Sunday, August 31, 2008

LFC v. Aston Villa

Aye, it's been a while, hasn't it?

Well, after the dismal Chelsea/Spurs match this morning (thank you Spurs for ruining the dreams of bettors nationwide), we find ourselves in the grudge match today. Villa vs. Liverpool. Barry vs. Alonso. O'Neill vs. Benitez. It's gonna be explosive (well, maybe... we thought that about this morning, didn't we?)

So, bit of a liveblog after the jump. I just woke up and I drank my body weight in wine last night, so it might take a while to get going.

Editorial view (from me): COME ON YOU REDS Well, grey today, but that doesn't matter

Aston Villa
01 Friedel
02 Luke Young
05 Laursen
15 Davies
21 Shorey
20 Reo-Coker
19 Petrov
06 Barry
07 Ashley Young
10 Carew
11 Agbonlahor

25 Reina (turned 26 today... I'm older than him... scary)
17 Arbeloa
23 Carragher
37 Skrtel
02 Dossena
18 Kuyt
14 Alonso
20 Mascherano
21 Lucas
07 Keane
Liverpool's Number Nine

6 mins: Cagey start by both sides. The noise is deafening, or is it like that Indianapolis Colts noise? Can't tell yet. Good midfield play by Villa, early corner that came to nothing. Arbeloa on Ashley Young is a potentially frightening match-up.

8 mins: Mascherano reminds us why we've missed him with a clumsy foul on Petrov. Ball swings across to the far post and no-one reaches it, although Curtis Davies was all alone back there.

10 mins: Both sides still trying to assert authority. It's easier going for Villa at the moment, but they're also looking to play the same long ball rubbish that LFC lapse into most of the time. Good turn and burst of pace by Torres, who slips through two defenders and goes wide down the left. His cross is blocked by Reo-Coker for an LFC corner. Alonso takes, it finds the middle of the box but Laursen knocks it clear.

14 mins: Villa break down the middle with Agbonlahor, but the link-up to Carew goes awry and LFC get it away.

15 mins: Keane is definitely drifting wide in the early going, and LFC's passing is rather sloppy. Thought: could it be the fucking kits? They're grey... not difficult to mess that up in the peripheral vision, is it?

Better possession for Liverpool, although the final ball in from the right is easily dealt with. Reo-Coker brings it up, and Villa set up for another attack.

17 mins: Good move from Villa. Long pass to Carew, and he feeds Gabby at the edge of the box. Reina comes out to snuff out the danger. Forgot to mention Skrtel's yellow in the 13th minute for a very clumsy challenge on the half-way line... it's always good to have a central defender playing on a yellow for 75 minutes when you're playing away from home in a difficult fixture against a good side with lots of pace. Yeah, definitely smart from the Slovakian.

Who's the top and who's the bottom?

20 mins: The commentators harp on Keane's misuse thus far, as he's playing out to the left and should be right up with Torres. I can't argue with that. Lucas gets LFC's first shot on goal; shame it was a volley from the edge of the box that ended up in Row ZZ.

22 mins: LFC try breaking down the left, but the pass on was too long and Barry does well to cut it off, keep it in play, and knock it back downfield. At this point, I'd give my right arm for some controlled Liverpool possession.

25 mins: Finally, some good possession (I'll send my arm to Anfield tomorrow), although they never threaten the Villa area and it's hoofed clear. It was nice to see them passing it from right to left though. Reminds me of the glory days... *tear*

26 mins: Oh shit. Torres pulls up a bit sharply chasing a stray pass forward, and Torres comes off. Dammit, dammit, dammit. Rafa now has to change thing significantly, something I'm not entirely sure he's capable of. So who's coming on? El-Zhar, Benayoun, N'gog? PLEASE NOT YOSSI. Last thing we need is another winger who can't play wing.

27 mins: Thank the lord, it's N'gog. Looked lethal in preseason, and he could use some time up-front. Pace! It's what Villa have! This might not be so bad!

