After The Match 


Aston Villa-Liverpool 0-1 (0-0)          29.12.09                      PL
Goals: Torres (93)
Team: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Insua, Kuyt, Lucas, Aquilani, Benayoun, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Babel (Aquilani 78), Skrtel (Johnson 89),
Aurelio (Benayoun 94)
Not used: Cavalieri, Kyrgiakos, Ngog, Spearing
Yellow: Lucas (43)               Dunne (41)
Red: None
Referee: Lee Probert
Attendance: 42,788
Shots on target: 4-4
Shots off target: 4-4
Blocked shots: 1-7
Fouls conceded: 13-11
Corners: 8-10
Offsides: 0-1
Possession: 42.2-57.8
Yellow: 1-1

a massive game for us."

Fernando Torres
3112: Johnson ruled out for at least a month
3012: Reds confirm Johnson knee damage
3012: Carragher pays tribute to Torres
2912: O'Neill: We should have won
2912: Gerrard rallying call to Liverpool
2912: Benitez shock at reaction
2912: Ice-cool Torres fires Reds revival

Torres celebrating his 50th goal for Liverpool.
(Photo: PA)

Johnson ruled out
for at least a month

The Irish Times

Liverpool full back Glen Johnson has been ruled out for “at least a month” with a medial ligament tear in his right knee, the club have announced.

The former Portsmouth defender picked up the injury during Tuesday’s 1-0 victory at Aston Villa.

No definitive timescale will be put on his recovery until Johnson visits another specialist to assess the extent of the damage.

“Johnson has a problem, so he’ll see a specialist and then we’ll talk but we know he’ll be out for at least one month,” said Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez. “We are waiting for another opinion and then we’ll know how long.”

Right back has become a troublesome position for Benitez as Swiss international Philipp Degen has struggled to settle after injury wrecked his first season after signing in the summer of 2008.

The 26-year-old did not make his Premier League debut until this September and has been unconvincing in the first team, getting sent off in the 3-1 defeat to Fulham at the end of October.

Benitez’s likely option is to move Jamie Carragher from central defence to fill a role he is not entirely comfortable with.

He could also give Stephen Darby, 21, an extended run in the side while 19-year-old Martin Kelly — who made his first start in the Champions League defeat at home to Lyon in October — is currently sidelined with injury.

If the Liverpool boss should decide to dip into the transfer market it is unlikely he would be looking for anything other than a short-term loan deal.

On the positive front, Benitez is hopeful of having Albert Riera back from a hamstring problem within the next few days.

“Riera will start training tomorrow, so hopefully in the next week he can be available,” said Benitez. “Kelly and Nabil El-Zhar still need maybe one or two weeks.”

Reds confirm Johnson knee damage


Liverpool have confirmed that Glen Johnson suffered a medial ligament injury to his right knee during Tuesday night's match at Aston Villa.

The England right-back was assessed by the club's medical team at Melwood earlier on Wednesday and underwent a scan which revealed the extent of the injury which forced him to limp off after 88 minutes of the 1-0 victory at Villa Park.

A club spokesman said: "A scan today has revealed a tear in the medial ligament in Glen's right knee.

"The player will see a specialist tomorrow, after which we should be able to more accurately determine the length of his rehabilitation period."

Johnson now seems certain to miss this weekend's FA Cup trip to Reading and the crucial Anfield visit of Tottenham on 10 January.

The 25-year-old has suffered a number of injuries in the first season of his Liverpool career and underwent the controversial horse placenta treatment on a hamstring problem earlier in the campaign.

Carragher pays
tribute to Torres

By Dominic King - Liverpool Echo

Jamie Carragher today paid a glowing tribute to Fernando Torres after the record breaking striker helped Liverpool make a Champions League statement.

Torres, as he has done so often during his Anfield career, came up trumps just when it was needed, on this occasion his injury time goal gave the Reds a precious 1-0 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park.

It was his 50th Premier League goal in just 72 outings and smashed a long-standing record held jointly by Sam Raybould and Albert Stubbins.

But, more importantly, it helped revive Liverpool’s flagging campaign and gave them back-to-back wins for the first time since September to leave them just three points off fourth-placed Tottenham.

Now Carragher is hoping Liverpool will take impetus from this result and put together a sequence of results that will carry them back into a more familiar position in the table.

“There is nothing better than getting a last minute winner,” said Carragher. “You could see how much it meant to everyone but we have just got to move on now.

“Hopefully it will put us on a good run.

“There are a lot of teams who are looking at us and thinking they can take our place in the top four.

“But this was more than just three points. It’s made a statement.

“Villa are a top team with a top manager and it’s a difficult place to come but we controlled the game.

“Fernando is a great player, a world class striker. To beat people like Ian Rush, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Roger Hunt to the record says everything. That’s why you pay the kind of money we did to sign him, to score last-minute goals like that.”

Carragher, Daniel Agger and Pepe Reina all excelled in helping the Reds keep another clean sheet but he knows more of the same will be needed when they return to Premier League action against Spurs on January 10.

“One game can make a difference,” he said. “We realise what would have happened had we lost, people would have said we were miles behind and that would have been it for the top four. But we’ve given ourselves a fighting chance.

“I haven’t been looking at the league table as I didn’t want to depress myself but hopefully we are moving up in the right direction now. The next game is Tottenham and if we can win that, it will put us right in the mix.”

O'Neill: We should have won

By Elliot Ball - Sky Sports

Martin O'Neill lamented Aston Villa's injury-time defeat to Liverpool, claiming his side would have won but for the goalkeeping heroics of Jose Reina.

The Villa boss had his head in his hands in the third minute of added time as Fernando Torres became Liverpool's fastest player to score 50 goals in the Premier League as the Reds claimed a 1-0 win on Tuesday night.

The result gave the Merseysiders a crucial boost in their quest for UEFA Champions League football while putting a serious dent into Villa's hopes of a top-four finish.

Liverpool had not lost at Villa Park since February 1998 and that record continued largely thanks to their resolute defence and an inspired Reina, who produced a number of crucial saves to keep the visitors in the game.

Reina made a stupendous reaction stop to deny Stewart Downing in the first half before also saving a close-range effort from Gabriel Agbonlahor, and O'Neill was quick to point out the Reds shot-stopper as the stand-out performer on the night.

"We definitely didn't deserve that," the Villa boss, who saw his side lose at home for the first time since the opening game of the season, told Sky Sports 1. "At the end we should have had the game out of sight.

"Their goalkeeper has pulled off some unbelievable saves tonight and kept them in it. We should have won and we lost.

"We had chances to win the game but we didn't deserve to lose the match and it's a real cruel blow to the team but we'll fight back."

The result is Villa's second successive defeat after the 3-0 loss at Arsenal and has halted the West Midlanders' momentum towards a coveted Champions League berth.

O'Neill admitted the atmosphere had taken a sour turn after their fifth reverse of the campaign, but insisted his side will come back strong after a disappointing end to 2009.

"I don't think it's any damage to confidence if we can keep performing," he added. "We've given everything and we've played two games in 48 hours.

"It's definitely a blow because we have lost two games over Christmas and we should have picked up three points tonight.

"It's not the end of the world, it is a setback, but we will fight back from this make no mistake."

Gerrard rallying call to Liverpool

ITV Football

Steven Gerrard called on Liverpool to go on to bigger and better things after they snatched an injury-time
1-0 Barclays Premier League victory over Aston Villa.

Fernando Torres scored in the third minute of stoppage time after the ball fortuitously broke to him in the box to settle a clash at Villa Park which had appeared to be heading for stalemate.

"That's what football's about," Gerrard told Sky Sports 1 after Tuesday night's defeat. "You've got to keep going until the end and when you've got guys like (Torres) there's always a chance.

"When he's on form he's the best in the world.

"We're hoping it gives us a big boost. The idea now is to treat the next game like tonight. This means nothing. It all depends where you are at the end.

"It's important to build on this. I'm sure we'll gain a lot of confidence from this and there's no excuses now.

"We've got to win games."

The win took Liverpool to within two points of their opponents and four of Tottenham in fourth, the final Champions League place.

Gerrard said: "It'll be a race until the very end and we've got to make sure we're in it."

Torres added: "We needed to win to be close to the top four. It was a massive game for us.

