Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stevie To The Rescue With Late Stunner

First Opening Day Win In 5 Years!

English Premiership
Villa Park

Aston Villa 1 - 2 LIVERPOOL

AST - Barry (pen 85min);
LIV - Laursen (og 31min), Gerrard (87min);

Liverpool's title aspiration was nearly dented yesterday at Villa Park until skipper, Steven Gerrard, scored an absolute cracking freekick with 3 minutes to go.

He too, spared the blushes of his fellow Scouser, Jamie Carragher after the defender was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the penalty area and Gareth Barry was on hand to score from the spot and level the score late in the game.

It have been 5 years since the day Liverpool opened the account with a win and for all the frustrations of yesteryears, the win last night left a sweet aftertaste for the Liverpool fans.

Over the years, the Reds often came off the block far too slowly but as of last night, they truly signaled their intent to have a good start. Anyway, how can they afford to stumble once again after all the spending and also with Chelsea visiting Anfield next week?

To be honest, it wasn't the best place to kick off the season. Villa Park is bustling with enthusiasm and hope for their team as they embark on a new season under a new owner and a very capable manager in Martin O'Neill.

Liverpool too, started their first season under the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett. With all the amount of money splashed during the summer, success on the pitch must be immediate and apparent.

They signaled their intent by starting Fernando Torres alongside Dirk Kuyt and throughout the game, the duo combined very well on certain occasions and showed understanding between each other.

Torres' speed and tenacity was a little too hot to handle for Villa at times as he created a wonderful chance early in the game as he raced clear of the defence before smashing it wide on his left.

Yet it was the never-say-die attitude of Dirk Kuyt which reaped the ultimate reward. Torres' intricate skills enabled him to shrug off the marking of Olof Mellberg but he was unable to finish it with Stuart Taylor parrying his shot.

Just when everyone gave up the chase, Kuyt went for the supposed lost cause and his cross found the unfortunate Martin Laursen, who then slammed the ball into his own net.

At that period of time, Liverpool were in complete control of the game and Villa failed to threaten despite starting a three-pronged attack of John Carew, Gabby Agbonlahor and Ashley Young.

But one problem Liverpool always had is the way they took their step off the pedal and soon, Villa regained control in the second half. Ashley Young's pace did cause the Liverpool defence some hairy moments while John Carew made his presence felt, winning a few headers.

Meanwhile, Liverpool did what they do best. Missing chances after chances.

Kuyt, Gerrard and then later, Babel, all missed their chances and the longer the match dragged on , the feeling of inevitability started to sink into the fan's mind. You know what I mean....

Then it DID happen.

As the visitors started to show a few nerves and struggling to clear the ball from their own box, Villa took advantage of it and it was Carragher who was unlucky to be punished with a handball.

It was obvious yet you really got to feel for him as the ball had a bounce on the uneven pitch.

Mike Riley pointed to the spot right away and Villa's resident penalty taker, Gareth Barry, stepped up to send Pepe Reina the wrong way.

Just as Liverpool fans were starting to surrender to fate and think that it's going to be yet another disappointing start to the season, captain marvel was on hand to rescue Liverpool again.

He might be seen as just another cog in the machine by Rafa Benitez but there is no doubt that he IS a special player that can change the outcome of the game with one swing of his right foot.

It was an encouraging start to Liverpool's conquest of the Premiership title that has eluded the club for the past 18 years and considering that Villa are a pretty strong and organised side, to grab all 3 points away from home is certainly a morale booster for the grudge match next week, against Chelsea at Anfield.

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