Aston Villa 0-0 Liverpool
Stadium: Villa Park
Date: Sunday 31 August 2008
Competition: English Premier League
Kickoff: 16:00 BST, 11:00 ET
It was a scoreless draw between Liverpool and Aston Villa at Villa Park. Soccerlens brought the action (or lack thereof) to you live! Click below for the live blog! For coverage of all the weekend’s games, see our live scores site.
Liverpool have two wins in two matches to start the 2008-2009 Premiership season. While the strike force of Robbie Keane and Fernando Torres has been slow to gel, Rafa Benitez and Co. can take heart in the fact that they are one of only two teams with maximum points after the first two weeks (Chelsea being the other). They also pulled off a last-minute victory against Standard Liege to qualify for the Champions League as Dirk Kuyt (who seems to play better in European matches) scored in extra time to send Liverpool through. They haven’t been blowing people away, but they have yet to lose or tie since the season started.
Unfortunately, Liverpool will be without skipper Steven Gerrard, who will miss at least two weeks after having groin surgery. How they do without their talismanic midfielder in the coming weeks will reveal a lot about their character. Maybe Robbie Keane will step up and finally get on track. Maybe Xabi Alonso, who has been linked with a move away from Anfield since the transfer window opened, will prove his worth to Benitez and become an integral part of the squad. Maybe Javier Mascherano, who is back from winning a gold medal in the Olympics, will stabilize the midfield until the skipper’s return. Or, maybe they’ll fall completely apart, especially with this match and an upcoming match against Manchester United on the docket.
Aston Villa, on the other hand have been inconsistent (and that’s putting it nicely). After a resounding 4-2 win against Manchester City in which Gabriel Agbonlahor took out his frustrations over being snubbed by Fabio Capello and put up a hat-trick in the span of 7 minutes, Aston Villa were shocked last week by newly promoted Stoke City, who stole the win at the last minute. John Carew, who has two goals in two matches, has been in fine form, and he and Agbonlahor could very well upstage Keane and Torres in this match. Still, the stats are alarming. Aston Villa have scored six and conceded five as their defense continues to be suspect and newly acquired goalkeeper Brad Friedel continues to get accustomed to life at Villa Park. Their leaky defense could be exactly what Liverpool needs to get their strike force going and to weather the loss of Gerrard.
But let’s face it. Gerrard’s injury, Villa’s struggles, and the battle of the strike forces are hardly the juiciest subplot of this match. After an entire summer of turmoil, Gareth Barry is seemingly stuck at Villa Park, having been stripped of the captain’s armband after he made it clear that he’d rather be plying his trade at Liverpool. While Benitez claimed that he wanted Barry at Liverpool, the bottom line is that Benitez chose not to make the deal happen by refusing to meet Aston Villa’s valuation of their former captain. Sure, he may have been hamstrung by his acquisition of Keane, as well as his inability to unload Alonso. Still, there are plenty of people who think that Barry wanted to go to Liverpool much more than Liverpool wanted to acquire him. As such, we can expect Barry to put forth his best effort as he hopes to convince Benitez that he’s the answer to his prayers.
Will Liverpool pull out a huge victory that should give them some cushion in the standings, as well as momentum heading into their match with Manchester United next week? Will Aston Villa pull off the upset and stabilize what has been a roller-coaster of a season, thus far? Will Gareth Barry get on his hands and knees and beg Rafa to bring him to Anfield? Only one way to find out….
Aston Villa: Friedel, Shorey, L. Young, Laursen (c), Davies, Petrov, Barry, Reo-Coker, A. Young, Carew, Agbonlahor
Subs: Milner, Harewood, Knight, Salifou, Routledge, Gardner, Guzan
No changes from the side that started against Stoke City. Not sure if that’s good or bad. We should see new-signee James Milner at some point in the second half. Aston Villa have two American goal-keepers in their lineup. Too bad they didn’t sign Kasey Keller, otherwise they’d have 3.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher (c), Dossena, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Lucas, Mascherano, Alonso, Kuyt, Torres, Keane.
Subs: Cavalieri, Aurelio, Agger, Benayoun, Babel, Ngog, El Zhar.
As expected, Mascherano comes back from Olympic duty to partner Alonso in midfield. Lucas (also back from Beijing) will get the start over Benayoun and Dossena will take over for Aurelio.
90′ + 2 Long pass to Benayoun, but he loses it. Villa try to spring their counterattack, but Mascherano knocks it out for a throw. Villa are slow to set up and there’s the whistle. Thanks to everyone who followed along!
