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Liverpool Vs. Aston Villa: Reds Player Ratings and Post Match Analysis

Nabeel KhokharCorrespondent IDecember 6, 2010

Liverpool Vs. Aston Villa: Reds Player Ratings and Post Match Analysis

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    Liverpool Football Club welcomes former manager and Kop idol, Gerrard Houllier back to Anfield as manager of an opposing team for the first time. It will be an emotional return for the Frenchman who brought glory days back to Liverpool in his spell.

    Many of the current Liverpool squad hold Houllier in very high regard and have a special place in their hearts for him. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have both publicly praised Houllier and place him at the top of the list of managers they have played under.

    It was Houllier that gave a young and highly promising Steven Gerrard his chance on the first team and supported and laid the foundation of the player the Liverpool captain has turned into.

    Carragher has also given great appreciation and credit to Houllier for all he accomplished during his time with the Reds.

    Current Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has not endeared himself to the Liverpool faithful and is far from fulfilling the promise and objectives that were laid out at the start.

    Sadly both Gerrard and Carragher will miss this match, although they will be there to give Houllier the warm reception that he deserves.

    Liverpool comes into this fixture after a draw in Romania and qualifying to the next round of the Europa League.

    Joe Cole is back from injury and has 70 minutes under his belt in midweek. He will be looking to get back into playing regularly and increasing his role with the squad. Cole has yet to stamp his attacking effectiveness on games and Liverpool will hope that he can now move to advance his Liverpool career.

    Liverpool will be playing at home and need to secure a win as their away form is dreadful. Taking maximum points from home games is a priority for Hodgson as he looks to lead Liverpool further up the table. 

GOALKEEPER: Pepe Reina

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    CONGRATULATIONS TO PEPE REINA FOR 100 CLEAN SHEETS.

    What is all the more impressive about this astonishing feat is that it was achieved in less than 200 matches. Reina is establishing himself alongside past Liverpool goal keepers such as Ray Clemence and Bruce Grobbelaar.

    Reina was once again the stand in captain in the absence of captain Gerrard and vice captain Carragher, and was rarely tested in the first half.

    It was not until the 52nd minute that the Spaniard had anything of note to do, but when called upon he kept the Reds two ahead when they could have conceded. 

    After that slight scare, Reina was solid in his catching, distribution and all around goalkeeping.

    Well done, Pepe Reina, for a solid night's work and a milestone to boot.

LEFT BACK: Paul Konchesky

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    Liverpool fans must be wondering what it is that Paul Konchesky does in training that endears him to manager Roy Hodgson so much. Sure, Hodgson bought him from his former club, but loyalty in the face of poor displays is simply foolish. 

    Konchesky seemed to start well and his positional play was much improved, however he is still prone to a rash challenge. If he misses it, he is left completely out of position and there is a gaping hole the size of a continent on the left side of Liverpool's defense.

    He is consistently beaten for pace and doesn't contribute much in attack, and tonight was no different. It is unclear as to why Hodgson persists with him.

    Surely now that Fabio Aurelio is fit, we will see the last of Konchesky as Liverpool's first choice left back.

RIGHT BACK: Glen Johnson

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    Glen Johnson put in a shift in the first half where he rarely crossed the halfway line. His defensive game seemed to have been worked on and he produced some good covering and recovering challenges against the crafty Stewart Downing.

    There was only one real instance tonight where Johnson was outfoxed and exposed which led to Aston Villa's best chance to score.

    It was with the game pretty much in the bag, in the 68th minute, when we saw Johnson shake off his defensive chains and bomb down the wing to fire a shot at goal that was saved by former Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

    Once again, in the 71st minute, Johnson showed great attacking instinct but he really should have at least tested Friedel, if not made it 4-0 for the Reds.

    One major error and a miss to put the game away took the edge of a solid defensive performance.

CENTRE BACK: Martin Skrtel

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    Martin Skrtel had an average night out, his only real highlight was a good header back into the six yard box which David Ngog latched onto to open the scoring for the Reds.

    Apart from that Skrtel was neither impressive nor boring, just doing enough to keep a very lightweight Aston Villa attack at bay.

    However, there were no howlers or blunders and no real heroics either.

