Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool: 5 talking points
Liverpool overcame a spirited Villa team led by the formidable Christian Benteke as they beat the Midlands club 2-1 thanks to goals by Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard. Villa had taken the lead in the 30th minute thanks to a Benteke volley which gave Reina no chance. Liverpool though came back in the second half and were able to seal the victory, thanks to a penalty converted by Gerrard while Henderson had equalized for the Reds just after halftime.
The win pushes Liverpool to 48 points, still 3 behind their rivals Everton, who have a game in hand. Aston Villa stay 18th, level on points with Wigan Athletic who have played one game less than the Villans. Here are the five talking points from the game.
Big Ben is getting better
There was an interesting stat thrown up that Belgians were the third highest nationality to have goal scorers in the BPL, after Spanish and English players. Mirallas, Fellaini, Lukaku and Benteke are the main hit-men for their clubs and the rising stature of Christian Benteke was further at show in this game. Everything good that came in attack from Villa was due to the big Belgian up front.
Benteke was a constant menace for the Liverpool defense and he showed that he is not only a strong big center forward, but he also has a hammer of a shot and great technique. He has pace, skill and an eye for goal. He took his tally for the season to 18 goals, and regardless of whether Villa stay up or not, one thing is certain – Big Ben will be on the move come the end of the season.
Captain Fantastic leads the way
There was talk about how Liverpool would fare with a new system and a new style of play. Pushing Gerrard into a much more deeper role had not worked before. He was moved to a more attacking role under Benitez where he reaped rewards by creating a menacing pair with the now vilified Fernando Torres. Gerrard now is reaching the twilight of his career and can’t make those dynamic runs into the box as he once used to.
In this new role, he is flourishing. He has 9 goals and 9 assists in the EPL this season and has been one of Liverpool’s best and consistent performers this season. His penalty was the deciding goal of the game, he also played a great first time ball to Coutinho which eventually led to the Liverpool equalizer and during the closing stages of the game he headed the ball off the line to prevent Benteke from scoring Villa’s second goal.
Also, he has played every single minute of Liverpool’s Premier League games this season. As they say, some things get only better with age.
Too much, too young, too fast
Aston Villa have one of the youngest teams in the Premier League. While that is a good omen for any young footballer, it certainly is not helping their cause of staying up. They had taken the lead against Liverpool, a team who are in transition and one which had just lost their last game at Southampton. You would expect Villa to be up and in the faces of the Liverpool team and trying to get a second goal. That never happened as Liverpool came out in the second half and scored twice to win the game and leave Villa facing the reality of relegation.
Paul Lambert has a tough task at hand trying to keep the team up for another season. This young Villa squad has the spunk to work hard but when the going gets tough, they often become invisible at the crucial junctures of games. Not having experienced players like N’Zogbia and Darren Bent, who have had to deal with such relegation worries, in their starting XI or even featuring properly in some of the games is a worry as this experience could help them stave off relegation. This fight might be too much for such a young team, and the next 7 games are going to be big for the future of Lambert and Aston Villa.
Lucas and Henderson should play more often
With the plethora of midfielders Liverpool have, it’s hard for the likes of Jordan Henderson to get a game. Hendo however showed his class today with a matured display. He was pressing the Villa midfield all the time and capped off a good performance with a brilliant goal as he chipped over Guzan to score Liverpool’s equalizer.
Henderson has faced some criticism ever since his move from Sunderland. His performances have gotten better as the season has progressed and for vast stretches of the first half he was the only Liverpool midfielder who was trying to make a difference to Liverpool’s play which was getting dominated by the Villa midfield.
Lucas seemed to be missing a gear, and showed signs of still recovering from his knee injury. In the second half, the duo seemed more in sync with one another as they were pressing and harrowing the Villa midfield to give Liverpool the upper hand in the game. With Allen out injured and Coutinho preferred in the front three, Henderson can claim a midfield slot for himself along with Gerrard and Lucas.
Guzan is an unsung hero
Brad Guzan had taken over from fellow American Brad Freidel when the latter left to join Tottenham. There might have been doubts about him this season, but over time he has shown he deserves to be Villa’s choice for keeper ahead of Shay Given.
Had it not been for some of his quick reflexes and saves, Liverpool would have run out comfortable winners. He denied Suarez twice, from a chip and a one-on-one. Even Steven Gerrard’s pile driver from the edge of the box was swatted away by the big American keeper. With 7 important games coming up for Aston Villa, Guzan will have to play this well in every game to give his team a fighting chance of staying in the Premier League.