90′ + 1 Two minutes added. Villa get a throw deep in Liverpool territory. Barry’s throw is knocked away by Liverpool.
90′ Carew gets the throw, but can’t control it. Gardner makes a good tackle to keep possession. It goes out to Petrov, who can’t get the shot. Reo-Coker tries to send it in, but Liverpool get it and counterattack. Villa get it back and try to cross into the box. Carragher clears it.
89′ Ashley Young tries to get around Aurelio, but he gets upended as Aurelio tries to do the back body-drop on him. Villa will have a good chance here on the right edge of the box. Barry sends it in to Laursen. Carragher gets it, though, and sends it out for a throw.
88′ By the way, Berbatov is still a Spur… for now. Are you sick of this yet? I know I am.
87′ Friedel holds it a little and Martin O’Neill’s boys seem content to play for the point. Benayoun tries to play it long to Ngog, but Friedel is there.
85′ Young lifts a great ball into the box. Laursen is there for the header, but it’s just wide of the mark.
84′ Ashley Young wins a free kick after Ngog knocks him down.
83′ Long pass into the box. It goes to Milner at the top of the box and he fires a shot on target that Reina saves. That would have been a great debut for Milner. Villa back and Reo-Coker tries a shot from the right edge of the box that Reina saves.
82′ Benayoun is called offsides.
81′ Ball bounces in front of Friedel dangerously. Big Bad Brad punches it away, though. Villa go on the attack, but Ashley Young’s pass is knocked out for the throw.
80′ Barry fouls Lucas. That won’t endear you to the Anfield faithful, Gaz.
79′ Benayoun comes in for Keane. Looking forward to another week of stories about what’s wrong with Robbie Keane. Gardner will come in for Shorey.
78′ Agbonlahor gets a long pass that he outpaces Skrtel for. He sends it out to Shorey, but his cross into the box is knocked away by Alonso. Liverpool attack and Mascherano lays it off to Ngog. Ngog cocks his leg back to go for the shot, but it’s blocked.
77′ Mascherano plays it to Dossena, who’s open down the left flank. He crosses it and it’s knocked out for a corner. Let’s see if Alonso can do better here. It’s into the box, but Laursen clears it.
76′ Milner makes his presence felt with a nice tackle on Aurelio in the open field. I still say 12 million was a lot for Milner.
74′ Mascherano tries the long-range shot, but it’s well off the mark. On the replay, it looks like Reo-Coker didn’t get the ball and got plenty of Keane. Probably should have been a penalty. Will Liverpool get a makeup call?
73′ Long through-ball from Mascherano that finds Keane. Keane splits the defense and looks like he’s in like Flynn. Reo Coker recovers and makes the great challenge. Benitez wants a penalty, but no dice.
71′ Carew tries to play it over-the-top to Agbonlahor. Skrtel tries to clear it, but it goes to Petrov on the edge of the box. Petrov tries the long-range shot, but it’s off target.
70′ Here comes Aurelio for Kuyt.
68′ Babel is warming up for Liverpool. Aurelio too.
67′ Dossena shows his lack of Respect when he throws the ball away after he doesn’t get a call his way. He gets a yellow for his disRespect.
66′ Barry knocks it out for a corner. On the corner, Alonso’s service is knocked away by Villa. Alonso’s service has been mediocre to poor today.
65′ Nice movement from Liverpool as Arbeloa and Kuyt play a good one-two and Arbeloa lifts a cross towards the far post to Keane. Keane can’t control it, but keeps it alive for his squad.
64′ Liverpool knock it around. Lucas tries to get around Barry in the box, but Barry picks his pocket and knocks it away. Here comes Milner for Luke Young.
62′ Kuyt knees Ashley Young in the stomach with a knee-lift that would make Hulk Hogan proud to concede a free kick on the left edge of the box. Ashley Young sends in the free kick and he finds Davis at the far post. He can’t get his head down on the ball, and it bounces up for grabs. Liverpool eventually knock it out for the throw in.
60′ Agbonlahor is limping now. Milner is warming up now on the sideline.
59′ The corner is into the box, but Reina punches it away from danger.
58′ Agbonlahor with a good move into the box after receiving a long pass. He lays it off to Ashley Young. Young tries to lift a cross into the box, but it’s deflected out by Skrtel for a corner.
56′ Reo-Coker lifts a cross into the box and Arbeloa knocks it out for the corner. The corner goes long to Agbonlahor, but it’s over his head and out for a goal kick.