    All in all, an average performance.

CENTRE BACK: Sotirios Kyrgiakos

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    Very impressive performance from the giant Greek defender. Arguably Liverpool's man of the match tonight.

    He has been playing at a consistently high level this season and once again showed that he should not be the one that makes way once Jamie Carragher is fit.

    Solid at the back with defensive headers and tackling, and a real goal threat from set-pieces in the opponent's penalty box.

    In an attacking situation, Kyrgiakos attacks the ball and is easily Liverpool's most dangerous man in the box at set-pieces.

    A fantastic leap and downward header in the 75th minute looked goal bound but was cleared off the line by Villa's defense.

    A commanding performance was marred by being subbed out in the 83rd minute for what looked like a knock. Liverpool fans will be hoping it is nothing and our Greek giant is back next week.

    Another top class display from Kyrgiakos.

LEFT MIDFIELD: Maxi

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    Maxi Rodriguez came out onto the pitch with an extra undershirt, snood and gloves. For the Argentine, a winter in the Northeast must be like being on the North Pole.

    Until his move for the goal, this was turning out to be a typical Maxi performance in a Red shirt: frustrating and ineffective.

    His spark and flair of the previous outing must have been extinguished by the cold night, for we saw little from the Argentine but his usual ineffective self.

    But his move for the goal was completely beyond that. Having supplied a pinpoint ball out to the left for David Ngog to continue Liverpool's quick counter attack, Maxi continued his run into the box. Ngog's perfect return pass was dispatched past Friedel with power and precision.

    It was a great counter attack, finished off by a clinical finish. Why do we not see more of this from Maxi? Maybe the cold did not help him, but we are entering winter and this is what he must expect.

    But an overall average performance was lifted by a great finish.

RIGHT MIDFIELD: Dirk Kuyt

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    Dirk Kuyt once again played out wide on the right flank and put on his usual no nonsense shift.

    The Dutchman did not really get into the game and was more of the periphery of the game than at the centre of it. Yet his contribution to the overall team performance cannot be undervalued, tonight was steady and unspectacular.

    Completely a team player, Kuyt will not mind if personally he was not at his best, as long as the team picked up the points he will be happy and so are the fans.

CENTRE MIDFIELD: Lucas

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    Is this the same Lucas we have seen in the past or is some other player pulling on his red shirt?

    The Brazilian has been nothing short of a revelation this season and is maturing with every outing. Once again tonight, he commanded the midfield with power and precision.

    Hardly wasting possession and doggedly hunting down the ball when not, Lucas is steadily becoming the engine of the Liverpool midfield.

    He seems to have gained an added bow in his quiver of good positional awareness and came to the rescue of his defenders when needed.

    It is a rarity to see a Lucas pass not reach its intended recipient, his distribution is very accurate.

    Tonight, the Aston Villa midfield was completely led by Lucas, and he is finally fulfilling the promise that Rafa Benitez said he would.

    Toss up between Lucas and Krygiakos as Liverpool's best player on the night. 

CENTRE MIDFIELD: Raul Meireles

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    Raul Meireles is slowly adapting to the pace and rigors of the English game. This, coupled with the fact the Roy Hodgson has finally given up on his ill fated idea that Meireles can play on the flanks, has led to the Portuguese international beginning to show fans his worth.

    In the absence of Steven Gerrard, Meireles took over the duties of deliveries from set-pieces and actually tossed in some excellent balls from corners and free kicks.

    His obvious energy is now coming to the forefront and his ability to get from box to box is also beginning to show through.

    What is pleasing to see is the adaptation of his play to his new surroundings. He has realised that referees in the Premiership are far more likely to let things go than on the continent, and we saw Meireles throw himself about a bit tonight.

    He does possess a good tackle and seems to be growing in confidence enough to demonstrate this.

    What we want to see now is more of that venomous shot he possesses off both feet.

FORWARD: David Ngog

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    Deputising for Fernando Torres can never be an easy thing and David Ngog certainly is not an equal substitute, then again there are not many who are.

    But the fragile Frenchman threw himself at a ball tonight that could have resulted in him taking a very nasty blow to the face. But luck favors the brave and he was rewarded with a excellent finish to open the scoring.

