17th January 2015 – Aston Villa 0 – 2 Liverpool (Villa Park)
Though the 14/15 season wasn’t long ago, so much has changed since then that it feels like a lifetime ago. So yes, I’m claiming it as a throwback!
The departure of one of the best players in the world in Luis Suarez was always going to affect results, and despite the sheer quantity of signings made over the summer to reimburse that loss, the new signings were struggling to hit the ground running.
Most Reds fans would agree that at the time we felt directionless, lacking quality, and to top it all off, we faced elimination from the Champions League after a dismal campaign.
With a Capital One Cup semi final against Chelsea just three days later, the Reds would need to leave that fixture in the back of their minds and prepare for a tough encounter against Paul Lambert’s side at Villa Park.
Lazar Markovic was rewarded with a start after his winner at the Stadium of Light a week ago. Jordan Henderson would captain the side for this game and Brendan Rodgers opted to play Fabio Borini up front.
Villa were in a slump, particularly at home, where they were struggling for goals. Discontent with the fans towards Randy Lerner’s reign as an owner led to a planned protest which never came to fruition. Despite Villa playing with higher intensity and more direct play than of late, Liverpool were still dominant in the first half and throughout the game in general.
A clever one-two between Raheem Sterling and Fabio Borini meant the Italian almost had the ball in the net early on but a fine intervention on the line from Alan Hutton kept the score level. The Reds did manage to put the ball in the net through Alberto Moreno but it was correctly pulled back for offside.
21 minutes in, Liverpool would deservedly get their goal. A fantastic curling cross from captain Jordan Henderson picked out Fabio Borini who poked home for the first time in nearly two years. Things could’ve been worse for Villa but Brad Guzan stayed firm in denying efforts from Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling.
In the closing stretch of the half, Villa produced a fine chance of their own. Loanee Tom Cleverley was played through on goal but he lacked composure, firing over the bar.
Guzan was called upon once again after the break, turning Fabio Borini’s shot onto the post from close range. After that, the chances wouldn’t stop coming for Villa. A fine save from Simon Mignolet denied his compatriot and future Red Christian Benteke from close range.
Carles Gil, making his PL debut, looked raring to go, dancing through the defence but just prevented from getting the shot away. Baker headed the ball over the crossbar from the resulting corner and fluffed his effort just a minute later.
Chance after chance for Villa, but it seemed to be the oh-so familiar story for them. The goals continued to dry up for them. Football being the cruel game that it is, Villa were made to pay for their wasted chances.
The substitution of Rickie Lambert into the game with ten minutes left would be an inspired one as he smashed home with his first touch of the game to wrap up the points.