28 mins: No, it's not. It's Ryan Babel! Different kind of pace! Still good!

30 mins: LFC playing without a striker as the sub still hasn't come on. Barry plays a good pass into Carew, who leans on Carragher so much that he falls over. Poor Jamie. :( Ref gives a free-kick to the defender, although the amount of shirt-tugging going on could have swung it the other way.

Luke Young crunches Dossena out of play on the left as LFC start attacking. It IS Ngog who comes on, and he slots right up-top. Benitez needs to stop being a wuss and let Keane be a striker.

32 mins: Meanwhile, Man City are up 3-0 at the Stadium of Light thanks to 2 second-half goals from Chelsea cast-off SWP. Roy Keane is about to explode.

33 mins: Reo-Coker enjoys a long run from box-to-box down the right-hand side, taking Dossena and Mascherano on a nice Sunday sprint. Eventually Masch gets back to scythe him down, but the run brings the Villa crowd to their feet. Corner for Villa, although easily cleared.

I'm taking a break to eat a delicious omelette.

40 mins: I almost spill my omelette as a Dossena cross is whipped in from the left, half-cleared by Shorey only to fall to Kuyt on the edge of the box, whose shot bursts the side-netting. Not a bad chance, although Friedel was over to cover the near post. LFC are finally finding some useful possession.

43 mins: AHHHHH close. Good play from LFC, which surprises the shit out of me. Alonso to Keane on the right, and Keane's neat flick-on gives N'gog a chance at the top of the box, one-on-one with Laursen, and his swerving left-footed shot just whizzes over the bar. Excellent chance. Perhaps Keane will finally get to play up-front, as things like this immediately happen when he does.

45 mins: Goddamn it. A flowing move forward by Villa is snuffed out, and then on the counter, Mascherano's pass to Kuyt on the right is too far ahead of him and the attack breaks down.

They really need to ditch these fucking kits. There's no way that they're picking each other out with accuracy in grey kits. You can't see that colour well in your peripheral vision. No freaking way.

Skrtel with a clumsy foul (watch it, moron, you're already on a yellow), and the free-kick from Young is whipped in dangerously from the left. Reina does well to come out and collect.

HALF-TIME Back to the cooling remnants of my omelettes. 0-0.

The absence of Torres and Gerrard, easily our biggest threats, should push the rest of 'em to succeed. Keane and N'gog have a chance to stamp themselves in the LFC XI, and their link-up right before half-time was gorgeous. It's weird, as I think that no FT and SG should liberate the side a bit. It's all about what Benitez decides to do tactically, where he's rather inept.

Meanwhile, in the home dressing room, MON must be fairly happy. They've played well, and they do look threatening. Just one real chance to speak of though.

47 mins: Keane is playing up-front. FINALLY. LFC win an early corner, swung in by Alonso. Kuyt's header back across goal is blocked and cleared, although Friedel didn't look too comfortable dealing with the delivery.

LFC opening up the game a bit more now, passing it around nicely. Dossena whips a sharp, low cross in from the left that N'gog just missed getting a flick on. All LFC very early on in the second half.

50 mins: Villa corner whipped in from the right, and Carew's header flashes over the bar.

51 mins: LFC are getting chances now! The game is opening up. Keane gets it at the top of the box after some nice build-up play, he turns and feeds Alonso whose low shot is deflected out for a corner. Alonso's corner is cleared to Dossena on the left, and his cross floats right across the edge of the 6-yard box. N'gog is waiting for it, and Friedel has to tip it over the bar under pressure.

LFC are starting to get more control on the wings and are actually putting crosses in, something they couldn't figure out against Liege, 'Boro or Sunderland. Simple game, really.

57 mins: Villa are getting more chances too, and the game is finally opening up. Another Villa corner, Reina comes to get this one and punches it clear.

60 mins: Milner is warming up as MON is looking for a bit more pace. I think Reo-Coker's endless sprints down the right have worn him down.