    Ngog, though still a lightweight, made some intelligent runs into space and used the balls he received very well.

    Having been put onto the team to score goals, he did that tonight with a brave and well taken header and had an encouraging overall performance.

FORWARD: Ryan Babel

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    Ryan Babel finally got the start that he has been craving, and not only that, but also in the position he most relishes. He took this opportunity with both hands.

    Playing just behind the striker, Babel was lively, energetic and powerful tonight. He made some very purposeful runs into space and behind Aston Villa back line.

    Though there was a hint of offsides in the run for his goal, the finish was expertly taken and dispatched with great accuracy. Even more encouraging was his tumbling celebration afterward which gave us an insight into how much this goal meant to him.

    Hodgson should take note that in this position, the Dutchman could prove to be a very valuable asset to the Liverpool cause. 

    It was a performance that gave fans a little glimpse of the promise of Babel. With more chances and displays like that and Babel may yet have a part to play at Anfield this season.

SUBSTITUTES

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    Joe Cole

    He came on in the 80th minute and really did not have much time to settle into the game. Cole gave us a few little tricks, it was good to see him back to fitness.

    Cole has a tremendous amount to offer to the Reds, and if they are to fulfill any of the expectations of this season they are going to have to hope Cole remains fit and gets his confidence back.

    I am sure he would love to have started given his disdain at being substituted last week. But in 10 minutes Cole showed that his appetite is returning.

     

    Martin Kelly

    Young Kelly came on to replace Sotirios Kyrgiakos in central defense and in the short time he was there looked very comfortable.

    It must be remembered that he is a central defender by trade but has been getting much praise for his exploits at right back.

    He did not put a foot wrong tonight in the short time he was on.

     

    Fabio Aurelio

    Coming on to replace Maxi, surely it is only a matter of time before we see Aurelio replace Paul Konchesky as the first choice left back.

    After coming on, Aurelio slotted into the left side of midfield and his cultured left foot was a welcome addition to the game.

    Although not really making a major impact, he did not let the manager down and again looks to be back to full fitness.

MANAGER: Roy Hodgson and Post Match Analysis

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    Manager Roy Hodgson played an attacking formation against Aston Villa, with David Ngog, Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt in attacking positions.

    This is a commendable selection, but home form has not been his Achilles' heel and an attack minded team was to be expected.

    His decision to play Babel was great to see and even more encouraging that he did not take the safe option of placing him on the flank. Rather, he gave him what he has been asking for all along, to play just behind the main striker.

    Once again a bold move by Hodgson.

    With two of his stars missing, Hodgson could have gone into his defensive shell but made attacking choices and that stands him well with the fans. He was rewarded with another solid home win.

    However, Paul Konchesky still seems to be the left back that Hodgson seems to prefer and it is clear that his former player is not up to the task at hand. Fans really are tired of seeing him and Hodgson would do well to replace him with Fabio Aurelio for the next game.

    Liverpool played with a good tempo and spirit. The players seemed to actually be enjoying themselves right from the start. Some lovely one touch play and interchanges were encouraging and gave the fans something to shout about.

    But there were also typical Hodgson-esque long balls pumped up to the strikers which was disappointing as these are not playing to our strikers' strengths.

    There seemed to be a sense of purpose and desire tonight and that was a very positive sign. There seemed to be some design to their play which fans responded to.

    The goals were well taken, all three excellent finishes. Ngog had a brave diving header, Babel made a good finish from a tight angle and Maxi rounded off a lightening quick counter attack instigated by great distribution from Reina.

    Aston Villa though did not pose much opposition and were in truth, dreadful. Liverpool could have ended up with five, six or even seven tonight and that would not have been an unfair reflection of the match.

    Had Fernando Torres not been forced to leave when his girlfriend went into labor, Liverpool may have humiliated Gerard Houllier on his return to Anfield.

    Villa was not a real threat tonight, and even prior to the first Liverpool goal there was only going to be one winner tonight.

    This win takes the Reds into the top half of the table and their assault on fourth place continues. However, although Liverpool was good for a 3-0 win, it really was done at a canter and a lot of this can be attributed to the poorness of Aston Villa.

    But a win is a win and Liverpool climbs the table.

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