Martin O'Neill Deserves Credit for Villainous Victory at Anfield

illya mclellanSenior Analyst IAugust 26, 2009

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Aston Villa Manager Martin O'Neill (R) and Liverpool Manager Rafael Benitez issue instructions to their players during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Aston Villa at Anfield on August 24, 2009 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Martin O'Neill has taken little credit so far in the press for his part in Villa's Anfield robbery '09, named so because with Liverpool's statistical domination it seemed that the visitors had literally stolen the game from the hosts at the final whistle. It was completely unexpected and villainous in its execution.

As is often the case with the romantic ideal of the artful thief, the Villa side were perceived as not being a threat and then when the guard was let down, they struck with artistry and speed.

Like the Pink Panther outwitting Inspector Clouseau, they were ruthless in their work and made security look silly on several occasions.

Much of the debate in the press has been based around the ineffectiveness of the Liverpool side on their home turf, as well as the apparent unwillingness of Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez to take the blame for the defeat.

Before the match, Martin O'Neill was a manager approaching the mire with the poor form shown at the close of last season, carrying over into their new season which had seen the team being booed off Villa Park during their opening day loss to Wigan.

But with this astounding victory against arguably the form team of last season's competition, they have erased the pain of the loss they started the new season with, with one excellent and unexpected result.

O'Neill is a highly-respected manager and on evidence of this result his reputation is again bolstered by his team's execution of a game plan in the face of odds that were apparently too much for the side that had capitulated at Villa Park.

After a shaky start they took the game to the hosts and were seemingly energized by the lack of urgency displayed by the home team.

They harried for possession and stole it from under the noses of a Liverpool side who looked a little too comfortable on the ball for their own good.

The goals were invariably well worked and came as the result of periods of pressure, that came directly on the back of the Liverpool teams inability to convert their dominance into goals.

In saying that, the Villa side were excellent in the midfield with Steve Sidwell, Nigel Reo-Coker, and Stiliyan Petrov all contributing to an effort that would have made the fans who were so quick to boo recently squirm in their seats in embarrassment.

Their disloyalty to a team that is capable of taking any game this season to the wire with inspired and resolute play hurt and angered O'Neill, and obviously gave the team that extra bit of a reason to prove that the fans need not worry about their ability and resolve in the face of pressure.

Liverpool seemed again to be unable to deal with a side that sat back and defended for periods and then unleashed counter-attacks with ruthless efficiency.

After all this description could so easily be made of them in many of their matches.

O'Neill can take a bow anyway because his plan for the game was executed successfully and his charges have now proved that they are just as capable as they seemed at times last season in beating one of the media's genuine challengers for the title.

A result that was completely unexpected and one that has blown open the league, along with a few other surprises we have already seen this season, not least, Owen Coyle's Burnley side's home success against the title holders.

Roll on the weekend, so we can see what else lies in wait for us, in what looks to be the beginning of an intriguing season.....