Eyewitness Report - Liverpool 1-3 Villa

Posted by Yorkykopite on December 16, 2012, 08:07:43 PM

Liverpool 1 Aston Villa 3 - the 19th minute was nice

Well that wasn't much fun.

When the third went in I was thinking "when was the last time I saw the boys trailing three-nil at Anfield?" It must have been v Man United in the last year of the old Kop. I was on the Kop that night and when we pulled our first back someone lit a red flare that illuminated the centre of the grand old terrace. Under that incandescent red glare I heard one of the biggest noises I've ever heard - and I've seen the Space Shuttle go up in Florida. Two more goals followed (and countless numbers of flares) and it turned into a night of ecstasy and the best draw I've ever seen. "Could we do it again?" I thought as Christian Benteke mounted his steamroller and drove it straight into the net for their third. Probably not. The bloke sat in front of me didn't think so, for sure. The seat flipped back and he was gone. Not for a sausage roll or a piss. He'd had enough. That was what? Minute number 50? 

I wasn't on the Kop this time. I was Lower Centenary, Kop side, looking along the 6-yard line. In truth, apart from the early leaver, it was a cracking little pocket around me. Just along the row was Antonio Gramsci, Italian communist and theorist of the 1919 factory occupations and a couple of seats in front was a bloke who'd once been cuckolded by the ref - at least I assumed that's what had happened, such was the poisonous hatred for Mr Swarbrick pouring from this fella's lips from virtually the first minute (much of it eventually justified, which I'll get to). Next to me was Mrs Yorky herself, a model Liverpool supporter (once waved at for a suspiciously long time by Steve McManaman - bastard), and worried sick no doubt that I'd bring my domestic viewing habits ("For chrissake Kuyt!") to an actual live fixture. "Fear not", I'd told her, "it's perfectly ok to be abusive at home, when our boys in Red can't hear us, but absolutely forbidden when you're breathing the same air. You'll hear nothing from me except hysterical encouragement".

And actually the atmosphere was pretty decent. The singing was good - Gramsci, in particular, providing a beautiful baritone during YNWA - and no sounds of mutiny at all, despite the underwhelming performance and shite result. This crowd is with Rodgers. It may be sceptical in parts, it may even be fearful, but the main sound of the afternoon was one of encouragement. Full marks too to the bloke who started an insane 'Ring of Fire' when Stevie popped one in on the stroke of the 87th minute. How long this will last I don't know. We're so near the bottom. But we're so near 4th spot too. It's a weird season.

The first 20 minutes were....well, we all know, don't we? We've seen it enough this season. We dominated possession, we played in their half, and we missed presentable chances. The easiest, I guess, was when Suarez rolled Gerrard in for a tap-in. Except he didn't. Unfortunately Luis timed his pass to the 2012 specification, whereas Stevie had decided to turn the clock back and produce a 2008-calibre run.  Result? The ball was played behind him and seemed to clip his heel. Chance gone.

Chance gone too when Shelvey failed to connect properly with his volley - so continuing a wretched trend of atrocious mis-hits in front of goal. I can forgive the lad missing the target. But missing the ball? That's just shit. It was no surprise to anyone that he got subbed at half-time. He was positively Kuytesque in his inability to control a simple pass. Everything bounced up towards his knee after it had touched his instep, so slowing us down every time. Someone needs to open him up and readjust the internal gyroscope or whatever it is that gives people co-ordination. He's dopey too of course, which doesn't help his cause. There's a langour to him which looks wonderful when he's in the groove but looks like he couldn't care a shit when he isn't. If there was frustration around me, much of it was generated by Shelvey's performance. All those mis-hits! Get some spex lad.

By the time he made his exit, of course, the Villa and their moronic fans were two up. The first - at least from my angle - looked stoppable by Pepe. But I'll happily take a second view on that. The second was a beautifully-worked goal. I did let out a groan when Luis lost the ball on the half-way line for number one, but that was because the likely gain of fooling his man in that section of the pitch seemed so trivial. Therefore it was a stupid thing to do. But it turned out to be reckless as well. It was amazing - and disconcerting - to see how damaging the failed back-heel could be to us.

