Aston Villa 0-2 Liverpool – as it happened
Alex McLeish is a bad man
Look at the goals here. They both came in the first half.
Peep! Peep! Peep! The final whistle blows to bring an end to a game that’s essentially been over for 80 minutes. Villa, utterly dreadful, could be in real trouble. For Liverpool, there’s not too much to be gleaned from that performance. They were perfectly competenent and could have won by much more, but the standard of opposition was so poor that they could have fielded Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen and had Roy Hodgson in the dug-out and still have won with something to spare. Thanks for reading. Bye.
90 min+1: Dirk Kuyt sends a cross to the far post which drifts way over Andy Carroll’s head. On Sky, Alan Smith posits that that’s the kind of service the big striker needs.
90 min: Bannan whips a free-kick into the wall. You’d find more belief in a team of atheists.
89 min: Dirk Kuyt replaces Craig Bellamy.
88 min: Bannan shoots over from 30 yards out.
87 min: Just put
me Villa out of their misery.
84 min: “Bent and Agbonlahor are clearly missed,” says Kalle. “But without those two, do Villa really have a squad that is better than, say, Wigan, Blackburn or Bolton?” It’s all much of a muchness down there, but Villa’s squad is still probably better than the three you mention. And you have to factor in the two missing strikers.
83 min: Downing cuts in from the right and tees up Shelvey for a shot, but the pass is just behind him and he awkwardly scoops it over from the edge of the area. With that, Jamie Carragher replaces the youngster. Carragher stomps on and does his best John Terry impression, immediately demanding the captain’s armband.
80 min: Andreas Weimann comes on for the anonymous Fabian Delph.
77 min: It did look like handball from Agger, as it goes. He leant into the shot and it seemed to hit the top half of his arm.
76 min: Nice idea. With everyone expecting Bannan to cross from a free-kick, he plays a clever reverse pass through to Petrov, but it had just too much pace on it and ran out for a goal-kick. Probably goes down as a chance for Villa.
75 min: Albrighton has a crack from distance. It hits Agger and goes behind. Villa appeal for a handball and a penalty, but we haven’t seen a replay so it’s impossible to tell. The corner comes to nothing.
74 min: Now here is a waste of money: Andy Carroll replaces Luis Suarez.
73 min: Downing should play Suarez in through the middle, but completely messes up the pass, miskicking it with the outside of his left foot. Villa fans are kidding themselves though with all the jeering.
69 min: “Could McLeish be the first manager to have different Birmingham clubs relegated in consecutive seasons?” asks Kalle. “That would be quite an achievement.” It’s possible, though it’s worth remembering that Villa are without Agbonlahor and Bent today. Though many more performances like this, and they may well be without them after the transfer window is shut…
66 min: Dunne’s clearance falls to Shelvey, who rams a fierce shot a few yards over the top. He’s had a very impressive game, especially given he’s spent most of the season on loan at Blackpool in the Championship.
65 min: Liverpool haven’t had a chance for four minutes! The response from Villa has been utterly risible. They haven’t created one decent chance in the entire match, save for some shots from distance from N’Zogbia.
61 min: Liverpool should be (even further) out of sight. First Suarez releases Shelvey in the Villa area, and his shot is beaten out by the overworked Suarez. Then Villa immediately give the ball away again and Adam bustles past one feeble challenge, into the area and then sees his left-footer deflected inches past the wrongfooted Guzan and the right post. He had Shelvey and Suarez either side of him and could have passed, but he was justified in going for goal as he was in a good central position.
59 min: Suarez hits the woodwork for the second time in the second half, but this time he was so unlucky, as this would have been an exquisite goal. When a Villa corner was cleared, a raking long ball from the back found Suarez through the middle. He couldn’t quite take it in his stride and was held up by Warnock, but managed to regain control of the ball just inside the Villa area. He had Bellamy to his right on the overlap, but instead produced a moment of genius, delicately chipping the ball over Guzan, but on to he inside of the left post! The ball clattered back out and Bellamy was offside at the rebound.
57 min: Bannan comes on for Heskey, so Liverpool are back to 11 players now. Instantly Villa have more zip about them, and N’Zogbia has a shot from 20 yards out which draws a decent save out of Reina.
56 min: Downing tries to curl one, Messi style, in with his left foot from the edge of the area. It goes into the upper tier, to the delight of the jeering Villa supporters, who really don’t have anything else to get excited about.
