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Liverpool 1 Aston Villa 1 - Prem Apr 7 2012)

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LIVERPOOL 1 Aston Villa 1

Report by Dave Usher at Anfield

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Scorer(s) – Luis Suarez

Half Time - 0-1

Venue - Anfield

Date - Sat 7 Apr 2012

Star Man – Martin Skrtel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well the good news is we didn't lose. The bad news is we failed to beat a depleted Aston Villa side containing numerous players I'd never even heard of. Not for the first time the result didn't reflect the performance but that's because we don't score goals and if you don't score goals you don't win games. It's that simple. We had enough chances to win it, but yet again we failed to take them.

 

That's two wins from 13 league games in 2012 now. I wouldn't bet on us making it three from 14 at Ewood Park on Tuesday night either. It's a sign of how far we've fallen of late that I'm trying to take some small crumbs of comfort in a performance that in all honesty never really rose above 'not bad'. It's difficult to even do that when you consider how awful the opposition were.

 

Villa aren't a good side even when they've all their best players available, and I don't think I'm going overboard in saying that the team they sent out at Anfield wouldn't look out of place in the Championship. With that in mind, the very least I'd expect is for us to be the better side, which we clearly were. It would have been nice for us to turn that superiority into three points, but it seems like we've almost forgotten how to win now. There's a massive crisis of confidence in the players that surely stems from their inability to score goals and the constant pressure they are playing under as a result of that.

 

It doesn't appear to make any difference what combination of players Dalglish puts out either. We seem to get the same failings regardless of who is in the side. There's no magic solution, no player we can introduce to solve our goalscoring problems, we've just got to muddle through and hope things pick up. Ideally you'd want Kenny to stick with the same group of players and keep picking them instead of changing two or three every game. It's difficult to do that when so few of them are doing enough to justify their selection.

 

After the Newcastle game there were any number of players who could have been dropped. As it turned out, only three lost their starting places as Spearing, Bellamy and Carroll all dropped to the bench with Henderson, Downing and Kuyt returning to the side. God knows who'll start the next game, as how many could have cause for complaint if they didn't?

 

With Carroll and Kuyt it's a case of picking your poison. I'd choose Carroll but it's not a clear cut decision as neither of them can score, both are regularly missing good chances and it's looking increasingly likely neither will be here next season. Dirk missed an open goal from two and a half yards out in the first half and blocked a goal bound shot by Agger in the second. It's been that kind of season for him. As for Carroll, he came off the bench and had a good headed chance that he put straight at the keeper. Not a sitter but that's the kind of chance that is meant to be his bread and butter and the reason he was signed.

 

It's uncanny how so many of our games have followed such a similar pattern as this one. We hit the woodwork, we have penalty appeals turned down, we concede from any chance the opposition creates and we waste numerous good openings. It's been happening all season and this was just the latest in a long line of these frustrating, disappointing days.

 

The first good chance we created came very early on when Downing ran onto a ball and immediately knocked it into the space behind Hutton and flew past him with a pace and purpose we've seen all too infrequently this season. He left the full back for dead and whipped in a fantastic early cross that was begging to be converted. Suarez couldn't get there but Kuyt arrived at the back post and sent the ball goalwards. Given blocked it but Kuyt thought it had gone over the line. Whether it did or not I don't know, but neither ref or linesman gave it so it's irrelevant.

 

It's incidents like this that make a mockery of the whole 'assists' stat in my opinion. Downing has no assists in the league but he's put in a shitload of crosses, some of them crap of course but several of which have been beauties. None have been converted but that's not his fault, he can't convert the chances he creates for others. This was a fantastic piece of wing play that deserved a goal at the end of it. Unfortunately it came to nothing and no-one will remember it in a week or two. It looks bad that our £20m winger has no assists in the league yet, but I'm far more concerned with the big fat zero he's sitting on for goals scored. He can't get on the end of his own crosses or do anything about the poor finishing of others but there's no excuse for him having fewer league goals than Tim Howard.

 

Suarez had two penalty shouts turned down in the first half. First when his cross struck the arm of a defender from point blank range (not a pen for me), and secondly when he appeared to be clipped by Hutton as he played a one two with Kuyt. Probably went down too easily but he was caught by the full back. This is the ref that didn't give Fulham that last minute pen at Old Trafford when Murphy was bundled over from behind however. If he'd given this one there'd have been plenty of questions asked by fans of Fulham and Manchester City as this wasn't as clear a pen as Murphy's one. The expression two wrongs don't make a right seems apt in this case.

