.

None of all that really matters when it comes to 22 blokes kicking a ball about on the pitch. All that really matters is that the skill, organisation, effort, commitment and endeavour of the two teams is put to the test and the best usually comes out on top unless the ref does something daft, as they sometimes can do.

Villa started still missing Gav in midfield, so young Ozzy kept his place from his debut at Leicester. Steven Davis was resting (rightly) on the bench. Freddie Bouma was at left back, with Gareth in midfield and Tommy returned in the goal.

For Liverpool, Peter Crouch and that very blond Dutch bloke played up front, and their side looked to have a real advantage in quality in midfield. This was to be proved throughout the game.

Kick off time arrived (fortunately not until after some very amenable scoops had been had in town, with JC, Bicks and Co. - the Cains IPA in Dr D’s was excellent), the Scousers waved their scarves about and sung along dutifully to YNWA, and the 3000 in the away corner shouted for our boys in, er, White and Light Blue.

Kicking towards us in the first half Liverpool looked to be first to every ball, and their midfield was running the game. Sissoko had a really good game for them, picking up all the lose balls, tackling, passing and running, and allowing Alonso to stroke the passes around. We didn’t really get near them for half an hour, but kept the score to nil nil due to the defense clearing away most of the danger. But we created absolutely nothing. Angel and Baros got no service, just some clearances to chase after. The ball kept coming back for more pressure.

After 30 minutes the dam broke. That blond Dutch feller scored from a good finish after a spot of pinball. The 5 minutes later or so the ref gave a soft fee-kick to liverpool and harshly booked Mellberg into the bargain. With too much time and space allowed for their midfield, a reverse pass out wide, a cross and Crouch with a slight mis-hit maybe scored on the half turn. JC said Olly missed the ball and he was probably right. It got worse though just before half time when Gerrard passed nicely for Garcia to score from about 8 yards.

45 minutes and we’d had one shot (off-target) and got a chasing. Ominous. We just weren’t in it at all.

The second half saw some changes for Villa - both Baros and Angel were taken off, and shortly afterwards Ozzy was replaced by Steven Davis. The Two ex-celtic players, Sutton and Agathe replaced the two invisible forwards.

Sutton did pretty well, giving their defenders more trouble than either JPA or Milan had done. He linked up well with Gabby, now playing through the middle and one two put Gabby through on goal. Only one outcome was possible, you just knew he’d score, but it was a good finish and we had got back at least touch of pride. Even so Liverpool continued to make chances, particularly down our right, where Aaron Hughes didn’t have the best of games.

Sutton brought a cracking save out of Reina, leaping to get to a header from a free kick that was surely going to go into the corner of the net.

We kept up the effort and the heads never once dropped, which was pleasing, but we were still not really “in” the game seriously, in terms of looking like getting level for more than a few minutes of pressure.

It’s often been like this at Anfield (and other away games) in recent years, but what was different was the fans - we recognise that before the season started and before the changes at the top we were looking at a relegation struggle, with our small squad and consequent lack of quality once a few players drop out. So at 3-1 down we were singing the manager’s name, accepting, I believe, that things are on the up, but there’s only so much that can be done without the opportunity to bring in more quality. It’ll take time.

The game ended, a walk back to the station, a chat and a beer with a couple of familiar, friendly faces, a moan about the trains - they’re always a problem in the north west - engineering works never cease, it seems and then a mad dash as I realised I’d lingered slightly too long in the bar, but I (just) caught my train hoping that Villa can get back on track to our ultimate destination, too.

Some marks, to make up for the pitiful description of the match action

Tommy - 7. Blameless.

Aaron Hughes 3 - not at his best just now, too much seems to “happen” down his side.

Freddie Bouma - 5. OK on his first full game back

Olly - 5

Ridge 5

Gabby - 7 MoTM for Villa. As Drummond pointed out, he’s looking more like a footballer all the time, not just a sprinter.

Stan Petrov - 5

Ozzy - 3 - he was up against Sissoko who was the overall, excellent, MoTM and will have learnt a lot, I’d guess. He could be a good ‘un, but not quite yet at this level. (Steven Davis 6)

Gareth Barry - 5

JPA - 4 (Chris Sutton 6.5)

Milan Baros - 2 (Didier Agathe 6). Is it lack of matches and fitness, or is it disinterest? Hard to tell.

Oh and the ref was a bit crap, but didn’t affect the result.

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Nice review Blandy and I think the realists amidst us knew that if Liverpool got the side and tactics right and played well enough (which was very likely given the backlash from the Man U result) that Villa were always going to get beat no matter what the XI no matter what the tactics. It's gonna take time to build this unit but with patience I think wins at places like Anfield in the next few years are not beyond us.

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FWIW I agree with your ranking of Hughes. I was gonna give him a 2. He was absolute sh1te yesterday. He went missing so often, he got beaten so often. He was by far our weakest link and should be a priority to replace, and shows perfectly why I think we shouldn't have let Chimbonda go to Spurs so easily in the summer.

Tommy - 6 - Got off lightly. Had some moments.

Hughes - 2 - Shocking

Mellberg - 5 - At fault for their 2nd.

Ridgewell - 6 - Did well considering what was around him

Bouma - 6 - Did well and needs to stay in the team.

Gabby - 7 - The class of our team

Petrov - 5 - Quiet enough but wasn't helped by his central partner

Osbourne - 3 - Not ready yet for this level of opposition

Barry - 6 - Tried to lead, but today wasn't our day

Baros - 3 - Desperate, desperate, desperate, yet again.

Angel - 4 - Not much better than Milan but tried a bit harder.


Agathe - 5 - Better than who he replaced. That's all we can ask for I suppose.

Sutton - 6.5 - Got the assist for Gabby's consolation and is definitely better than Baros on this forum despite lack of fitness

Davis - 6 - Very surprised he was dropped for Isaiah. Maybe needed a rest? Will be back for Blackburn me thinks.

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Despite the obvious small squad and despite the sensible ones amongst us, we know it will take a little longer than we care to admit to this was a first half horror show and did not mirror a team that had acheived such a praiseworthy unbeaten run. The miserly space our team offered to Chelsea and Arsenal was totally missing and the whole team gifted space to Liverpool in a rather naive and benevolent way, that prompted quotes of Champagne football from the media towards Liverpool.Liverpool are accussed of smarting from the Man U debacle it will be interesting to see if we can come back from this so quickly as they did. My Worry about Villa is when they get in to this frame of mind they enter a realm of performance that is just not possible from a progressive team, they reach depths that really do suggest the miracle work of Martin most evidently needs money and only quality players will change it.

There are players we have and despite our searching attempts to "big them up" are clearly exit fodder, I just hope our manager has the single mindedness to draw a line under some of them........ I suspect despite his attempts to avoid commenting on the first half ( which is undersatandable) he already has that line well and truly drawn.

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Quote a liverpool fan at work tonight "thats the first time Luis Garcia has got past anyone this season"

Hughes gave Garcia that much space I'm suprised an estate agent didnt try and sell the gap betweeen them as a prime building plot with room for 3 dwellings

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Quote a liverpool fan at work tonight "thats the first time Luis Garcia has got past anyone this season"

Hughes gave Garcia that much space I'm suprised an estate agent didnt try and sell the gap betweeen them as a prime building plot with room for 3 dwellings

WELL PUT......sadly its true

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