55 min: Barry Bannan is getting ready to come on for Villa. “Suarez scored an incredible amount of goals for Ajax when he was playing for them,” says Harvey Kelly. “I’d be interested to find out whether he was getting ninety shots a game playing in Holland. Good player though.” He’s a fine player, but with the chances he gets in each game, he should score much more.
53 min: This time Dunne does dispossess Suarez, as the Uruguayan breaks down the left. He’s not been at his sharpest today, not that it matters with Liverpool so comfortable.
51 min: Johnson lets fly from 25 yards, cutting across the ball with his right foot and aiming for the top-left corner, but Guzan leaps to his right and palms it aside for a corner on the left.
50 min: Villa fans are suggesting Downing left because of greed. Have they watched their team? It’s one of the most understandble transfers in the history of the game.
47 min: Suarez hits the bar! Bellamy robs the awful Hutton of possession and knocks it through the middle for Suarez. He races into the area, but gets bundled off the ball by Dunne, who then dawdles and returns the compliment, as Suarez refuses to give up and instantly wins it back. He steps inside the lumbering defender, past another challenge and then crashes a shot past Guzan and on to the underside of the bar. He really should have scored. As good a player as he is, his finishing his not good enough.
46 min: Villa have made no changes at half time. Fair enough, they’ve got nothing on the bench, but it’s arguable that they’d be better off simply by removing Heskey and playing with 10.
Half time: Aston Villa 0-2 Liverpool. Goals here.
Peep! Peep! And there’s half time. By the end of that, the Villa fans couldn’t even be bothered booing Stewart Downing.
45 min: Suarez has been strangely quiet so far. He hasn’t even sworn at the home fans yet. There will be two more minutes of this filth.
44 min: Villa really are the pits.
38 min: From a Villa corner on the left, Heskey forgets he doesn’t play for Liverpool any more and produces an expert defensive header at the near post to give Liverpool a goal-kick. Seriously, if he was playing for Liverpool, that would have been hailed as superb defending from an unselfish front man. “Emile Heskey!” chant the Liverpool fans.
36 min: A brilliant, sweeping Liverpool move nearly leads to a third goal. It all started with a nutmeg from BOOO! deep in Liverpool’s half. From there, Liverpool sliced through Villa’s soft centre, with Petrov and Delph off upfield, having decided not to bother with their defensive duties, apparently assuming Villa’s defence can cope on their own. Suarez eventually gets it on the left. He nutmegs a defender – they’re taking the piss now – and plays in Shelvey, who stretches and sees his dribbler turned behind by Guzan. The corner leads to nothing.
34 min: That shot from Petrov doesn’t warrant description.
31 min: Bellamy is booked for bringing down Hutton on the right. Albrighton sends the free-kick into the six-yard box, but Delfouneso wastefully heads over. He probably should have got it on target.
30 min: This is a really boring game. There’s no edge to it at all, and Liverpool don’t really have to do anything to win it. It’s not that they’re not worth the lead, it’s just that it’s difficult to judge whether they are because Villa are so useless.
28 min: Charlie Adam is booked. I didn’t see what for, so hopefully someone will be able to produce a DVD of the incident later on.
26 min: Villa clear the corner! But the ball comes straight back at them and Downing, still looking for that first assist for Liverpool, cuts the ball back to Suarez, whose shot is deflected over. For another corner. That leads to another, as Henderson’s dangerous cross is put behind, but Villa deal with that too. Look, now Liverpool have only scored from 40% of their corners in the first half.
25 min: Johnson surges in between a couple of challenges and into the box, forcing Dunne to produce a last-ditch challenge. And concede a corner. Expect GOAL! in a minute.
23 min: Downing crosses from the right but it’s behind everyone and Albrighton is able to start a Villa counter-attack. Delfouneso manages to wriggle through the middle and with the Liverpool defence furiously backtracking, he works the ball to N’Zogbia on the left side of the area, but from a tight angle his low shot flies into the side-netting, creating a ripple effect that momentarily made some fans think he’d scored.
21 min: This is better from Villa, N’Zogbia rasping a shot with his left foot towards the top-left corner inches over the angle of post and bar from 25 yards out. Reina went for it, but he almost certainly wouldn’t have saved it if it had been on target.
20 min: Delfouneso has a go from range, but it takes a deflection and goes out for a corner on the right. Albrighton takes it short and eventually gets a cross in, but it’s no threat.
19 min: Emails please! We need something to discuss between now and the next Liverpool goal.
17 min: So, Mr Downing, why did you decide to leave Aston Villa this summer?
