One game, one win, one clean sheet. A great start to the season. Now don’t get me wrong, I was as ecstatic as any Liverpool fan last week when Mignolet made the dream debut with a last minute penalty save, honestly I was. However, for this week I would have been happy for fans to be asking if Mignolet was even in goal. A nice easy week, where our front men clicked perfectly and our keeper got to sleep throughout the game.
Of course, the chances of that happening were unlikely given Aston Villa’s start to the season. Sure they lost to Chelsea and were given some very dubious decisions against Arsenal, but they had played well in both games, and, in Agbonlahor and Benteke, they have two strikers that are capable of causing trouble for any defense. Agbonlahor has the height and strength that is always a threat at set pieces and Benteke is on an astonishing period of goal scoring form. They’re also a fairly pacy side, and our ability to counter attack and break away would always have less chance of successful given that pace.
So, would this be another nail biter, or would our attack start to click together? Would Coutinho’s quality finally be rewarded with a deluge of goals? Well, let’s see…..
However, before the game starts, we should maybe talk about this week’s transfer news. First of all, Liverpool confirmed the signing of Aly Cissohko on loan for a year. I’m somewhat torn on these loan deals. On the one hand it does give us a chance to look at the player before we sign him on a permanent deal, but then it all depends on whether a price has been agreed. I’m not entirely sure on the Cissohko deal, but if there isn’t a price (as per the situation last year with Nuri Sahin) then I’m not convinced it is a good idea. If the player has an outstanding season, the current “owners” are always going to bump up the price. So do you want him to have an outstanding season, knowing full well you might not be able to afford him next season? Do you instead maybe let him sit on the bench and thus waste his wages? I guess time will tell on Cissohko, but as a player I have to say I like him. From what I had seen prior to him joining Liverpool, he appeared to have pace and strength, similar to Enrique, but he also appeared to be far better at getting back. Cissohko was named on the bench for the game.
The other bit of news was that Liverpool would not be getting Willian, and that it was down to financial rather than footballing reasons. Again this is a tough one, I get that we have to spend more to attract players, but then from the owners point of view I can see how they would be reluctant to overpay for a player who may not fit into the Liverpool system. I would however, rather Brendan Rodgers said nothing on this, as I don’t see that bit of news helping Liverpool’s cause in any way. We are now apparently in the market for another winger, so that Coutinho can move more centrally, but then didn’t we just buy Luis Alberto?
So onto the game against Villa. As per last week, Liverpool started by far the brighter of the two teams. They controlled possession from the early moments of the game, and they hassled Villa into giving away possession cheaply. Enrique seemed to be the keenest to put in a good shift, maybe caused by the new arrival. Not only was he working well to get into the attacking third, but he also came back to cut off a couple of rare forays into the Liverpool final third by Villa. All around the park we were moving the ball around in great triangles but at other times you had Gerrard spraying the ball wider and switching the play. Unfortunately, we once again just couldn’t seem to be getting it quite right in the box.
At least that was the case until Coutinho and Sturridge once again brought the dazzling magic. This time all Coutinho had to do was not touch the ball, leaving Sturridge with the “simple” task of going round a defender, and the keeper, before lifting the ball past the two men who made it back onto the line. A simple amazing goal:
It took until the 40th minute for Villa to actually really put some pressure on Liverpool, and that’s where the nail biting came in. Villa were able to mount a few attacks which let to some set pieces that had Liverpool fans worried, including a great diving save from Benteke. Shout out to the commentator, who claimed Mignolet had spreadeagled himself… I know that you’re paid to spout garbage, but spreadeagled? Really?? Still, that save meant we went into the half 1-0 up.
Now I have to own up and say that whilst I watched the second half, I really honestly cannot remember a great deal of the first twenty five or so minutes of the second half. I do remember we played some decent football at times, and that Villa were more of a threat. I even decided before the start of the match that I would post on Twitter last night so that I would have some “notes” to refer to when it came to writing a blog post, but looking back at my history it appears the only thing I wrote in the second half was “This could be dangerous” which I believe came after they won a set piece off Aspas. Aspas looks capable of earning a few bans from the number of yellows he receives 😀
What I do remember is that around the 70th minute Aspas came off and Cissohko came on. Now from there to the end of the game there wasn’t really a great deal about Cissohko’s game that stood out as marvellous, except on one seemingly innocuous run. Now the run didn’t really lead to anything, and many may not have made much of it. However, he picked up the ball, as he was running towards the side line. A quick nudge past his man and he was off. Once round his man, he was being pulled back but he managed to power past until the support came for Villa to knock it out into touch. The only reason I felt it noteworthy was that throughout the match I had been fairly amazed at Villa’s pace throughout the park. Johnson, Sturridge and Enrique all had plenty of chances on the counter to go clear but I can’t remember many if any occasions where they stayed ahead of their men on their own. Sure they had the ball and the defenders just had to chase back but so many times they just seemed a great deal faster than our players. Now of course this was around eighty minutes in, and Cissohko was fresher than the others but still, to go clear seems to indicate he may be even faster than Enrique, and to stay clear whilst being pulled does at least bode well for a) him being strong enough for the EPL and b) him not being keen to jump to the floor, which I can’t stand to see in Liverpool players.
There was, however, one final moment in the game. Of course, despite my wishes to the contrary, it fell to Simon Mignolet to once again earn his clean sheet. An attack by Villa saw Agbonlahor latch onto a ball forward, his header fell perfectly into the path of Benteke who went clear. The last thing Liverpool fans would have wanted to see was Benteke with a clear chance with five minutes to go… and here it was, gilt-edged, almost on a plate, with the wrapping almost finished. True to form, Benteke swung at it perfectly. Lambert was already on the move, running dangerously close to the edge of his technical area, fists in the air, tie fluttering unchecked… and then it ended. The celebration stopped mid air, and the tie fell back in place. Mignolet had decided that one quality match winning save early in the season wasn’t enough. He had decided to do this (made somewhat more exciting by the foreign commentary I feel):
Liverpool once again went on to win one nil. Once again, I’m left hoping that I have some nail regrowth by next week, as I’m sure the encounter against Man United will need some. Now, given the choice I’d love to see us playing fantastic football and banging the goals in, but let’s be honest, another 36 league games in which we win one nil, with our keeper pulling fantastic save after fantastic save out of his ar$e and I really won’t give a sh!t…..
Of course, there has to be some down to earth realism here. Villa may have had a great start, and we may have made them look far more ordinary than either Chelsea or Arsenal did, but the two teams we have beaten are still teams we should be beating. Mignolet has proven himself to be a worthy replacement for Reina, but our defenders need to up their game. A better side would likely have had far more shots to show for it than Villa did, and I cannot see us keeping clean sheets if we keep being so poor against set pieces. At the other end, we simply have to start scoring more goals to show for the hard work being put in across the park. For now though, I’ll savour the fact that we have a hundred percent record in terms of points and clean sheets, and a striker who is on a fine vein of form at the moment.