55′ Barry gets fouled in the open field by Kuyt.
53′ Alonso sends in the corner. It goes out to Dossena, who crosses it into the box that’s close to going in. Friedel knocks it over the bar to concede another corner. Alonso’s corner fails to get past the first Villa defender again, and eventually, it goes out for a goal kick.
52′ Keane passes to Lucas on the left flank. Keane gets it back and sends it to Alonso, who is unmarked on the right. Alonso’s shot is deflected out for a corner.
51′ On the free kick, Luke Young sends it into the box for Carew. Carew tries to flick it towards Ashley Young, but it goes out for a corner. On the corner, Carew heads it towards goal, but it goes out for a goal kick.
50′ Reo Coker wins a free kick as he is fouled by Dossena.
49′ Dossena with a cross into the box that bounces around enticingly. It goes out off Villa and Liverpool have another corner. Nothing doing on the corner as Villa clear it away.
48′ Alonso whips in the corner but its immediately deflected out for another corner. Take two and Kuyt tries to head it in at the far post, but he’s well marked and it falls weakly into the Friedel’s hands.
47′ Lucas is fouled by Reo-Coker. Liverpool will have a free kick from about 35 yards out or so. Alonso plays it in towards Robbie Keane. It looks like it went off Keane, but Liverpool get the corner.
46′ Villa kicks off and we’re off!
Not much between these two during the first half. Both teams played it pretty tight, and, as such, there weren’t many chances for either squad. Villa had the best chance when Carew’s shot forced Reina to make that kicksave. Neither squad really got into a rhythm, although Liverpool’s offense seemed particularly stuck in neutral. Losing Torres will hurt, but Keane seemed to play better once he moved into the centerl Hopefully, both sides will open it up a little bit in the second half.
45′ + 1 One minute of added time. Skrtel fouls Carew again. Did Carew run over his dog or something. Anyway, Villa have a free kick from about 30 yards out or so. Young lifts it into the box towards Laursen, but Reina is there to take it. There’s the whistle and we’re at the half.
45′ Luke Young with another poor cross from deep down the right flank. This one goes to Lucas.
44′ Barry finds Agbonlahor with a great pass, he sends it out to Ashley Young, and he loses it to Mascherano. Liverpool spring the counterattack, and Mascherano sends it to Kuyt. Kuyt’s touch is too strong, and it goes out for the goalkick.
43′ Keane with a nice pass to Ngog, who uncorks a rocket from the top of the box that’s just over the bar. Nice play from Keane, as he seems to have moved from the left side into the center of the field.
42′ Lucas makes a good move down the left flank. He tries the cross, but Friedel easily takes it and immediately springs the counterattack. Ashley Young lifts his cross into the box, but it’s too long and Reina takes it.
40′ Barry hip-checks Skrtel to concede the free kick near midfield. Kuyt with the chance after Shorey fails to clear it away. It’s into the side-netting, though, as Friedel did well to take away Kuyt’s angle.
39′ Liverpool haven’t been able to get anything going on offense. I guess they really miss Stevie G.
36′ Villa still on the attack. Barry loses it and wants the foul. But he gets no love from the ref.
35′ Good chance for Villa as Barry sends in a great pass to Ashley Young deep inside the box. He sends it back to Carew, who shoots on target and forces Reina to make a great kick save.
34′ Nothing doing on the corner as Liverpool knock it away from danger. Ngog gets it and makes a good move into the box. He tries to send it out, but Petrov is there to take it.
33′ Kuyt tries to cross it into the box for Lucas, but it’s knocked away by Villa and it falls to Reo Coker, who’s burning rubber down the right flank. Dossena holds him up and then Mascherano knocks it away for the corner.
32′ Mascherano tries to find Ngog with a cross into the box from the left flank, but it’s headed away by Laursen.
30′ Barry with a nice pass to Carew in the box. Carew tries to go around Carragher, but Carragher is all over him. Carew hits him as he tries to get around and is called for the foul. Ngog is in now.
29′ Xabi Alonso tries to catch Friedel off guard by shooting from 60 yards out or so. Friedel is equal to it, though.
27′ Torres pulls up lame and Mascherano asks Barry to knock it out of play, which he does. Way to curry favor with those potential employers, Gaz. Torres is taken out of the game and Ngog will be coming in. Wow. Big loss for Liverpool.
26′ Villa get the ball and go on their own attack. Luke Young is open down the right flank and he tries to cross it into the box. It’s too close to Reina, though, and he easily takes it.