GOAL! Aston Villa 0-2 Liverpool (Skrtel, 15 min): Oh, this is pathetic. Two corners, two goals, and Villa’s fans might as well go back to the pub now. Bellamy whips it in from the left, Skrtel gets away from Collins and in front of Hutton and glances a header into the top-right corner. Villa are a rabble. Imagine if they were playing Stoke.
14 min: If Liverpool lose this, none of their players deserve a Christmas. Suarez finds Bellamy on the left; Collins blocks his cross behind for a corner. And we know what happened last time.
13 min: Charles N’Zogbia makes his first contribution in a Villa shirt and gets a booking for a foul over on the right. He’s had a surprisingly subdued start to life at Villa Park.
GOAL! Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool (Bellamy, 11 min): It’s early, but given Villa’s paucity of options up front, this might as well be game over. This was a mess of a goal. Downing swung a corner from the right low to the near post. Shelvey was ludicrously allowed to get away from his marker and flick the ball into the six-yard box where Suarez was left unattended. He tried to backheel it past Guzan, who saved, only for Bellamy to put the rebound in from close range.
8 min: In an offside position, Heskey puts a free header straight at Reina.
7 min: Downing is being booed by the home fans every time he gets the ball for bizarrely wanting to play for Liverpool instead of Aston Villa. Bellamy spreads the ball out to him on the right and the winger cuts inside Warnock and into the area, and then drives a low left-footer straight at Guzan.
6 min: Nothing to report so far: just lots of scrappiness in midfield. Come back on 67 minutes when Downing gets the only goal.
5 min: Bellamy scampers up the left and slips a pass in behind for Jose Enrique. It;s just overhit though, and James Collins gets across to concede a corner. So Peter Walton gives a goal-kick. Respect.
3 min: Yesterday, instead of going to West Ham, I went shopping and sat in a coffee shop all afternoon. What have I become?
2 min: Adam brings down Delfouneso 25 yards from goal. Petrov swings a low free-kick round the wall, but it’s hit without any pace, and Reina easily dives low to his right to gather the effort. That’ll be Villa’s one and only shot on target then. Now to defend!
1 min: We’re off. Villa are in their claret and blue home kit, while Liverpool are in their white away shirts. The visitors, attacking from right to left, get us going. Suarez immediately kicks it out of play on the left. “Speaking of last night’s dreams, I dreamt I was sneaking very quietly into a millionaire’s bedroom to relieve them of their substantial gold holdings when I trod on the loudest, squeakiest floorboard which raised the alarm,” says Paul McGrory. “I awoke to discover that the “squeak” was my girlfriend unleashing a thunderclap of a fart beside me, entering the dreams of me and everyone else in the street.” Oh dear.
The teams are out on the pitch. Lots of empty seats inside Villa Park and all that can be heard are the chants from the visiting Liverpool fans. What an odd atmosphere. It’s as if everyone has been completely anaesthetised by Alex McLeish.
Team news. Alex McLeish has thrown caution to the wind and played some midfielders in midfield. Look, Sir Alex! Look! But if you do, try not to laugh too hard at that front two; Villa are really scraping the barrel without Gabby Agbonlahor and Darren Bent. Liverpool leave that big galoot Andy Carroll on the bench, which should ensure fluency in attack. Craig Bellamy was a very intelligent signing.
Aston Villa: Guzan; Hutton, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Delph, Petrov, N’Zogbia; Heskey, Delfouneso. Subs: Marshall, Clark, Cuellar, Bannan, Weimann, Johnson, Burke.
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enriqué; Adam, Shelvey, Henderson; Downing, Suarez, Bellamy. Subs: Doni, Carroll, Maxi, Coates, Kuyt, Carragher, Kelly.
Referee: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).
Last night I had a dream about ordering a kebab. Given that this site was founded on meat, that’s strangely appropriate. It was a chicken doner, since you don’t ask, and then the bastard behind the counter put a load of mustard on it. So now I get screwed over in my dreams as well. Can’t even get the kebab I want. And I don’t even like kebab. Anyway the reason I bring all of this up is because I don’t want to talk about Aston Villa, the most boring side in the league this season thanks to the fine work of Alex McLeish. The last time I watched them, they played Alan Hutton and Emile Heskey on the wings; today we get to see why, with Stewart Downing making his first return to Villa Park since his summer move to Liverpool. He’s yet to score for the club – or even make an assist. It’s fairly obvious what’s going to happen here.