Brendan Rodgers made one change to the team that beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light last time out, bringing in Raheem Sterling for Steven Gerrard, who was left out of the squad altogether as a sensible precautionary measure ahead of Liverpool’s League Cup semi-final clash with Chelsea in midweek.
The opening fifteen minutes were fairly even and quiet, with Mignolet comfortably saving Benteke’s header from Hutton’s cross the only moment of note. However, Liverpool soon took control and, moments after Moreno’s effort had been chalked off for offside, the Reds gained the lead.
Captain for the day Jordan Henderson, who marshalled the midfield masterfully alongside the increasingly important Lucas, sent a brilliant cross into the danger area, where the unmarked Borini instinctively stuck out his leg to prod home the opener. It was terrible defending from Villa, but a world class assist from Henderson and a confidence-booster for the marginalised Borini.
|Borini stuck out a leg to break the deadlock|
Villa improved after the break, and they sent a few warning signs during the closing stages of the first period, Mignolet needing two attempts to gather Sanchez’s ambitious low strike and Cleverley poking wide when well placed on the stroke of half time. At the other end, Guzan made a great save from Moreno seven minutes after the restart, but apart from that Liverpool created comparatively little, while the Midlanders enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure.
Villa’s misfiring strike force was the main barrier preventing them scoring the equaliser their performance arguably warranted. Although Mignolet performed slightly better, making a world class save to deny Benteke on the hour mark, Liverpool’s defence still looked shaky and probably would have folded in the face of superior opponents.
Thankfully, though, Paul Lambert’s men lacked the striking capacity to end their goal drought, which has now stretched to over eight hours of football. Delph, Gill, Baker and Benteke all went close for Aston Villa, but the Villains just couldn’t find the back of the net for love nor money and, after weathering the storm, Liverpool went in for the kill.
Lucas Leiva, of all people, went very close to scoring the decisive second, seeing Guzan palm his 25-yard shot, which was destined for the bottom right corner, behind the goal. The resulting corner kick was eventually worked to substitute Rickie Lambert, who picked his spot and finished with aplomb, striking powerfully into the bottom left corner from the edge of the box.
|Lambert celebrates scoring the all important second goal|
He was signed to be an impact sub, coming off the bench and providing an alternative approach in the closing stages, and that’s exactly what he did yesterday at Villa Park. If he can continue in that mould, Liverpool will see a return on their £4 million investment in the former Southampton striker.
It was also great to watch the way in which the players celebrated with the travelling supporters after scoring the second. That showed just how much it meant to them and points to a unity and solidarity between the players and the fans that will continue to serve Liverpool well during the second half of the season, which promises to be much better than what many fans feared during the first half of the campaign.
|This is a great photo|
There does seem to be a golden sky at the end of the storm after all.