Villa_Grizzly Match Report: Liverpool v Villa
Attendance: 44 737
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Standing in front of Lamb of God's Marshall stack has left my ears ringing. The stateside band blasted the roof of the O2 Academy with their redneck brand of all all American metal. As a result I am having trouble hearing; my head a little groggy so the TV is rammed up. Sorry to the neighbours.
We decided, on notification of the change in KO time, to stay at home, though we are regretting the decision now, even if the tickets were £44 each. This is only the second away fixture we have missed since the start of the season, having also missed the New Year's trip to Sunderland on the ground that it was ridiculous to expect anyone to travel that far on public transport, when the entire country is closed. Still, it's nice to see and hear Villa talked about on the television, and to get a sense of how the punditry world rate us.
Using the Vital phone app (nudge nudge) I check the team news. Bertrand is, no surprise, straight in at left-back. He joins Bacuna, Vlaar and Clark at the back.. Thank God. I'm not a fan of the loan system but if it provides us with decent cover on our left side then I will happily shut my huge trap. I have been extremely vocal on our problems at left-back, and have pointed out, until my fingers fell off. how every man and his dog comes down our left-flank. Thankfully, Paul Lambert has addressed this problem, bringing in a young player with considerable talent . So, take a seat Luna. Get yourself a cushion and a drink. You won't be required until July at the earliest.
It's Delph, Westwood and El Ahmadi across the middle in a hard working three. Benteke, who re-opened his goal scoring account against Arsenal, starts up front with Agbonlahor and Weimann. Referee John Moss will be trying to keep up with play in the middle.
We've been pretty much written off by everyone for this game. It's perhaps worth noting that they have conceded only one less goal than us and are weak on the counter, for all their forward weaponry. We will certainly need to take our chances to have any chance.
Laptop at the ready. Game on.
After a quick break to convince us of the value and excitement found in gambling the game kicks off. 54' seconds is all it takes for us to get a gilt edge chance but Agbonlahor, headed on by Benteke, pokes it just wide. Come on boys!
4' minutes in and Weimann plays in Agbonlahor with some cut and thrust play. The Villa speed demon races into the box but his angled pass across the box is cleared.
Liverpool have their first chance from a free kick. The ball comes in.... Bacuna clears at the near post. Good work. We have started well, countering and moving the ball with purpose. By the 20 'minute mark we have Liverpool on the back foot. We look sharp.... and nothing, I repeat nothing, is coming down our left.
The Mrs and I agree that it is very weird (if considerably cheaper) not being at the game. Watching your team on the box is in no way the same. It misrepresents the dynamic, physicality of the game and the emotional connection is just not the same.
El Ahmadi takes Sissokho out with a clattering challenge. Well done son, though it gets him a yellow. The marauders in the middle will need to be careful.
Some great play down the left leads to a corner. It swings in.... CLARK....off the post. Agbonlahor Oh my God. We are ripping Liverpool here. And here we come again. Benteke to Agbonlahor.... he's on his bike, leaving Toure for dead. ... he runs the Liverpool defender.. across the six yard box for Weimann GOOOALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. I dive on the Mrs. Bedlam in Stirchley. On 24' minutes its Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa.
Liverpool step it up a little. By the 34' minute mark we are a little deeper, some of that incredible first half-hour of energy having faded. We must see this out now to the...hold on... Agbonlahor again... storming down the left... cross..... BENTEKEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
Sofa dive number two. Madness in the Grizzly-Button household. The beast is back. Mignolet stranded, He nuts the ball down into an empty net. This is the Villa we want to see. On 36' minutes Liverpool 0-2 Aston Villa.
As the half comes to a close we are completely on top. Our midfield trio are bossing the game.. and Guzan has had little to do but Liverpool come at us again. There's little pressure put on the ball. At the edge of the eighteen yard box now. Some quick feet and passing.... Henderson flicks one on for Sturridge.... and it's in. He's rifled that into the top corner. On 45' (+2) it's Liverpool 1-2 Aston Villa.
We go straight back at Liverpool after the restart but the attack fizzles at, leaving referee Moss to blow up for half-time. Disappointed that we are only 1 up now. That half was completely ours.
I descend to the kitchen for tea and wine-gums. Whilst I am away Button is left to watch Disco Stu (Redknapp) warble on about Liverpool's goal. In my ever so humble, surely the worst pundit since Alan Shearer began muttering toneless clichés in front of a camera.
The second-half is now under way. Please do not sit back, Villa. Energy and tempo, at the double. We will need it, but Agbonlahor is coming off already. Loan signing Grant Holt comes on, changing the shape. What has the Wigan man got in his locker?
A cross field ball from Gerard. Hollywood special. Suarez collects in the box. Guzan comes out.... and... Penalty. Was there contact though? Replay comes on the TV. It looks like he's pulled his arms back and Suarez has made the most of it whatever contact there was. Typical. Gerard steps up...Drat. On 53' minutes it's Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa.
Liverpool have their tails up but we are by no means on the back foot. Bertrand sends in a sweeping ball from the back post...knocked back... Clark thinks about it...goes for a volley ... too much time there. Liverpool clear. We need to be more decisive.
After some up and down play Delph sweeps through the middle and fires one from range.... just wide. Good effort, Fab. He's the best midfielder out there by far though Gerard is edging forward and driving the play more now. The Liverpool midfield has gone up a gear though just as they start to spin the ball about midfield bouncer Lucas Levia goes off with a crock knee on 65' minutes. Time for us to take advantage and push up; return to our organised high energy play. Some tactical nuance wouldn't go amiss either. With Holt and Benteke on let's get balls in from centre and wide and bully those Liverpool defenders.
We seem to make the tactical shift. On 74' minutes we take a cheeky free kick. Holt collects, unmarked on the edge of the box, slips his man, slides the ball across the middle... anyone... just a touch..... but no. It evades Delph at the last. Just a bobble of shin was all that needed and that would have been in. What a tight game. Whatever happens this is one of our best performances of the season and Ronald Vlaar has been at the heart of it. A super performance so far from the Dutch international defender. Luna comes on for the tired looking yet fabulous Bertrand. The Mrs reaches for her cushion. We are trying to take the sting out of the game, slowing the pace and frustrating Liverpool into affording us free kicks. So far, so good on plan B.
Sylla loses possession after some great play from Benteke, who is holding in an attacking midfield role. I can hardly watch. More up and down play as we trade blows. 3' minutes of regular time to go. Our away form has literally saved our season.
Luna wins a free kick but it comes back to us. Its nerve shredding stuff this. The 4th official signals for 4 minutes of extra time. Come on boys, push!!!. Alan Smith (who has a bit of Villa in his heart) gives the man of the match to Vlaar. Well deserved. He has been absolute Roncrete today. And there is the final whistle. Phew. I am sweaty on the keys. At Full time it's Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa.
That'll give the doubters something to think about. Another super away performance and one that takes us to 10th. That's right folks, we are moving up the table. We are now on 24 points with -7 GD. Great performances from Vlaar and Bertrand as well. If only we could play away every week. Next up: Baggies at home. See you there.
Room for improvement: Sylla.