Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Steven Gerrard celebrates after scoring off a penalty for Liverpool's second goal to lift them over host Aston Villa.
Steven Gerrard celebrates after scoring off a penalty for Liverpool's second goal to lift them over host Aston Villa.

Premier League: No defence for Aston Villa once again against Liverpool

Liverpool make it a rough day for Paul Lambert and Aston Villa, who went from being a goal up at the half to a goal down by the time it was over.

Birmingham // For Martin O'Neill and his protege alike, this has been a weekend to forget.

Paul Lambert was the Northern Irishman's captain at Celtic and among his successors for both Wycombe Wanderers and Aston Villa.

But while Sunderland dismissed O'Neill because they feared a precipitous slide into the Championship, Lambert's Villa are in a more precarious position.

Having lost a lead, they were beaten by Liverpool.

There has been top-flight football at Villa Park every year for a quarter of a century but, with seven games to go, Lambert's side sit in the bottom three.

Shocked at his mentor's departure, Lambert suffered another unwanted surprise.

At half time, comparative safety beckoned. Villa were leading through the terrific Christian Benteke and were on course to record a third successive win for the first time since O'Neill's reign.

Then Liverpool improved, Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard scoring to maintain their hopes of catching Everton and Arsenal and averting back-to-back defeats.

It was a 90-minute microcosm of Villa's season and not merely because they have lost leads and conceded second-half goals with unfortunate regularity.

Lambert's is a team with an impressive attacking armoury but pronounced defensive deficiencies.

"I would rather give it a go than not," said the manager. Attack is their best form of defence and they fashioned chances aplenty.

So, however, did Liverpool, rendering it an open and entertaining game.

"We don't look like a side that's down there," Lambert said.

Indeed, when they were in possession, Villa hardly resembled relegation fodder.

In the sharp, short passing, in the speed of the counter-attacking and the excellence of their movement, there are the seeds of a stellar side.

Survive and they could prosper. Go down and this side will be disbanded when the Premier League predators pick off their prize assets.

There is no doubting who would be the most coveted. After scoring twice at both Anfield and Goodison Park, Benteke has a status as the scourge of Merseyside.

He cemented it by tormenting the Liverpool defence and scoring his ninth goal in 10 games, a sweet half volley after Gabriel Agbonhalor cushioned Ashley Westwood's pass into his path.

There should have been other goals, principally when Pepe Reina made a point-blank save to deny Agbonlahor, who had accelerated beyond the Liverpool defence to meet Matt Lowton's inviting cross.

With Benteke dominant in the air and crosses whistling in from either flank, they could have scored more.

"We looked a threat every time we went forward," Lambert said.

So, too, were the visitors. Luis Suarez's search for a 30th goal of the season incorporated an audacious effort from 50 yards and a hat-trick of glaring misses, with suppliers ranging from Philippe Coutinho to, with a bizarre, misplaced pass, Villa's Barry Bannan.

Where he failed, Henderson succeeded. Coutinho angled a pass into a gap where the Villa defence should have been. Henderson, making a long run from deep, surged forward to meet it and beat Brad Guzan.

"Jordan Henderson made a brilliant run and showed great composure with the finish," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. "Coutinho was magical with the ball at times."

Inch-perfect with his passing, Coutinho's finishing was less accurate. When Suarez sent him clear, he dragged a shot to the wrong side of the post.

With Glen Johnson hitting the post, the pressure was mounting and Liverpool's two superstars delivered the winner.

Suarez's capacity to turn so sharply that he is one way while a defender heads in completely the opposite direction was apparent again.

A befuddled Nathan Baker slid in, missing the ball and catching the man.

"He frightens defenders, which led to the penalty," Rodgers said succinctly. Gerrard converted from 12 yards.

Scorer turned saviour within five minutes as Gerrard with a wonderful goal-line clearance to keep out Benteke's header.

"Nine times out of 10, players let the ball go over their head and don't get back in, but that is his professionalism," Rodgers added, paying tribute to his captain.

"He's a real inspirational man with a hunger and a desire for Liverpool to succeed. He is 32, England captain and he still wants to improve."

And, with five wins in six games, Liverpool can feel they are on the up. Villa, however, will settle for the status quo and a place in the Premier League again next year.

 

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Al Rayyan's Yakubu Ayegbeni, left, tries to escape the attention of Jazira's Khamis Ismail. Karim Jaafar / AFP Photo

Late strike puts Al Jazira on verge of qualifying for the last 16 of Asian Champions League

All to play for across East Asia during final round of group phase.

 Manchester City's Vincent Kompany reacts after being sent off by referee Lee Mason during their English Premier League soccer match against Hull City at the KC stadium in Hull, northern England March 15, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

Man City’s Manuel Pellegrini says Vincent Kompany is an important player

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini defends team captain and talks about team's injuries ahead of clash with Sunderland at home on Wednesday night.

 Supporters of China during the Asian Cup Qualifier match between Iraq vs China at Sharjah football stadium in Sharjah. Iraq won the match by 3-1. Pawan Singh / The National

Asian Cup expanding to 24 football teams in 2019

As part of a regional shake-up, the 2019 Asian Cup will climb to 24 teams but next month’s Challenge Cup in the Maldives will be the last, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced.

 Latifa Ali Al Shamsi of UAE fights compatriot Boshra Ghanem Al Zadjali in their 38.5kg match at the Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Christopher Pike / The National

Competitors at Abu Dhabi Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship target world domination

All of Wednesday’s winners at the tournament, being held in the UAE capital, are ambitious enough to target a black belt and reach the pinnacle of the sport, Amith Passela reports.

 Jacques Kallis top-scored with 72 for Kolkata Knight Riders against Mumbai Indians at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Pawan Singh / The National

Kallis kicks off IPL 7 with fifty as Kolkata thrash Mumbai

South African legend shows class is permanent as Knight Riders beat defending champions by 41 runs. Osman Samiuddin reports from Abu Dhabi.

 Amir Khan, during a workout at the Gloves Community Centre on March 24, 2014 in Bolton, England, says his fight will be the real main event in Las Vegas on May 3. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Amir Khan says bout with Luis Collazo ‘will steal the show’ in Las Vegas on May 3

British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan says his fight with Luis Collazo will be the main attraction on same fight card led by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana, writes Omar Al Raisi.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National