Kuyt with an ugly challenge, befitting of his facial features, and the free-kick finds Davies at the back post but he can't control his header under pressure from the visually-unappealing Dutchman.

Villa are bossing the tempo now, with plenty of possession around the LFC box. Any subs forthcoming from either side? Lucas looks rather useless on the left-wing, but then again, he's not a winger. Rafa keeps forgetting that we don't have any.

Milner is ready to come on, and for Luke Young? MON showing some moxie here... 3-5-2? No clue.

65 mins: Of course not! Reo-C moves to left-back. Both sides are neutralizing each other, more or less. LFC win another corner thanks to Masch's move down the right. Alonso readies to take it...

... and nothing. Cleared easily. Dossena gets a little mouthy on the ref after the throw-in is given to Villa, and throwing the ball away doesn't help his cause. Yellow Card for Dossena, although he's looked a lot more assured at left-back than he has so far for LFC this season. David Pleat notes that it's part of the new Respect initiative, and that's why he got booked. Thanks John Terry... through your constant, unwavering whinging, we have a new set of conduct codes to abide by.

67 mins: Subs galore warming up for Benitez. Aurelio gets a talking-to from Rafa, which shows that I must be wrong about Dossena. As soon as I give him some dap, Benitez readies to replace him. Babel is also warming up, and there was a Yossi sighting. I'm thinking aside from the obvious left-back swap, surely Babel for Lucas would be the last LFC sub today. If Yossi comes on, I might scream.

70 mins: Well, that's a surprise. Kuyt off, Aurelio on. Immediately Villa attack, and shouts for a handball on Skrtel at the edge of the box are waved off. The ball breaks to Petrov some 30 yards out, and his well-struck shot flashes just wide of the right-hand post. No real danger on Reina's goal. I'm still figuring out where Aurelio and Dossena are playing. Is Dossena playing left-wing now, with Lucas moving to the right? Halp plz.

73 mins: Ah crap, best chance of the game for either side. Villa get caught square and Keane beats the offside trap. Clean through on goal, the ball bounces too high for him to control effectively, and Reo-Coker gets back to bundle him down and stop Robbie from shooting on goal. Shouts for a penalty, or at least a foul, are well-founded; initially, it looked like Nigel made a good recovery to end the play, although as Pleat points out, it looks more ominous with every replay. Reo-Coker got absolutely none of the ball as he stuck his leg right across Keane's path. Should have been something there. Lucky lucky.

77 mins: Dossena's looking better as an attacking full-back now. He can put in a good cross, which is more than can be said for Lucas, Pennant, Benayoun, Kuyt, and, most of the time, Babel (that Liege game withstanding). Corner for LFC amounts to nowt. You can sense that both sides are winding down a bit, happy to get a point from a tough fixture. LFC have been pressing a lot in the last 5 minutes.

I'm hearing that Benayoun will come on for Keane? You've got to be fucking kidding me.

79 mins:: As LFC push forward more, Villa are resorting to the long balls down the flanks to try and get something from Young's pace. Dangerous move is snuffed out, and Mascherano breaks forward. The ball comes to N'gog and his shot is blocked wide.

Substitutes time! Gardner on for Nicky Shorey, and my worst fears confirmed: Yossi on for Robbie Keane. Fucking awful move. Guess we can cross out the notion that we're going to attack at all in the last 10 minutes.

81 mins: It would be cruel for either side to lose at this point, although of course I hope we can steal yet another one. LFC's attack breaks down as N'gog can't find anyone on the cutback, and Villa's counter amounts to nothing as well.

I think Yossi is playing up front? He's pressuring the play. Dossena's doing well with the crossing thing. LFC look more threatening, although Milner has a good, sharp shot from the edge of the box that Reina covers comfortably.

85 mins: A rare moment of trickery from Ashley Young (at least in this game) wins a Villa free-kick around half-way on the right. It loops high and deep into the box and Laursen has a free header on it. It goes agonizingly wide of the post, and MON agonizes. Good chance for AV. The game is wide-open now as LFC definitely press more than I'd expect them to away from home at Aston Villa in the last 5 mins.

