LFC Talk

Match Review: Aston Villa 0-0 Liverpool by lfctalk
August 31, 2008, 18:16
Filed under: Match Reviews

At Villa Park this afternoon, the football failed to match up to the prematch buildup to the showdown between Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa and Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool side, who missed their opportunity to move to the top of the Premiership table again after seeing their 100% record ended.

The encounter will have frustrated Benitez, whose side lined up in a peculiar formation for the first-half which did nothing to facilitate any flowing or stylish football. Brazilian midfielder Lucas was a surprise addition to the side and his inclusion failed to add any creative spark to a midfield missing it’s inspiration in captain Steven Gerrard. Another crucial Red left the fray early when Fernando Torres pulled up with a strained hamstring after chasing a poor pass from Javier Mascherano. Reds fans will be desperately hoping that both players recover in time to face bitter rivals Manchester United on 13th September.

In another surprising selection Benitez decided to replace the injured striker with unproven forward David N’Gog. The young Frenchman failed to make much impact, but wasn’t given a great deal of support in the closing stages of the first-half. Robbie Keane was bizarrely placed in a left-midfield role for the majority of the first period, which highlighted Benitez’s inability to find a system that would accommodate the Irishman.

Villa also struggled to create clear-cut chances, but they did have the best of the opening 45 minutes when a neat move involving Gareth Barry and Ashley Young ended with a poor finish from Norwegian John Carew – the big striker’s shot was hit straight at Jose Reina.

The second half saw an immediate improvement in the quality of play, but Liverpool still failed to make any clear cut chances in the opening exchanges. Keane was moved into a more central attacking position and it did result in an opportunity for N’Gog after the pair linked well, but the Frenchman’s strike was deflected over by Martin Laursen. Keane himself had a glorious opportunity to take the points for the away side after being played through on goal by a quality pass from Mascherano, but his finish was unconvincing and rolled harmlessly wide. The Irishman did try to claim a penalty after Nigel Reo-Coker’s challenge, but it was a desperate measure.

Martin Laursen nearly claimed the points with only a few minutes remaining with a header that drifted just wide from Barry’s free-kick. In fairness, it should never have been a free-kick as Ashley Young dived ludicrously to dupe the officials into awarding the kick.

The game was overshadowed throughout by the Villa fans constant chanting and cheering for Gareth Barry. Despite their former captain’s continued assertions that he’d have preferred to have been on the other side, the home fans gave him their full backing throughout.

Player ratings

Reina 7, Arbeloa 6, Carragher 8, Skrtel 7, Dossena 6, Mascherano 7, Alonso 6, Lucas 5, Kuyt 6 (Aurelio 5), Keane 5 (Benayoun 5), Torres 6 (N’Gog 5).

Man of the Match

Jamie Carragher – Solid defending from the stand-in captain saw the threat of Agbonlahor and Carew blunted on several occasions. Without his experience, the side would have struggled to even collect a point.

LFC Talk View

Rafael Benitez continues to dumfound with some strange tactics and personnel selections that will only blunt our slim chances of making a decent title challenge this season. The obvious threat of Ryan Babel was left on the bench with every substitution and the Dutchman can be aggrieved after having strong impacts in both his previous two appearances.


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