2-1, Liverpool over Aston Villa.
*deep breath* *exhale*
What a fucking game.
All afternoon, it felt like one goal wasn’t going to be enough, as Villa pressed and pressed some more, making me squirm in my seat like I was suffering with a hemorrhoid. We were so close to killing the match off, but it just wasn’t happening. The tension was unbearable. And then Villa caught a break (which they probably deserved for all their hard work) when Carra unfortunately handled the ball in the box.
I was furious. Not at Carra for a mistake caused by the way the ball bounced, but in general. Here was Liverpool flushing three points down the toliet! Fucking typical.
Then Captain Fantastic stepped up to save the day. First, Gerrard victimized Petrov with a cut-back, turning the midfielder the wrong way and drawing the foul. Then, the winning free-kick goal.
Sublime, superb, stupendous Stevie!
While not the perfect way to kick-off the season (my fantasy team losing out on precious clean sheet points. Thanks, Jamie), there can’t be too many complaints on the afternoon’s victory. Rafa gets his first opening day win with Liverpool and we start the season with an away win (already an improvement, right?) and three points!
You can read the Official site’s match report, but firstly, the answers the match provided to yesterday’s Five Questions:
- How many of Liverpool’s new buys will be handed their debut at Villa Park? Torres starts, but Babel and Voronin see some action for their league debuts as well.
- How will the thin Villa defence fare without Sorensen? Taylor didn’t look bad, and Laursen got unlucky with the own goal. Gardner may be the weak link, though.
- Will a new-look Liverpool attack be able to break down defensive teams, like ‘draw specialists’ Villa, away from Anfield? Villa defended well, but Liverpool opened them up a few times. We were unlucky not to convert a few chances inside the box, like Gerrard’s shot which Gardner took bluntly or Babel’s fine effort.
- Will this be a break-out season for Villa’s youthful striker, Ashley Young? Judging by how dangerous he looked today and the trouble he gave Finnan, it should be a fine campaign for the youngster. Keep up the hard work.
- When Scott Carson arrives at Villa on loan, will he be able to hold down the starting job? Taylor didn’t do anything to indict himself today, but I like Carson’s chances at securing the #1 shirt in Sorensen’s absence.
Here are my thoughts on today’s crucial first step…
- Immediately, the team was running at the Villa defence. Especially Gerrard, who seemed hungry to surge forward. There was a great deal of one-touch football and the intent on attacking is obvious. The team played the ball into space well and rarely stood on the ball in the first half. Also, there was an awareness of where one another were or were going to be that is especially promising.
- Carra and Agger had their hands full early on. Carra made countless interventions and tackles. He looks ready. The defence as a whole, though, was not especially tight. All credit to Villa for their play, but the backline has to get their act together, and quickly.
- Villa looked good up front. They’re going to cause a lot of teams problems this season if they continue to operate like they did today.
- Torres was initially quiet, but popped up around 17 minutes in. It was a promising debut from him. He even got called for lowering his shoulder at one point, which is encouraging to see as he’ll need that physical edge this season. A half-hour in, he showed his pedigree by creating a chance for himself in heavy traffic, practically out of nowhere, flashing a shot wide across the goal.
- The own goal came out of hard work from Torres and Kuyt. The Dutchman, especially, as he rescues the ball from going over the line and his industriousness pays dividends.
- Reina made the poor mistake of wading into traffic a few times, drawing a whistle or two, but also creating chances for Villa. Too many silly defensive mistakes today.
- O’Neill pulled Laursen at half. Can you imagine the fire-breathing that went on in the Villa locker room at half-time?
- Out of the half, Liverpool came out flat and it was Villa who were the ones asking the most questions. Liverpool did a massive amount of defending in the second half, a great deal of it in the air. I was very nervous.
- Pennant reacted poorly to the Bouma foul. He was lucky not to find himself with a second yellow card after challenging the Dutchman like that after the foul. Maybe it was Bouma’s shoving of him (twice) that deflected the attention off him. He can’t behave like that, especially when he’s already carrying a card.
- Gerrard absolutely drilled Gardner from six yards out! Stevie G was unlucky not to find the net there.
- I thought referee Mike Riley called a solid game. The yellow card to Gareth Barry for a dive outside the 18 was an especially shrewd call.
- Babel made an immediate impact after being introduced in the 74th minute. I thought him unlucky not to score after leading the counter-attack and flashing his shot (after a great slot-off from Kuyt) wide. He did linger on the ball too long in some spots, but that’s my only criticism. I’m quite excited to watch him grow this season.
- Voronin replaced Torres in the 79th minute and got some work in. Can’t do too much with 11-some minutes, but he showed his willingness to battle.
- Momo came on for Dirk in the 90th and surprisingly found himself spending way too much time on the ball on numerous occasions. I’m not sure why he thinks he should be dribbling it when we’re clinging to a one-goal lead and batting Villa away constantly. Pass it, Momo!!!
- What to say about Gerrard’s goal? He single-handedly saved us. A truly great rescue effort by the captain and precisely the sort of thing I wanted to see from him this season. An absolute stunner! Inspirational stuff, Steven!
- I can only imagine Carra’s miscue will light a fire under him (as if he needs one) and spur him on to get the defense in order.
All in all, it was a good season opener. A fine game to watch, even if it was nerve-wracking and uncomfortable for large stretches of the second half. But, three points are vital and an away win right off the bat is always encouraging.
Next up, the CL qualifier vs. Toulouse.