Glensider At Anfield
Attendance: 39 079
'What I`m struggling to understand, is how come this wintery weather is enough to stop us making the brief journey to Kiddy and my niece`s engagement party on Saturday evening, and yet when I point that out, and question the wisdom of driving up to Liverpool tonight for a game that`s being shown on the television anyway, the response is that you don`t let just a bit of snow and ice put you off`. So said my good friend Andy`s better looking half as we congregated at their Streetly home mid-afternoon in readiness for the trip up to Anfield, but as fortunately we had been briefed as to the likelihood of that comment being thrown our way, along with guidance and direction as to the best way to respond, dear old Andy was spared the prospect of arriving home later this evening, or indeed into the early hours of Tuesday morning, without finding the doors locked and the windows bolted, and his clothes piled up in a heap on the front lawn. Football wives, they never understand, do they?
Anyway, it was just after 3.00 p.m. that we jumped into the car on a bitterly cold and gray Brummie winter afternoon, ready to hit the road and begin our journey up to the fourth largest city in the United Kingdom, Liverpool, in the metropolitan borough of Merseyside. By the time we were to arrive at our destination, all four of us were well up for a bowl of scouse, the local delicacy, a type of stew, if only to help thaw out the aching bones and near frozen blood, a direct result of Andy`s insistence on having his front side drivers window slightly cranked for best part of the trek up there, despite initial pleas, followed by more direct threats, when the polite requests failed to produce the required response.
We were unable to spot a 'Scouse Store` though as we headed towards Anfield, so we opted for the more traditional chish and fipps (just to see if you`re paying attention) supper, and bumped into three guys from Oslo, who had traveled over to take in the sights and sounds of Liverpool over the weekend, staying on to watch their beloved reds in action in the Monday game. Very nice people they were too, and we passed away a very enjoyable thirty minutes or so in their company. Somewhat concerning though was the undeniable fact that they spoke English better than we do. Big Beatles fans also (who isn`t?), so if we hadn`t have been able to agree on the football, then we would have definitely been singing from the same hymn sheet regarding music.
We bid our farewell`s and made our way into one of the local watering holes, where news reached us that Fernando Torres would not be involved in the game, and the local Reds fans in-house, naturally didn`t seem too happy about his omission. Initial reports suggested that he was ill, but we later learned that his wife had gone into labour. Good enough excuse we determined. Our thoughts turned back to our new found friends from Oslo though, and for two of them in particular, both of who were particularly keen to see Torres live in action for the very first time. As they had revealed that they only got over once per year to Anfield, it would clearly be some time before they would get the opportunity again. Oh well, needless to say, we four weren`t as disheartened about 'Nando`s absence as they obviously would be.
Into the stadium we strolled, where our starting line-up was confirmed as follows:-
Brad Friedel, Luke Young, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Stephen Warnock, Marc Albrighton Jonathan Hogg, Cieran Clark, Stewie Downing, Stephen Ireland, and Gabby Agbonlahor.
On the bench:- Guzan, Pires, Carew, Delfouneso, Cuellar, Lichaj, Herd.
The Liverpool team:- Reina, Johnson, Konchesky, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Meireles, Lucas, Kuyt, Maxi, Babel, Ngog. Subs: Jones, Kelly, Aurelio, Poulsen, Cole, Jovanovic, Shelvey.
So, two teams clearly not at full strength, but two teams well capable of putting on an intriguing contest, to keep the 40,000 brave souls huddled in the stadium, both entertained, and oblivious to the numbing cold. Or so we hoped. As it turned out, only the home team decided to turn up. The general opinion amongst supporters in the away section seemed to be that if we couldn`t put on a decent showing against this Liverpool team, shorn of its three key asset`s, then we really needed to face up to the fact that we are in for a worrying and testing winter.
We looked very slow witted at the back as the game got underway. It is so difficult to believe that our defensive work has been our one of our strengths in recent seasons, that is certainly not the case to date this time around. They are not a unit collectively, and individually they are struggling.
Early signs also suggested that the confidence and belief is slowly draining out of the team, the result no doubt of way too many reversals. Too many players standing around hoping that their team mates might just bale them out, no one looking as if they particularly wanted to be in the possession of the ball.
What on earth we get up to on the training ground I`m starting to wonder. The players looked as if they were total strangers, thrown together a couple of hours before the game. No shape, short on ideas, and tactically naive.
Within fifteen minutes we were 2-0 down, both goals the result of shoddy defending. Ngog heading home the first from six yards after Skrtyl headed back across goal following a Liverpool corner, and then two minutes later Babel held off a defender and fired across Friedel to put the hosts well in command. A suggestion of offside, but surely you play to the whistle? Some of our lads didn`t. They stopped. There was silence amongst the away support, followed immediately by outbursts of anger. Not good enough. We didn`t even look up for the fight, and then on top of that we`d gifted Liverpool two goals. You don`t do that, not at Anfield. But we`re gifting teams goals left, right, and centre, so why should we have expected this evening to be any different?
We pretty much sat in stunned silence for the rest of the half, not believing what we were watching. Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal had to be as cold as we were, he had had absolutely nothing to do. Liverpool were comfortable, just a stroll in the park for them. We hadn`t even remotely got into the game. This was worrying to witness, something that I`m sure that you folks watching the game at home picked up on also. We`ve been a soft touch on the road this season to date, but this first half offering was a new low.
Its been a long time since I`ve sat amongst so many frustrated and depressed Villans as was evident at half-time. Our section wasn`t full anyway, away support is dwindling, plus of course it`s a night game with poor traveling conditions to contend with, but if this sort of performance continues, support will only fall away even more.
Young Nathan was thrown on to start the second half, Cieran Clark withdrawn, but the general feeling amongst the away support was that the game was already lost. After all, we`d only scored five goals on our travels to date this season.
We certainly looked a little bit livelier, not that that could have been very difficult to achieve. Gabby almost pulling a goal back when he slid in to meet a Stewart Downing pass, only to be denied by Reina, but then the home side caught us on the break. Maxi steering home to make it 3-0. Game over. What on earth has happened to this defence of ours?
There was definite serious unrest amongst the traveling faithful by this time. Frustration being vented towards the players and the manager. We just don`t look compact or solid on the road anymore, and the body language of certain of the players looks completely wrong.
This was one of the poorest performances I`ve seen from a Villa team in a long, long time, and comments from fellow Villans around me showed that they were in full agreement. On the seventy minute mark it was noticeable that our section was emptying, supporters giving up the ghost and heading for home already.
After that third goal, the game as a contest was dead and buried. The only question was whether Liverpool could add to their tally. I`ll bet they haven`t enjoyed an easier ride all season. We were woeful.
The Villa support amused themselves by applauding our lads when we managed to string two passes together. Sad to hear, because the traveling claret and blue faithful are usually 100% behind the cause, providing vocal encouragement second to none.
Pires came on for Marc Albrighton, while Carew replaced a very frustrated Gabby. He looked at odds with the world, not a very happy young man this evening was our Gabby.
I`m sorry, but I cant believe that such a gutless, spineless performance would have been served up under the previous manager. This effort tonight was completely and utterly unacceptable, and I am alarmed at the state of decline that this club is now experiencing.
Lets just say that I`m now pleased to be back home after a very depressing journey back to dear old Brummagem. I`m cold, and unhappy, very worried even, and after what I witnessed earlier, very disillusioned. I have so many concerns and questions, I think the best thing I can do is to hit the sheets, and get a good nights sleep, and forget about them.
Things always look better in the morning. Don`t they?