After The Match 


Liverpool-Aston Villa 1-3 (0-2)         24.8.09                        PL
Goals: Torres (72)               Lucas (34 og), Davies (45), Young (75)
Team: Reina, Insua, Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Lucas, Mascherano, Kuyt, Benayoun, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Voronin (Lucas 66), Babel (Benayoun 76)
Not used: Cavalieri, Riera, Ayala, Dossena, Kelly
Yellow: Reina (45), Torres (77), Skrtel (88)
Young (12), Reo-Coker (57)
Red: None
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Attendance: 43,667


Shots on target: 11-4
Shots off target: 8-1
Blocked shots: 5-3
Fouls conceded: 14-11
Corners: 10-4
Offsides: 1-3
Possession: 67.9-32.1
Yellow: 3-2

HEADLINES "It is all about hard work
and effort..."
Yossi Benayoun
2608: Liverpool FC need to sort themselves out
2508: Anfield anxiety already setting in
2508: Liverpool FC must use
          power of positive thinking

2408: Rafa: We must step up at Bolton
2408: Friedel pleased to make amends
2408: Villa rock Reds at Anfield

Liverpool FC need
to sort themselves out

Comment by Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo

It was obvious on Monday night that Liverpool have got problems. But what worried me most was that the players didnít act like it.

If Iíd have been out there I would have shouting and bawling, demanding more from the team, whether I was the captain or not.

You take things into your own hands when itís not going well, not just stand there and accept defeat.

But the players looked as baffled by the whole affair as I was Ė I couldnít believe what I was seeing.

The most puzzling thing was Steven Gerrard being so out of sorts.

Every player is allowed a bad game and an off day and there were many besides him who werenít up to the job.

But we couldnít find a way through midfield at all and Gerrard didnít seem up to the job of powering through and threatening in the penalty area.

In fact, the only area he caused trouble in was in his own when he gave away that penalty.

He is an attacking midfield player so what is he doing in the box making a tackle?

I remember playing in a game against Newcastle and of all people Kevin Keegan and came back to give a away a penalty. I said, ďwhat the hell are you doing down here giving away a penalty, youíre supposed to be at other end putting them in?Ē

You canít really shout and moan at Gerrard because of how good a player he is but when heís doing things like that, you know itís a bad night.

There werenít many on the field that did deserve praise.

Jamie Carragher was okay apart from letting Curtis Davies in for his header but overall the defence was awful Ė weíve got a left-back who is a good left-winger.

In midfield, we were crowded out and couldnít do anything expect pass sideways or backwards. Lucas was standing there dong nothing most of the time Ė Iíve got two bad legs so I could do that!

So plenty of questions. We didnít look to be playing as a unit and the squad is not as strong as it was last year Ė and unless Aquilani is as good as Alonso how can it get better?

At the end of the day, how can we not beat a team that only last March we beat 5-0?

Martin OíNeill has clearly managed to sort a few tings out since then. Now the Reds need to sort a few things out of their own and fast.

Anfield anxiety already setting in


Liverpool are facing up to a title crisis just a few days into a season when they were being hailed as Premier League favourites.

Two disturbing defeats inside the first nine days of the campaign - by teams with genuine hopes of breaking into the top four - has seen boss Rafael Benitez turn on his senior stars and demand more responsibility.

But the defeats at Tottenham and then against Aston Villa at Anfield have brought to a head a summer of change at Anfield that has been largely kept very much under wraps.

Not any more. Major changes in staffing at Anfield, the club's academy and the Melwood training complex has created a sense of upheaval.

Now the financial problems of American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, which has deprived Benitez of the funds to buy a much-needed top striker, is taking its toll.

Benitez, unhappy it is believed at the easy access to dressing-room secrets by TV pundits who are friendly with his top players, has now called for "greater responsibility" from his star names.

Liverpool players, predictably, have jumped to the defence of a side already six points behind the leaders.

Midfielder Yossi Benayoun said: "Of course we are disappointed. We did not expect to lose to Villa but it was just one of those nights when everything went against us.

"Now we know we have to improve on Saturday at Bolton. Against Villa we did not play like we can play, we didn't move the ball quickly enough as we did to beat Stoke last week.

