After a good win against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, Liverpool was on the road again. They faced off against Aston Villa at the historic Villa Park ground. It was a pleasing 2-0 win against a team that has troubled the Reds in the past, no matter how toothless they have been. Since Brendan Rodgers took over, Liverpool has never beaten the Villains at Anfield and has only struggled to wins at Villa Park. But, goals from strikers Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert ensured a relatively comfortable outing.
|Reds players celebrate with the travelling Kopites( Credit - ThisisAnfield.com)|
There were a few mishaps along the way though with Christian Benteke causing problems. The Reds lack of ruthlessness was also on show with Raheem Sterling and Fabio Borini wasting presentable chances. On another day, the reds could have paid dearly but luckily, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet stood strong and Villa were spendthrift with their chances. On the brighter side, another clean sheet for the much-maligned Reds defence and a few confidence boosting goals for the strikers.
Fabio Borini has had a tough few months for Liverpool. From nearly being shunted to relegation dwellers like QPR and Sunderland to being repeatedly left out from the squad by Rodgers, Borini has endured a difficult spell. But, he was a constant menace on Saturday with some really smart runs and a well-taken goal. While Borini might not be the best or the most complete option, there is no doubting his desire to the cause. I find Borini to be a very smart player who knows where to be in the box. But, I feel that he panics when he gets an opening and ends up throwing it away. He can be a useful squad player for the Reds in the future but is not consistent enough to be the main man.
|Fabio Borini nods in his first goal in 2 years for Liverpool|
Credit - bbc.co.uk
As said before, the defence went through a tough spell in the second half but came through it. