Aston Villa vs. Liverpool: 6 Things We Learned
For the first time this Premier League season Liverpool recovered from conceding the first goal to win a match, with the Reds' 2-1 victory at Villa Park leaving Aston Villa stuck in the relegation zone.
Christian Benteke carried on from where he left off in Villa’s 3-1 win at Anfield in December when he fired the hosts into the lead, and although Liverpool’s attempt at a comeback was being led by the ever-willing Luis Suarez, the visitors couldn’t draw level before the break.
They soon managed it early in the second half though as a fine through ball from Philippe Coutinho was finished in fine fashion by Jordan Henderson, and as Liverpool pressed to take the lead, Coutinho missed a glorious chance and Glen Johnson hit a post.
The winner was to arrive on the hour mark though, as after Nathan Baker’s clumsy foul on Luis Suarez was rightly punished with the award of a penalty, Steven Gerrard stepped up to score his 11th career goal against the Villains.
There was still time for Gerrard to brilliantly clear a Benteke header off the line, but Liverpool held on for a victory which they just about deserved.
Here are some lessons learned from their Easter Sunday afternoon in the Midlands:
Steven Gerrard Still Dominates This Team
Luis Suarez’s influence on this Liverpool side is easily apparent and is seemingly growing by the game, but it is still very much Steven Gerrard who sets the tone.
At 1-0 down here Gerrard stepped up and looked to drive his side forward and back into the game, and he was to have two hugely telling contributions in the second period.
First, he converted the penalty which gave the Reds the lead, and then he even more impressively—and acrobatically—managed to clear Christian Benteke’s header off the line when a goal looked certain.
This was yet another captain’s innings.
The Rise of Jordan Henderson Continues
With Brendan Rodgers choosing to field an extra midfielder as opposed to Daniel Sturridge, there was a lot of onus on Jordan Henderson to provide extra legs and close down Villa’s young midfield.
In the end he did more than that and buzzed around the pitch in a bid to establish his side’s superiority in the game, something he helped achieve with the fine clipped finish he produced from Philippe Coutinho’s pass right at the start of the second half.
Henderson still seems to face a weekly battle to earn his place in this team, but with fans now on his side, it is a battle you’d back him to win.
Philippe Coutinho Continues to Sparkle
Alright, he should have scored when presented with that glorious chance early in the second half, but this was another impressive display from Liverpool’s little Brazilian dynamo.
The highlight was of course that wondrous pass to Henderson for the goal that dragged the Reds back into the match, but perhaps even more telling was that Coutinho again stood up to the rigours of the Premier League.
He’s still getting withdrawn early in matches, but when he’s fully up to speed he looks like he’ll shine.
Aston Villa’s Naivety Could Cost Them
It would be a shame if Villa were to go down, as it may affect other clubs’ thinking when it comes to blooding youngsters.
Paul Lambert appears to have too many young players in one team at the same time, and although that means that more experienced heads such as Gabriel Agbonlahor and Charles N’Zogbia should be doing more to help out their teammates, mistakes will inevitably happen.
The rash lunge from Nathan Baker on Suarez which led to the penalty was one borne out of both frustration and the desire to impress as a young player, but he is not alone in that.
If they do stay up, then Villa’s players are likely to be all the better for this experience.
That is a big if though.
The Fighting Spirit Is Still Alive
Coming so soon after the 3-2 victory over Tottenham in which Liverpool rallied from 2-1 down, this was another example of the Reds showing strength in adversity.
Whereas the pleasing style of play that Brendan Rodgers has introduced to the club was always going to be well-received, the ability to fight back is a quality that Liverpool seem to have lost over recent years, and its’ return is a welcome one.
Obviously the key is to stop getting yourself in perilous positions in the first place, but with Liverpool showing that they can come back from them, then another piece of next season’s jigsaw could be homing in to view.
Liverpool Still Need to Be More Clinical
It didn’t cost them this time, but Liverpool seemed to get back to their old wasteful self at Villa Park.
Suarez and Coutinho both missed glorious openings as the Reds pressed for a goal, and had Benteke stayed onside when he put the ball in the net in stoppage time, then they would have been moments that would have cost Liverpool.
Maybe the absence of Sturridge in the team made Liverpool regress to former ways, but they can’t afford to get back into this habit ahead of the final few weeks of the season.
They’ve worked hard to rid themselves of the tag of being wasteful and don’t want to get it back again.