Aston Villa vs. Liverpool, first impressions: stock up on deodorant

Laurence Griffiths

Aston Villa threw away a one goal lead against Liverpool, preventing them from moving above Wigan and out of the relegation zone. With seven games left to go, it's time for Villa fans to stock up on deodorant. And tranquilizers.

Yesterday's results did very little to help Aston Villa: Sure, Reading lost, but we're not really eyeing them right now. Sunderland losing was about the best result that went our way. Chelsea couldn't beat Southampton, the Baggies refused to do us a favor against West Ham, and, worst of all, Wigan beat Norwich. So it was up to the Villa to get a result at home against Liverpool. And, of course, that was just too much pressure for the Villa lads.

Our Villa started out strong in the first half, helped along by the fact that Luis Suarez was having a horrible game (I write this in the first half and I'm afraid I'm going to jinx it). The Liverpool forward sent his shots well over the goal, or well wide, with just one forcing a block from Brad Guzan. But it took until almost the 30th minute for the defense to send Villa fans into terror sweats, so, progress!

Of course, the best part about the first half was the tremendous goal from Christian Benteke. As Jon Champion noted, "He's big, he's bold, he's Belgian." And for now he's ours, thank God. Ashley Westwood put in an absolutely superb ball, perfectly weighted for Gabby Agbonlahor. Gabby just touched on to Benteke, lurking in front of goal. The Belgian took no chances, though, giving plenty of power to his shot and preventing Pepe Reina from doing anything more than putting a finger on the ball.

But this being Villa, the home side managed to give up a goal practically as soon as the whistle blew for the restart. You could see it coming a mile away -- a perfect long ball up from the Liverpool defense. Coutinho got on the end of it, pulling the entire Villa defense toward him. That left Jordan Henderson running free. Unfortunately he kept his cool as he ran toward Guzan, dinking it over his head and into the back of the net.

And as though that weren't bad enough, Villa had to go and concede a penalty. Nathan Baker, who has apparently never watched Suarez play football, cut off his legs inside the area. Even coming within a breath of Suarez is enough to make the Uruguayan roll around in agony, but this one was clearly a penalty, and Lee Mason wasted no time awarding it. Steven Gerrard stepped up to take, sending his shot low and to his left. Guzan very nearly got there, but alas, Villa threw away the three points once again.

They were lucky, in fact, that Liverpool didn't compound their miseries. Prior to the penalty, Coutinho missed a one on one with Guzan, sending his shot inches wide. Barely two minutes later, Glen Johnson hit the post. So it's safe to say that Baker was rattled when Suarez approached the goal, but geez, let Guzan clean up the mess next time, please?

To their credit, the Villa didn't give up, roll over, and let Liverpool score eight. In fact, it was only amazing defensive work on the part of Gerrard that prevented the home side from finding an equalizer. Benteke, towering mightily above Henderson, saw his header saved by Gerrard's own header, right on the goal line. Sigh.

As though the pain wasn't enough, in stoppage time, Benteke got the ball in the net once again -- but he was offside by about a mile. For the love of all that is holy, will someone please teach him about the offside rule?

It's a trying time to be a Villa fan. There's just seven games left, and I really don't want to get into the likelihood of picking up points in those matches. It's terrifying, this relegation thing, and throwing away a win today certainly doesn't make the outlook any brighter.

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