25′ Liverpool on the attack here. Eventually, it goes to Mascherano, who tries to make a move into the box and gets gang-tackled. Villa knock it away for the throw.
23′ Barry makes his presence felt to take it away from Mascherano, who was deep down the left flank for Liverpool. Shorey with a over-the-top pass to Agbonlahor that goes over his head.
21′ Carew tries to roundhouse kick the ball towards goal, but it’s well wide of the mark.
20′ Kuyt with a good move to keep it in bounds. He sends a good pass to Mascherano, but Davis is there to make the tackle. Lucas then takes a long-range effort from outside the box, but it’s into the cheap seats. Poor effort from Lucas. The ball was still bouncing up when he struck it.
18′ Carew tries to cross it to Agbonlahor, but Reina is out to intercept it.
17′ Xabi then gives it away and Reo-Coker is off to the races. He holds it up and eventually, Carew gets it deep down the left flank, but Liverpool knock it out for the throw. Poor throw and the ball goes out for a goal kick.
15′ Poor pass from Mascherano that is no where close to Torres. Maybe he’s still on Beijing time.
13′ Skrtel with a tackle from behind on Carew that was no where near the ball. He rightly gets booked for that stupid challenge.
12′ Alonso sends in the corner and its cleared away by Laursen.
11′ Torres with a good run down the left side of the box and beats Reo-Coker. Luke Young is there to knock it out for a corner.
10′ Reina has a brainfart as he nonchalantly chips his kick right at Carew. Carew can’t take advantage, though, otherwise it would have been 1-0. Apparently, Reina studied at the Jens Lehmann School of Goalkeeping.
9′ Foul on Mascherano against Petrov. Villa will have a free kick from about 30 yards out or so. Ashley Young sends in good kick into the box that bounces near the far post. Davis is late getting there, though, and it’s out for a goal kick.
5′ Ashley Young plays one in to Agbonlahor deep in the box. Skrtel knocks it away to concede the corner. On the corner, Liverpool clear it away from danger.
4′ Keane gets his first touch and he tries to flick it over the defense, but it’s too long and Friedel collects it.
1′ Here we go. Liverpool kicks off. Mascherano tries to thread the throughball to Kuyt deep down the right flank, but Laursen is there to make the good defensive play.
0′ Here they come out of the tunnel.
0′ Sorry folks. Still waiting for Fox Soccer Channel to start the game. On the bright side, I know plenty about Taylor Twellman’s Kick-Medic.
0′ If soccer were more like pro wrestling, then I’d expect to see Gareth Barry score an own-goal and then rip off his Aston Villa shirt to reveal a Liverpool shirt. Or maybe he could hit Laursen with a chair.
0′ Upset alert: AC Milan are down to Bologna, 2-1 in the 90th minute. That lineup of Ronaldinho and Sheva would have been great 4 years ago.
0′ Welcome to the liveblog! I’m Victor and I’ll be your intrepid blogger today. Should be a great match between Liverpool and Aston Villa.
Ah, the dreaded scoreless draw. Anyone who was expecting an offensively charged match with exciting, wide-open football was sorely disappointed with this match. In the end, there wasn’t much between the squads, and neither side played particularly well. Liverpool can take heart in the fact that they escaped with a point despite not having Gerrard and losing Torres in the first half. Still, they clearly lacked imagination on offense and struggled to create chances. Alonso didn’t play particularly well, which is understandable given his uncertain status at Liverpool. Keane struggled again, which will only give more ammunition to his critics who thought that Liverpool should have spend that money on Barry instead.
As for Villa, they played better than Liverpool, but didn’t deserve to win. Their defense played well, giving Brad Friedel his easiest afternoon yet as a Villan. Carew and Agbonlahor were kept in check, and Barry was fairly invisible as well. Still, Villa can take heart in the fact that they finally kept the other team out of the scoresheet and that they took a point from a team that’s owned them in recent years. In any event, both sides will have some work to do.
Man of the Match
Not much to choose from. Reina and Friedel weren’t bothered by too many shots, but both played well and deserved to keep clean sheets. Laursen played well in defense, showing that he is a worthy successor to Barry as captain. Mascherano was uneven, but he made some great passes on offense and some key tackles on defense to keep Villa out of goal. However, Ashley Young deserves the honor. He made great runs all over the field, distributed the ball well, did a great job on set pieces, and really gave the Liverpool defense fits. Hopefully, Fabio Capello was watching.