"Last season we only lost two league games, so of course we are not pleased. But we have to show we are still a strong team with character to recover from this.

"It is all about hard work and effort, working from game to game and we know we can do better than this.

"Normally a club like Liverpool will lose only two or three games (a season). Of course everyone will ask if we are strong enough to win the league, but there is still a long way to go and everything can change.

"Not only the senior players must do better, everybody needs to work harder. I am sure we have enough quality, enough good players to do it (win the title).

"We have a game now against Bolton and maybe then it is a good time to go on an international break and try to come back stronger."

Benitez looked to his top men for the right leadership, and that cannot hide the fact that Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano are in the firing line.

Benitez also dismissed criticism of his style of play and the quality in his squad.

He said: "There is no doubt that senior players must take on more responsibility while I have no problem with the system we use. It won us 86 points last season and we only conceded 10 goals from set-pieces.

"But there are things that must be improved. Maybe our focus, we must now win our next game and then things can change.

"There were too many people involved with mistakes for the goals (against Villa), the own goal was unlucky and we maybe could have done better for their second defending the corner.

"And, as for the penalty, it is better if the player (Gerrard) can stay on his feet and then the outcome could be different.

"This is now a test of character. We have to show we have enough quality for a title challenge and we must win against Bolton and do the right things in matches.

"The squad is more or less the same one that took 86 points last season. So we know we can do it, but we must do things properly from the beginning of games."

New signing Glen Johnson was equally defensive, saying: "Obviously this is not the start to the season that we wanted but it was only the third game and there is a long way to go.

"It is still the early part of the season so we are not going to beat ourselves up at the moment. Of course, we would like to have a few more points but it's not to be so we will just keep going."

He added: "I definitely believe that teams like Aston Villa and Tottenham and Manchester City will take points off the so-called big four this season.

"Bolton is a hard place to go next but hopefully we will start there the way we started the second half tonight by going at them from the first minute and get the three points."

Liverpool FC must use
power of positive thinking

Comment by Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo

After losing only two games throughout the whole of last season, weíve now managed to lose two in the space of just 10 days.

Which means that Liverpool have to adopt a positive mental outlook in every game from here on in.

The Reds were held to too many draws last season.

But the margin for error in the modern title race is so slim that draws are no use any more.

United won the Premier League title last season despite losing four matches.

And thatís because they drew five fewer than Liverpool throughout the course of the campaign.

The three points for a win format means that a defeat Ė even a home defeat as desperately disappointing as last nightís Ė is not as damaging as it might otherwise have been.

Itís accepted that the games we drew at home last season against the likes of West Ham, Fulham, Stoke and Hull cost us the title.

But losing two and winning two of those games would have given us a better points return than remaining unbeaten in all four.

Thatís why I think itís far too early to be writing Liverpool off as credible title challengers as some people already appear to be doing.

And itís a times like this that the supportersí influence can be vitally important.

They will be feeling low after last night Ė and they pay their hard earned money so are fully entitled to express their views.

But if they keep the faith they can help the team come through a difficult spell.

Itís also important that they get behind Lucas and donít undermine the ladís confidence. He knows he made a mistake last night and he will be hurting more than anybody.

But the simple fact is we need the Brazilian to play a significant role for the next few months until Aquilani is fit to play a part and he will be able to do that far more effectively with the fans behind him.

Itís unfortunate that he should have been involved in such a pivotal moment last night, because there were signs before then that the fans were starting to warm to him.

He has had an excellent pre-season and has been one of our better players in the first two Premier League games.

I just hope this little setback doesnít knock him back again.

The finger was pointed at some of the senior players last night for not accepting enough responsibility, but I also think itís the players on the bench like Babel, Voronin and Ngog who have to be doing more.

The squad is not as strong as we would like, everybody accepts that, but that means players not seen as first choice regulars have to do more to convince the manager they are worth a starting berth.

Yossi Benayoun has done it and his example is one that some of the fringe players should follow.

There will be an undoubted mood of gloom and despondency after last night.

But it simply means that we have to go to Bolton on Saturday and win.

Itís perhaps a little early to be talking about must-win matches, but Iím afraid draws really arenít much use any more Ė even at this early stage.