"Last season we kept working until the end and got points in extra time, like today."

Benitez shock at reaction

By Peter Fraser - Sky Sports

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez angrily explained his surprise at the reaction to his guarantee of a place in the top four of the Premier League this season.

The Reds boss saw his side grab a dramatically late victory at Aston Villa on Tuesday as Fernando Torres added another twist to the race for UEFA Champions League football with his 50th English league goal coming deep into stoppage time.

A narrow 1-0 win moved Liverpool to seventh position in the table and the Merseysiders now sit just two points behind Villa and four points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham, who travel to Anfield on 10th January.

The win came as a major feather in the cap for Benitez, who has maintained throughout the campaign that his under-performing side will qualify for 2010/11's European Cup, and so he was shocked when his promise was questioned post-match.

His reaction was not on a par to last season's infamous 'Rafa rant', but it was almost as cold as a snowy night in the Midlands, as he told Sky Sports 1: "The manager has to have confidence in his team so he has to say that we will finish in the top four.

"I have to be the first one to believe so they (the players) will believe.

"I was really pleased because we couldn't give something to our fans when we played against Portsmouth so I am really pleased for them because it was bad weather and I think that they will come back to Liverpool and enjoy today."

When pushed further on his guarantee of a place in the top four, he said: "What do you have to do? As a manager of the team you have to believe in the players.

"I was really surprised a lot of people are talking about it like, 'oh Rafa is taking the pressure off his players'. You have to do it like this because I am the manager."

When asked about suggestions he would resign if Liverpool do not qualify for the Champions League, he said: "I don't see any journalist making a mistake and resigning, so every time that you ask me the same, I will ask you the same."

Torres still did not appear to be at full fitness following his long-standing groin injury, but Benitez was in no doubt regarding the predatory brilliance of his record signing.

The Liverpool boss said: "He is a very, very good player, a key player for us. His record is amazing so I am very pleased for him and very pleased for the team."

Liverpool's night was shadowed by a knee injury suffered by Glen Johnson in the second half at Villa Park and the England international is set to undergo further analysis.

Benitez said: "We know now that we have to do a scan. Maybe he has a problem with his knee."

Ice-cool Torres
fires Reds revival

Football 365

Fernando Torres scored his 50th Premier League goal in injury time as Liverpool beat Aston Villa 1-0 in Tuesday's clash at a snowy Villa Park.

The result gave Rafael Benitez's side a Champions League lifeline as they began the second half of their season by snatching a valuable three points in Birmingham.

Spain international striker Torres drilled a low shot across Villa keeper Brad Friedel in the 93rd minute to become the fastest player in Reds history to score a half century of league goals.

It means Benitez's side are only two points behind Villa and four adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham in the race for European places.

In a goalless first half, it needed a fine save from Brad Friedel to deny Liverpool after 17 minutes.

Torres teed up Steven Gerrard just outside the Villa area and his curling first time shot was tipped over the bar by the former Liverpool keeper.

Current Reds number one Pepe Reina somehow managed to keep out a fierce close-range volley from Stewart Downing in the 31st minute.

Glen Johnson needlessly gave a corner away after losing possession to John Carew 15 yards from the by-line.

James Milner's corner was net at the far post by Downing and he could not have struck his volley more cleanly, but Reina somehow managed to fist away his shot from close range.

Liverpool, unbeaten at Villa Park since February 1998, enjoyed the majority of possession for most of the second period without seriously threatening the home goal.

However, the Reds proceed to waste several good openings, failing to test Friedel significantly - and were almost punished.

Villa suddenly came to life with Reina producing his second excellent save of the night to deny Agbonlahor after he had shaken off the challenge of Jamie Carragher.

And from Milner's inswinging centre, Carew was inches wide of the far post with a flicked header.

The match seemed to be heading for stalemate until, in injury time, Dirk Kuyt took control of a poor pass from Stephen Warnock on the right flank.

The ball was collected by Benayoun in midfield but as Agbonlahor came back to tackle, the Villa striker only succeeded in pushing it through to Torres inside the Villa box and he slid a low shot into the bottom far corner of Friedel's goal.

The result keeps Villa sixth, two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, while Liverpool rise to seventh, two points further back.

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