 

Michael Oliver did his level best to not give us anything. Suarez was later booked for diving when once again there was contact, and Oliver turned down another penalty appeal when Lichaj handled after Kuyt had chested the ball past him. We'd probably have missed any penalty we'd gotten anyway, so I can't get too worked up over it. Even allowing for the referee we should still be able to beat this awful Villa side.

 

Typically they scored with their only decent attack of the game. Shelvey's header to Flanagan was a little short but the full back hesitated as the ball bounced and Ste Warnock surged in to win it before whipping in a great ball that Doni flapped at. Villa retrieved it and the ball was worked back to Herd on the edge of the box and his fine shot beat Doni all ends up.

 

They didn't even bother trying to attack after that, Heskey went into a holding midfield role and Agbonlahor cut an increasingly isolated figure up front. Carragher and Skrtel dealt with his threat very well but it can't have been easy for the pacey frontman when he had no support at all.

 

The goal gave them something to cling to and it piled the pressure onto a Liverpool team that has been struggling badly, especially at Anfield. We toiled away but there was precious little inspiration there. Kuyt squandered the best chance of the half when he couldn't convert a cross-shot from Gerrard that came at him quickly. He was so close to goal that it was more difficult to miss than score but he blazed it high over the bar. That came after a rare bit of good play from the otherwise subdued Suarez, who also wasted a good chance of his own when he hit a left foot shot straight at Given instead of finding one of the corners.

 

The second half saw an improvement in our play and we put Villa under quite a bit of pressure in spells. Gerrard began the half playing on the right as Kuyt was moved up top with Suarez. If there's one thing the captain being out there gives us, it's quality delivery. One delicious cross found the head of Suarez who's effort struck the inside of the post before it was palmed away from on the goal-line by Given. Great cross, fine header, desperately unlucky.

 

I'd love to know how many times we've hit the woodwork this season now, and I'd also be curious to know how many times Suarez has been denied by post or bar. I'd guess Suarez alone must be close to 15 by now, it's ridiculous how unlucky he's been at times.

 

Even the goal we scored came after we'd been denied by the bar. Gerrard whipped in another great ball that Agger did brilliantly to reach at the far post and head goalwards. It bounced down off the bar but luckily enough this time the loose ball fell to a red shirt and Suarez headed it over the line.

 

That goal had been coming, we'd been piling on the pressure and I'd been confident that we'd score. Kenny had made changes and Villa were hanging on, offering no threat of their own and just hoping to see out time. Downing and Shelvey were replaced by Bellamy and Carroll, meaning Gerrard went back into the centre alongside the quietly efficient Henderson.

 

Agger was sent on to replace the struggling Enrique and the changes did give us a lift. There was more than enough time for us to go on and get a winner, but expecting us to score more than one goal in a game was asking too much. It's rare were do that these days. We had a couple of opportunities, Carroll headed another great Gerrard cross straight at Given and Kuyt got in the way of a shot from Agger that was going in.

 

Having seen their lead wiped out Villa began to show a little more ambition and tried to catch us on the counter when possible. We were throwing so many men forward there was always the chance we'd leave the back door open but thankfully we dealt with any attempted counter. They had a penalty shout of their own when Agger appeared to trip their substitute, but Oliver waved it away and booked the Villa player for diving. Looked harsh to me, but at least Oliver was consistent in his bad calls.

 

It's difficult to describe anything from this as a 'positive'. It's more a case of being 'less negative'. By that I mean we didn't play especially well, but we weren't as bad as we have been. There was some improvement on the Wigan and Newcastle games for example, but was that simply because Villa didn't play as well as those sides and had less to play for?

 

Individually I thought most of the players did ok without being outstanding. Certainly they were better than against Newcastle and showed more determination than they did at St James'. It's all such a struggle though isn't it? Because we don't score enough goals we're constantly playing under massive pressure, and any goal conceded is likely to cost us points. It's difficult to play under those circumstances but until we can find a way to put the ball in the net consistently it's how it's going to be.

 

I've gone for Skrtel as the star man, largely because I couldn't think of anyone else other than maybe Carragher.

 

 

Team: Doni; Flanagan, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique (Agger): Shelvey (Carroll), Henderson; Kuyt, Suarez, Downing (Bellamy):

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Another great report Dave.

 

I like the delay between the game and the report going up. That period of reflection always gives a balanced view after the heat of battle has cooled, and the mists of war has cleared.

 

A basic journalistic adage is "say it in the first para". You did that perfectly.

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Can't argue with most of that, other than Suarez being "unlucky" cos he's hit the post or bar so many times.

 

in some cases it's bad luck, but mostly it's just bad finishing. Far too often he does all the hard work; turns a defender inside out or a great piece of skill - and then he just snatches at the ball.

