Aston Villa v Liverpool — it brings back very fond memories of the 7-2 result from October. Long will that result live in the memory.
Today the lineup is a little different.
Obviously no Jack Grealish — everyone knew that was coming. No Sanson is a surprise even on the bench — so he must have picked up a knock. The bench is heavy on defensive players — but let’s be honest Ramsey, El Ghazi and Davis are the most likely subs. Barkley is there too.
After the moment of silence to recognize the passing of Prince Philip the matched opened with chances for both sides. John McGinn earned a free kick down Villa’s right but the free kick was headed clear. On the other end of the pitch, Martinez palmed away a Liverpool effort toward his near post.
In minute thirteen, Captain Tyrone Mings made another massive mistake from being too casual on the ball. But thankfully Salah put the one-on-one effort wide of the far post. Credit to Martinez for being ready to push out after the Mings error.
Right after the 20’, Konsa header off a free kick but can’t sneak it into the net. It was a real chance that the defender should do better with. A couple of minutes later Konsa picked up a deserved yellow for stopping a Liverpool attack after Jota skipped by him and Matty Cash.
Luiz went down the ground in some discomfort. Oddly the broadcast didn’t give a replay of what happened, the mentioned something about a possible head injury following a collision with the great James Milner. It was a long break and in the end Luiz won the argument to stay on and Ramsey put back on his jacket.
Liverpool continued to dominate possession and the match without creating too many clear chances (with the one obvious exception that came from the Mings error but I don’t really consider that a created chance more of a gifted one). When Villa hit on the break the visitors couldn’t connect well with the shots and that made for some easy saves for Alisson.
I’ll admit it — at the 42’ mark I was begging for the halftime whistle after a few bad giveaways and loads of Liverpool pressure. But then Ollie Watkins was given the ball at the top of the box. His excellent first touch opened up space for a shot with his left foot and Alisson couldn’t keep it out of the net. Credit to McGinn for the pass to Watkins.
But five minutes later in added time, Liverpool equalized before the break. Matty Cash missed an interception to a sprinting attacker. The pull back was good, the shot was blocked... but right to Firmino who chipped it over the Villa defense and into the net. Quality finish.
BUT WAIT!!!! MR VAR IS HERE TO SAVE THE DAY (using a very stupid rule that had crushed Villa in the past).
Dumb sleeve rule but to Villa’s rescue this time — and Villa took the lead to the half.
Douglas Luiz picked up an early yellow card in the half.
The second half continued with Liverpool controlling play and Villa occasionally looking dangerous on the counter attack. Martinez was forced into a tough save but the rebound found Mo Salah at the far post who easily scored a totally deserved goal making it 1-1 just short of the hour mark.
After the goal... Villa continued to give the ball away too much and Liverpool continued to control the match. But it was Trezeguet with the next chance of the match — he it a curling first time show that hit the inside of the post and somehow bounced out of the net. There would have been a VAR check on Watkins who took the long pass to start the attack (replay showed he was onside).
James Miler picked up a yellow for a sliding tackle on Nakamba. After the tackle Marvelous was taken off for Ross Barkley for Dean Smith’s first sub. The sub was planned before the tackle — no injury or anything like that. There was an injury to Traore and El Ghazi came on. I’ll fully admit I would have rather seen Ramsey and Davis on. Then Mings went down oddly on his wrist after slipping. Despite clearly being in pain the captain stayed on as the match entered the final 20 mins.
Targett picked up a yellow for taking down Salah outside the Villa box. Thankfully Martinez punched it clear. Villa countered and Robertson got a yellow for taking out El Ghazi.
Then Liverpool brought on Mané... which is cheating.
Ollie gave Ross Barkley a real chance on the break but the sub did not connect with the shot and it rolled toward Alisson. On Villa’s next attack Trezeguet did well to get by Alexander-Arnold but then pulled up grabbing his knee. He then limped back on to the pitch and sat down for treatment. He tried to play on but didn’t even last a minute before lying back down. Jacob Ramsey was suited up and ready to go (for the second time). Egyptian teammate Mo Salah offered some condolences as it looked like a rough knee injury for the winger.
Watkins got a yellow for a late challenge on Thiago.
On the 90’ Watkins — once again — put Ross Barkley through in a great position. But the struggling midfielder on loan couldn’t even got a shot away. Frustrating.
Then Liverpool attacked with eight players near the box. Martinez made a world class save off a Thiago effort. But then Alexander-Arnold could space outside the box and he put it into the net with a beautiful shot. Nothing Martinez could do about it.
El Ghazi had a chance in the air three minutes into added time. But he couldn’t connect with a header.
Villa with a professional effort but come up short. They just didn’t take their chances. Liverpool’s quality shown through in the end.