There was a sense of excitement about this game today, perhaps we were unsure of whether or not it would turn out to be a festival or a funeral for Brendan Rodgers.
Regardless, the fans seemed up for it (with audible singing) and so did James Milner (2′) putting us up within the first couple minutes of the match. Still, it’s only one goal. Emre Can was playing, out of position (again), as part of a back three with Skrtel and Sakho. Lovren mercifully out with an ankle injury picked up mid-week. Clyne and Moreno were providing width as wing backs.
We would play with the lead going into half time and thoughts of, “This will probably end as a 1-1 draw” crept into my mind. However, the passing was crisp and there was almost universal hustle to the ball, closing down the Villans and limiting them to 29% possession in the first half. The only glaring mistake came from Can squaring a weak Villa cross right into the path of Gestede around the edge of the 18 yard box. The effort was off target however and danger averted.
There were two moments in each half where Moreno and Ings covered 40-60 yards to break up Villa counter attacks. That is exactly the type of play we need to shorten this awful spell we’re in. I wondered earlier in the year if we’d see Moreno out wide, whether Rodgers was forced into the move or came up with it on his own (up for debate), it’s provided width and some quality service into the box. Unlike Jordan Ibe, he stays outside opening up the game for the strikers and Little Phil.
The second half also reminded us how lethal a fit Daniel Sturridge can be. My goodness that first goal of his (59′), a one time full volley off of a give and go with Milner, brilliant. Then, the thing I dread, that sh*te Macklemore dance. I hope we only have to endure that 15-20 more times this season.
A sliver of doubt about the result was introduced moments later when Villa’s Gestede (66′) lost Can and passed home a cross into a gaping net. If we want to turn Can into a center back, I am sure it can be done. But it’s not going to happen over night, it’s not his preferred position, and by the looks of his play there, it shows.
Sturridge was already on the loose and the two goal cushion was restored one minute later through another give and go, this time with Coutinho, and a simple pass into the far bottom corner past Guzan. Shades of the 13/14 campaign reared its ugly head as the lead was cut to one with Gestede (71′), again through a quality cross, overpowering Sahko in the air for his second.
The Reds were able to see out the result today due in large part to Lucas who played his heart out the entire match. I had lost track of how many tackles he made and he constantly broke up any kind of play Villa tried to put together. His passing was solid and he was surprisingly good in the air. For a player I remember being sold to supporters as, “the heir apparent to Gerrard”-a box-to-box midfielder, he’s never fit that role. Today he was the Man of the Match for me. You could see how happy he was for Studge, running over to him after as he walked to the sideline to a round of applause from the Kopites.
Some of you reading this will say, “It’s only Villa.” Indeed, point taken. I am just happy see some football that’s pleasing to the eyes for a change.