And that is perhaps the one positive to come out of last night Ė we now have to be positive every game.

Rafa: We must step up at Bolton

By Jimmy Rice at Anfield - LFC Official Website

Rafa Benitez admits Liverpool have to improve following the 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa - but the boss is refusing to panic amid a mixed start to the campaign.

A Lucas OG gave Villa a shock lead at Anfield before Curtis Davies doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time. Torres pulled one back in the second half but it was rendered meaningless within minutes when Gerrard chopped Nigel Reo-Coker in the box and Ashley Young converted.

The result means the Reds have now picked up just three points from their opening three games.

Benitez said: "The first 20 minutes we had our chances, we didn't take them. Then we made a mistake, scored an own goal, then conceded in injury time. Afterwards we were pushing but gave away a penalty - there were too many mistakes in crucial moments.

"Clearly we did not play well. We gave the ball away against a team that's good on the counter. We have lost and we have to improve."

The Reds had looked set to stage a late escape when Torres turned home Emiliano Insua's cross and the boss admitted he was disappointed with the way his side conceded the penalty.

"I thought when Torres scored we could get a point," he added.

"We were pushing harder and better but the crucial moment was when we gave the penalty away and that made a difference.

"If we'd have scored early like against Stoke it would have made a difference. But we were giving the ball away against a team that is good on the counter-attack.

"It's not easy when the other team is well organised but their keeper made some great saves. That's part of the game. If the keeper is playing well you need to create more chances."

Benitez now wants his senior players to step up when Liverpool visit Bolton at the weekend.

He added: "Our target is to win against Bolton in the next game and that's it. We're not thinking about anything else.

"With this squad we won a lot of games last year and we have to do the same this year.

"When you are losing, the only way to change things is to win - that's the only way.

"You can talk about some names but clearly the team as a team has to improve. The senior players have more experience and they have to take responsibility and go forward."

Friedel pleased to make amends


Brad Friedel felt Aston Villa's 3-1 win at Liverpool on Monday tasted particularly sweet after they were hammered 5-0 at Anfield last season.

Villa ended Liverpool's 31-match unbeaten home Premier League record with a deserved victory. They were two ahead at half-time through a Lucas own goal and a Curtis Davies header seconds from the break.

Fernando Torres pulled one back from close range, but an Ashley Young penalty soon after claimed the Midlanders' first win at Anfield since 2001.

Following an opening-day home defeat by Wigan, Friedel said on ESPN: "It was the right time for us, we'd been getting a few bullets in the press lately and didn't have a good start. But to come here and win, no matter how we did it, was fantastic.

"Liverpool are a great side, we knew we'd be under the cosh. In the first half we played a bit more, in the second we were under siege and the penalty came at the perfect time.

"It has got us off the mark and to win at Anfield is fantastic. With the result last year it does leave a bad taste in the mouth.

"It's not revenge but it's pleasing to put in a performance because last year we just didn't turn up."

Goalscorer Davies said: "Sometimes you think it's a bit too early (to go ahead) because they have got the whole second half to throw themselves at you but we held out, they got a goal but we got one straight after. It was perfect timing.

"I'm not renowned for scoring. I wasn't going to go up for it but luckily it fell onto my head and I was happy to get the goal.

"Obviously I would have been happier with a clean sheet but we'll take it."

Villa boss Martin O'Neill told ESPN: "I'm delighted with the performance, I couldn't be more pleased.

"We put absolutely everything into the game, not just effort but skill and ability.

"We had a sluggish start on the opening day and to come and win here against maybe one of the championship favourites was a terrific effort.

"At 2-0 we seemed in reasonable command of the game, it goes to 2-1 and so we had to react pretty quickly. We got a goal through the penalty - and it was a penalty - and got ourselves back in again. We deserved to win."

Villa rock Reds at Anfield

Sky Sports

Aston Villa put another dent in Liverpool's title dreams with a hard-fought 3-1 victory at Anfield.

Lucas Leiva suffered the indignity of putting through his own net to open the scoring, before Curtis Davies doubled Villa's lead moments before the break.

Fernando Torres did pull one back for the hosts, but Ashley Young rounded off the scoring from the penalty spot.

