Liverpool vs. Aston Villa  1 - 3

Article

Rodgers blindsided by lacklustre Liverpool

15 December 2012 19:40

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers admitted he did not see his side's lacklustre performance against Aston Villa coming.

The hosts dominated the opening periods against Paul Lambert's men but were picked off by some impressive counter-attacking as the Villans ran out 3-1 winners at Anfield.

And Rodgers conceded that his side lacked the intensity they have shown during their recent upturn in form.

He told reporters: "We're very disappointed. I've got to be honest I didn't see that coming. Our momentum and confidence coming into the game was probably as high as it has been.

"We probably got punished for our decision making in that first 20 minutes and being a bit careless.

"I thought we could very easily have been 3-0 up and if we do that we can control it much better but obviously we didn’t make the final pass or (find) that final bit of quality at that top end of the field and we went on to concede some poor goals.

"We weren't quite at it today and obviously they were a threat on the counterattack and got the goals.

"(The squad are) very disappointed because that wasn't us really. That wasn't how we've been. Normally the intensity in our game, we've had a good week's work but I thought we were flat.

"It was going to be important for us today to get the first goal because of the 3-5-2 that Aston Villa were playing, they dropped into a low block and we need that first goal to open up the game.

"But we had those chances early on and didn't take them and once you couple that with sloppy play and giving the ball away in poor areas, we contrived to concede bad goals."

The Northern Irishman went on to lament referee Neil Swarbrick's failure to award a penalty to Daniel Agger early in the second half, after the Dane had his shirt clearly pulled by Ciaran Clark in the box.

He added: "I thought when it was 2-0, we should have had a penalty, Daniel Agger's one. I'm not sure what we're going to have to do to get a penalty.

"You watch that again and, especially now with the referees asked to look at the shirt pulling, he gets pulled to the floor.

"It goes to 2-1 and then you've got most of the second half to get that pressure but as soon as the third goal went in we looked that bit deflated and Aston Villa have no need to come out and go after the game.

"They just sit and keep their lines tight and it just looked like a bad day at the office for us."

The 39-year-old did have some positive news for Reds fans, however, revealing teenage winger Raheem Sterling is close to penning a new deal.

"That'll be resolved I'm sure very soon. He's a good boy. He's a kid who's got this special ability to, whatever's going on, focus on his football and hopefully it stays that way."

Rodgers' opposite number Lambert was understandably delighted with his side's showing, hailing the impact of two-goal hero Christian Benteke and the belief of his young squad.

"I think the whole performance was fabulous," he said.

"The goals were excellent, the way we defended and to come here against a team which is steeped in tradition and history and the way Liverpool have been performing I thought it was a mammoth performance. I thought we were excellent.

"I thought the goals were brilliant, the second goal especially – the movement, the back-heel. Benteke has been unbelievable and Andreas Weimann, what you see is what you get. He's a natural finisher and his work ethic and enthusiasm for the game of football is second to none.

"I'm pretty sure Liverpool will give anybody a game here with the atmosphere and the players they've got, so you expect that it's just about trying to hold your nerve and trying to see it through and we did that. The back three were terrific for us; young lads put their body on the line when they had to.

"(The squad) will always have the belief that we can win games and you get a lot of satisfaction from seeing them perform the way they do. They're getting better and better every game and when we're on song we're a very good side."

Article

Premier League: Liverpool 1 Aston Villa 3

15 December 2012 18:18

Liverpool were left to rue missed chances after a Christian Benteke-inspired Aston Villa earned the visitors a 3-1 victory at Anfield.

After the home side had wasted a series of goalscoring opportunities, Benteke found the bottom corner from outside the box to hand Paul Lambert's side the lead.

A wonderful piece of skill from the front man then allowed Andreas Weimann to sweep home from 10 yards, before Benteke parted the Liverpool defence to add a third shortly after half-time.

Steven Gerrard got a touch to Glen Johnson's low shot to finally break Villa's resistance in the final minutes, but it was too little, too late.

At first, the trip to Anfield looked as if it might be too much for the young Villans, who had only three players above 23.

Their back five sat deep in their own half and invited pressure which Liverpool should have turned into a lead.