Bentecke was the star of both goals and, no doubt, this will buttress many people's desire for us to acquire our own 'beast'. I'm not sure. He's good, but we let him be good. Skrtel had a dreadful day marking him which was odd given the fact that their first four aerial challenges had resulted in free-kicks to Liverpool for backing in. At this point Bentecke was there for the taking. A truly great centre back would have sensed the way things were going and clattered him for the fifth challenge. Just demoralise him completely, even if you have to give away a free-kick. But for some unaccountable reason Skrtel decided that for the rest of the game he'd stand off his man. That's when the fun began.   

Half time: Redmen 0-2 Villa

I won't say much about the Agger penalty claim except my view was the best you could possibly get in the whole stadium. As soon as (who was it, Skrtel?) headed the ball back across the box I was readying myself for a goal celebration. The next thing I saw was Agger's shirt billowing around his head. We should take to the field in shirts that easily rip. I've long thought so. The defender was pulling so hard that he'd have ended in the back of the net if the fabric had torn. Clutching a section of incriminating red cloth too. It was shite refereeing.

That did it around me. Nothing gets a crowd going more than a sense of indignation. The sole ref baiter (ie the cuckold) was joined by hundreds of others and when we were denied a clear pen for hand-ball (was it one?) the venom rolled off the stand like lava. Sterling, denied a certain throw-in beneath us, prompted more Swarbrick hatred. I think we've had a bad streak with refs this season.

By this time the Brummies had got their third. It was a poor ball by Joe Allen. But Joe Cole made it even worse. Somehow it was meant to happen. Against West Ham he'd lost the ball three times in his own half minutes after coming on. This was the fourth time - as it were - and the inevitable happened. "You're useless Cole" I heard somebody shouting. Then a dig in the ribs from Mrs Yorky and I realised it was me. The golden rule broken.

Can we say anything nice about the performance?

Sure we can. Agger was good. And Sterling was wonderful in the second half. He was coming down my wing so I got a privileged view. I'll admit that. But it was beautiful to see his spirit and his energy. If this guy's tired then the rest of the team are in deep sleep. He kept showing for the ball, he kept fighting for it, and his movement was intelligent. He carried the creative burden. Anyone criticising him for yesterday's performance either knows nothing about footy or is so anxious about his contract situation that they've lost their judgement. Top marks to the lad. I enjoyed watching him and am excited about what he might achieve at Anfield.

Final thought on the footy. Villa were canny. Two banks of four, playing very narrow, and always with two outlets for the counter. They gave us the wings, and we ended supplying an endless sequence of crosses. But it was a forest in there and barring a bad defensive mistake we weren't going to score from anything coming in wide. Therefore we have to learn to go through teams not round them. That means more patience, not less. But it also means more risk and more skill.

It's harder to go through than round. You need brilliant decoy running off the ball and high technique, smart control and superbly quick feet on it. Players also need to act in concert all the time. (No one standing round, hands on hips, taking a bloody breather). But the rewards are great. To go through a packed defence you need to beat two men, possibly three with a pass. To go round a packed defence you need to beat four, possibly five or six. 

Do we have the players? I don't know. Gerrard produced the best bit of skill all afternoon to cut out an entire line with a back-heel, but Suarez didn't read it. Why? Because he's not been drilled to? Because he was expecting the ball out to the flanks again?

I'd have liked to have seen Suso or Sahin on the pitch. Maybe Texeira or Pacheco. You may be laughing now. But these are the players who have been coached to go down the centre. They are the players who know that this is the quickest route to goal when you're facing a packed defence that is holding an offside line. They also know how to run in packs, following each other into the gaps so that a first touch becomes - if you need it to be - also a pass.

maybe later in the season.

That's it.

Oh, and the 19th minute and the applause for Stan. Class. Well done everyone.


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