88 mins: I am now in classic "shitting myself" mode as the game draws closer to the end. Both sides are unafraid to move forward, and I'm nervous as hell that we're going to concede. Milner's blocked cross from the left goes right across the edge of the box, scaring the life out of me. LFC clear, but then Aurelio harangues Young's run, giving Villa a free-kick on the edge of the box. Barry take it and it does find a Villa head, but Carragher clears comfortably from the line. More scrambling from LFC as Villa force late with a long throw, but they eventually clear.

90 mins: Young crosses from the left this time on a Villa counter, but it's headed clear. N'gog gets a break but his pass forward goes to no-one but Friedel. Bad move and Villa press AGAIN. My heart is racing... Villa press but Dossena clears and Reo-Coker ends up sweeping it all the way back to Friedel, much to the chagrin of the Villa home crowd. His long pass forward leads to a foul on Skrtel, and Reina takes the breather to pass it around and clear the lines.

We collectively exhale as there's scarcely 30 seconds left of added time. COME ON YOU REDS, please don't concede now.

90 mins + 2: Villa break down the right with Agbonlahor racing to collect the pass-on, but Mascherano slides to knock it out of play, and the ref blows for full-time as soon as the ball is thrown in.

FULL TIME: Aston Villa 0, Liverpool 0.

I'll happily take that considering no Gerrard and no Torres for an hour, and being away from home at a tough Villa side. Carew's first-half shot was the best chance of the match, when Reina had to kick it away with his trailing leg, but a point's a point. I can finally breathe again!


Mike Georger said...

awesome. torres out of the game.
well robbie, time to make good on that dream move.

please just be a pulled hamstring

Mike Georger said...

DAMNIT come on keane

Mike Georger said...

dossena could be the best crosser out there and i dont think hes taken a corner yet. brilliant.

yossi, no babel. boooooooooo

Mike Georger said...

yossi for keane? JESUS CHRIST rafa has no idea whats going on does he?

and why why why the commitment to arbeloa? he is absolutely useless. hes like riise without the strength and occasional long shot. agger is rotting on the bench, why he doesnt push carragher out right (easily the best right back on the team anyways) and pair agger and skrtel? spanish bias imo, and its killing them

Mike Georger said...

wow, would the bbc do this? foxsoccer?

i just checked the table to see where everyone was sitting and espn has already determined this game ended 15 minutes early in a draw. what a bullshit operation

Mike Georger said...

this officiating is terrible. not shocking considering who it is

Raskolnikov said...

Scott Stevensesque hipcheck by Aurelio.

Mike Georger said...

not a bad result, but of course chelsea slips up and we fail as ALWAYS to take advantage. will be a nice logjam at the top until we lose 1-0 to united on a late rio goal.

im gonna go hang myself

Lingering Bursitis said...

Georger: I'll take an away draw at Villa.

Raskolnikov: yeah, it was awfully clumsy. That said, Reo-Coker's slide on Keane was equally egregious.

cjdomer04 said...

It tells me a lot about Rafa's mentality that we go to Villa content to keep a clean sheet. Scoring should not be an after-thought for this club. 0-0 isn't a bad result, but it seemed like Rafa was content with it from the outset, which just shouldn't happen against Villa.

Keith said...

Domer, Villa can score some goals, too, you know. nil-nil is a great result for both sides, especially with Stevie G out and Torres leaving early (though Masch and Xabi are, admittedly, no slouches).

For all the calls of "snoozer" that this match got, the center midfield battle was fascinating (Petrov the class of the 4, to me), and who'd have thought that Nigel Reo-Coker had the more scintillating runs of Villa's starting wings? Also, Reina was fantastic on the few chances Villa had. Now that we're actually playing football, I can ditch the contempt over trying to steal our (ex-)captain and say respect, 'Pool. Respect.