Suarez, as is usually the case, was at the centre of the best and worst of the Reds' attacking play.

The Uruguayan failed to pick out either Steven Gerrard or Raheem Sterling at the end of a three-on-one break but then nearly made amends by robbing the ball off Chris Herd. Shelvey was set to pull the trigger when Nathan Baker arrived with a brilliant sliding tackle.

Villa, though, now have a match-winner of their own. Their offensive threat had been minimal before Benteke nonchalantly pushed the ball out of his feet before rifling a low shot inside Pepe Reina's right-hand post from 25 yards.

The Belgian then turned provider to double the lead and leave the Liverpool supporters in a half-time state of shock. Racing on to a pass from Weimann, Benteke returned the ball to the centre of the box with a sublime back-heel to allow the Austrian to stroke home.

Benteke's rampage was only stalled by the interval. Minutes after the break, after substitute Joe Cole had been dispossessed in midfield, the 22-year-old simply marched past Martin Skrtel and into the Liverpool box before slotting past a helpless Reina.

At the other end, Liverpool found the penalty area crowded with yellow shirts every time they entered it and Brad Guzan continued to vindicate Lambert's decision to leave Shay Given on the bench.

Eventually, the Villa wall was breached. Johnson cut in from right-back and swatted a left-footed shot across goal which Gerrard deflected past Guzan.

The goal did little to improve the mood at Anfield, though, as Liverpool's unbeaten run ended.

Article

Lambert confident ahead of Anfield test

15 December 2012 01:44

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert is confident his side can rise to the challenge of facing Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday.

Villa sit just outside the relegation zone by virtue of goal difference and face a Reds team growing in confidence under new manager Brendan Rodgers.

But Lambert believes the Midlands side can get result at Anfield, with the historic nature of the ground serving as inspiration.

"My players will thrive on it. They will love the atmosphere and the occasion of it," Lambert told the club's official website.

"It's a really prestigious stadium and the players who have played there, past and present, have been world-class. Arguably the greatest player to come out of Liverpool is Kenny Dalglish.

"They have won European Cups, league championships and it is a club steeped in tradition.

"I know how hard it is going to be. They have got some great players at the minute too. Brendan has a really good side there.

"I know Brendan very well, he's a great guy and he did a brilliant job at Swansea. He's then gone to Liverpool and got them going.

"It will be a good atmosphere and something we will try to enjoy.

"We're doing really fine. The other night the lads were excellent the way they went about things but regardless of that result, Liverpool was always going to be tough.

"We've always said that it's important not to let the mood go down when you lose and we will try and keep things in perspective now we've won.

"Regardless of Tuesday, going to Anfield was always going to be difficult. But we are going to try to win it."

Villa are on a five-match unbeaten run, and the Scot is happy with the progress his team have made so far this term despite their precarious position in the standings.

He added: "We've had two defeats in eleven matches, it is not too bad is it? I think people think because we are young we are not going to do this or that. They are getting the credit now they deserve because they are playing really well.

"Since the win at Sunderland we've been doing really well and I don't have a problem with performances.

"Yes, you'd like to have more points on the board but the one thing I can't argue with is the effort and the way they are playing. Only Manchester United and Manchester City have beaten us during that run and that shows how well we are playing at the moment.

"There are a lot of young lads, a lot of enthusiasm and energy, and we are playing with freedom which is great."

"You sense they are playing well. They have got the belief to go and win. A lot has been made of being young but they are good enough and that's the belief I have got."

Article

Rodgers tips Aston Villa for success

14 December 2012 13:25

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has backed Paul Lambert to bring sustained success to Aston Villa.

The end of the 2010-11 season saw Rodgers lead Swansea to promotion to the Premier League from the Championship along with the Scot at Norwich.

The Northern Irishman is expecting the latest in some 'terrific battles' between them in recent years, and also hailed Villa's young players.

"You're starting to see the fruits of his labour in the last few weeks. It's a very difficult job to go into," Rodgers told the club's official website.

"He was at Norwich and we had some terrific battles over a couple of years, and we speak reasonably regularly. We shared the same upbringing - coming through the Championship and then strides into the Premier League, where we both want to stay.