 

Someone really needs to do some serious, serious work with him on his finishing and teach him how to just pass the ball in to the net, cos if he had that in his game he'd be up there with the very best in the world. It's so frustrating.

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I think the whole club, perhaps especially some of the players and some fans, might be suffering with a touch of superiority complex…

 

If we’re all gonna be superior then we all need to learn the art of demonstrating we are in every single match. This includes the fans too as we need to create the same high octane atmosphere for every and all home league games as we do for big European/ Cup games. We need to leave no doubt in the minds of the players that we are up for every match and force the players/ management to deliver their best instead of appearing to hold back and seeming to be more intent on the glamour games. We gotta get really demented and madferrit!!!

 

Just because we haven’t heard of some of Villa’s younger players doesn’t mean they’re no good. Perhaps some of them will turn out better than those they’re currently standing in for.

 

We currently remind me a little of the Mancs in their pre-Ferguson days.

 

We need our star players to be a bit more coy and show more nous, especially Suarez. Louis needs to learn when to play things (passes/ shots) a bit more simple and on target sometimes instead of trying to be Maradona/ Pele with every single touch.

 

And some kind of ‘finishing school’ training drills wouldn’t go amiss either. Can’t we get Rushie, Robbie and Aldo in to share some of their experiences before Saturday comes (Michael Owen could be useful too but he’s now part of the dark side)?

 

We desperately need to find faith in getting some real, genuine high quality width in to the side and learn to trust it and value it like the mancs and Arsenal do. If we can crack that I’m sure the goals will flow. To me Taggarts teams still follow an astonishingly similar philosophy and template to Kenny Dalglish’s 1987/89 outstanding Liverpool team (albeit in a more modern setting). Devastating width allied to clinical finishing. That’s what we lack and need to find it yesterday.

 

P.S. - Oh and once again Downing comes off as Carroll comes on. Would love to know what all that’s all about.

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I think the whole club, perhaps especially some of the players and some fans, might be suffering with a touch of superiority complex…

 

If we’re all gonna be superior then we all need to learn the art of demonstrating we are in every single match. This includes the fans too as we need to create the same high octane atmosphere for every and all home league games as we do for big European/ Cup games. We need to leave no doubt in the minds of the players that we are up for every match and force the players/ management to deliver their best instead of appearing to hold back and seeming to be more intent on the glamour games. We gotta get really demented and madferrit!!!

 

Just because we haven’t heard of some of Villa’s younger players doesn’t mean they’re no good. Perhaps some of them will turn out better than those they’re currently standing in for.

 

We currently remind me a little of the Mancs in their pre-Ferguson days.

 

We need our star players to be a bit more coy and show more nous, especially Suarez. Louis needs to learn when to play things (passes/ shots) a bit more simple and on target sometimes instead of trying to be Maradona/ Pele with every single touch.

 

And some kind of ‘finishing school’ training drills wouldn’t go amiss either. Can’t we get Rushie, Robbie and Aldo in to share some of their experiences before Saturday comes (Michael Owen could be useful too but he’s now part of the dark side)?

 

We desperately need to find faith in getting some real, genuine high quality width in to the side and learn to trust it and value it like the mancs and Arsenal do. If we can crack that I’m sure the goals will flow. To me Taggarts teams still follow an astonishingly similar philosophy and template to Kenny Dalglish’s 1987/89 outstanding Liverpool team (albeit in a more modern setting). Devastating width allied to clinical finishing. That’s what we lack and need to find it yesterday.

 

P.S. - Oh and once again Downing comes off as Carroll comes on. Would love to know what all that’s all about.

 

hopefully it's more like our 1990 team i.e. coming to the end of a long long run of success

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I give up. If we win any of the league games to go it will only be a bonus. I'm sure they'll be up for it at Wembley (that's the least I expect) and then crumble when we play West Brom the week after.

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suarez has hit the woodwork 8 times this season. Van Persie 7 times.

 

according to 5live yesterday.

 

Pretty sure that's league only. I remember him being on 11 couple of months ago.

 

Also heard that was the 27th time we'd hit the bar this season, which is a league record with7 games to go!

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Another really frustrating home game with a combination of bad luck and bad play letting us down yet again. Keep thinking at least one game will be different but there seems to be a set script that has to be followed every time. I think with Suarez his finishing has been very poor at times but he also has to be the unluckiest player in front of goal I've ever seen. How many times this season has he almost scored a wonder goal only to see it hit the post or be denied by some amazing save or last gasp block? His header that hit the post on Saturday was a great effort and just plain unlucky.

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