Liverpool dominated much of the opening exchanges, but fell behind after 34 minutes when an ambitious free-kick from Young cannoned off Lucas and past a stranded Pepe Reina.

The Reds were then the architects of their own downfall once again on the stroke of half-time as they failed to pick up Davies from a corner and he glanced a header in off the underside of the bar.

Torres then offered Rafa Benitez's side a lifeline on 72 minutes, as he coolly rounded of a well-worked move down the left.

However, Steven Gerrard felled Nigel Reo-Coker in the box three minutes later and Young sent Reina the wrong way from the spot.

The result ended Liverpool's 31-match unbeaten home league record stretching back to December 2007, when Manchester United were the last winners at Anfield.

But the spotlight will now be on Liverpool, who only lost twice in the league last season and still did not win the title.

The margin for error is now very fine. You rarely win the crown by losing more than five games in a season, and Liverpool's hopes could already have suffered a mortal blow.

Liverpool produced a vibrant start, but found themselves frustrated by the quick-tackling, quick-thinking Villa midfield.

The hosts could have been ahead in the first minute when Yossi Benayoun's back-header from Torres' chip into the area, beat Brad Friedel but dropped inches wide.

A taste of what was to follow came from Villa's first chance came when Davies met a Nicky Shorey cross with a strong header, but it went straight at Reina.

Torres and Steven Gerrard both saw shots blocked in the six-yard box, before Young was booked after 12 minutes for halting a Dirk Kuyt run.

Then Gerrard struck a first-timer from 20-yards just over from Kuyt's touched pass.

But Liverpool's problems were beginning to mount in a midfield that they were unable to dominate.

Javier Mascherano and Lucas were both fortunate not to be cautioned for fouls on Stiliyan Petrov and Gabriel Agbonlahor in quick succession.

Torres was also coming in for some rough treatment from Carlos Cuellar, two tackles from behind going unpunished by referee Martin Atkinson.

By now Reo-Coker and Steve Sidwell were successfully breaking up Gerrard's flow in midfield, and Villa were soon to take the lead.

It came after 33 minutes when Lucas gave away a needless free-kick in midfield.

Young swung the set-piece towards the near post, and it was the unfortunate Lucas who rose to head the ball past Reina for an own-goal.

Liverpool's play was sloppy and far too much possession was being conceded with ill-directed passes.

Further calamity came after Reina was booked in first half injury time for kicking the ball away in annoyance when referee Martin Atkinson awarded a disputed corner, Sidwell's shot looking to have clipped a defender.

And from that disputed corner Villa found themselves two up. Shorey's corner swung into the near post and was headed home by Davies.

The hosts have staged some amazing comebacks in this stadium over the years, and they were going to need another massive performance to salvage anything from this situation.

Villa defended with organisation and desire. Reo-Coker was booked for kicking the ball away, and Friedel produced a fine save from a Kuyt header.

Kuyt then saw another header hit a post from a Gerrard corner from the left.

But Villa were still showing great resilience, and breaking quickly to cause Liverpool all sorts of problems at the back, Reo-Coker being only inches away from a third with one sliding attempt.

Liverpool sent on Andriy Voronin for Lucas after 66 minutes, with Friedel producing another fine stop from a Gerrard drive soon after.

But after 72 minutes Liverpool finally gave themselves some hope when Emiliano Insua got down the left and rolled the ball into the six-yard box for Torres to score.

Two minutes later Liverpool were back in despair and Villa celebrating. Shorey's pass into the path of Reo-Coker saw the midfielder surge into the box only to be felled by Gerrard's desperate tackle.

It was a clear penalty and Young stepped up to restore Villa's two-goal lead.

Liverpool's frustration was obvious. Torres was booked for dissent when Young went down injured and asked for treatment. He was eventually replaced by Heskey.

Ryan Babel came on for Benayoun, with Liverpool still coming forward. Friedel again made a fine save from a Torres flick, before Kuyt sent a close range effort wide of the far post.

The outstanding Friedel, against his former club, saved from Torres and Glen Johnson, with Skrtel booked in the dying minutes, but Villa held on for a famous victory.

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