"He's done a terrific job. He's trying to recreate and build something there based on hard work and honesty.

"The young players that I've seen come through - like Barry Bannan, Chris Herd and Ciaran Clark, players that have come through the system - he's trying to give them an opportunity and you'll see them get better as the season goes on."

Liverpool host Villa on the back of both sides winning in their previous outings, with Liverpool triumphing at West Ham last week and Lambert leading Villa to League Cup success against former club Norwich on Tuesday and Rodgers sees similarities between himself and the former Celtic midfielder.

"It's going to be a difficult game. He and I like to have a work-rate and intensity in our teams so that the worst case scenario you get is effort and commitment if you're not quite at your best with the ball," he said.

"They have changed their system over the last few games to 3-5-2 and that seems to have worked well for them. But we're at home and we've got possibilities now in our home games, we've got confidence. We know it will be tight but it's a game we look forward to and hopefully win."

He added: "Paul is a fantastic manager but it takes time. He came in after Alex [McLeish], who had gone there and kept them in the league.

"They have moved out players and are reliant on a lot of the younger players - that's not easy. Everyone talks about young players but even top young players can struggle.

"It was always going to take time for him to put his methods across and create the culture that he wanted. Sometimes that can take up to six months when you're trying to build, especially if you don't feel it's there.

"But you're starting to see that the young players are starting to have the ethos that Paul wants. In the second half of the season they'll push on and he'll do very well with them in his time there."

Article

Premier League preview: Liverpool v Aston Villa

13 December 2012 08:45

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has refused to get carried away with his team's form ahead of Aston Villa's visit to Anfield on Saturday.

Rodgers' men fought back for a 3-2 win over West Ham last week, Liverpool's third victory on the trot in all competitions, but after the match the Reds' manager rejected all questions on whether his team could challenge for the top four in the English Premier League.

Liverpool moved up to 10th after their win at Upton Park, just four points behind fourth-placed Everton, but Rodgers kept his response low key.

"We are just trying to build our momentum," Rodgers said.

"We had a difficult opening fixture list and coupling that with trying to play a certain way of football was always going to be difficult.

"Certainly over the past couple of months we have been progressing and just let's see where we finish."

Liverpool's next hurdle will be an improving Aston Villa side that have conceded just two goals in their past five fixtures.

Villa manager Paul Lambert has introduced a back three with wing-backs, who are encouraged to attack thanks to the coverage of dual holding players in midfield.

The change in formation has led to much-needed stability in defence for the Birmingham-based club and Matt Lowton, who has played out wide, believes Lambert's alteration has been a great move.

"We've kept three clean sheets in three of our last four games so that shows that we are all pulling together," Lowton told Aston Villa's website after their 0-0 draw with Stoke last week.

"We work together defensively during the week and I think it shows out there with the clean sheets that we are doing well."

Villa face a tough three-game period coming up with trips to Liverpool and Chelsea, plus a home clash against Tottenham, but their defensive improvement should give them some confidence.

Plus Lambert's side also easily accounted for Norwich City 4-1 in their League Cup quarter-final on Tuesday.

For Liverpool, one of the greatest aspects of the win over West Ham was that it came without Luis Suarez, who was suspended.

Glen Johnson, Joe Cole and an own goal from West Ham's James Collins gave Liverpool the win.

Suarez, Liverpool's leading attacker with 10 goals, will be available again to play Aston Villa but with Rodgers reportedly eyeing off Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge, Tom Ince of Blackpool and Dutch-based striker Alfred Finnbogason, the Uruguayan forward may not have to carry his side's attacking hopes alone for much longer.

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 38 +43 89
2 38 +32 78
3 38 +36 75
4 38 +35 73
5 38 +20 72
6 38 +15 63
7 38 +28 61
8 38 -4 49
9 38 -4 46
10 38 -8 46
11 38 -17 44
12 38 -10 43
13 38 -11 42
14 38 -11 41
15 38 -22 41
16 38 -23 41
17 38 -13 39
18 38 -26 36
19 38 -30 28
20 38 -30 25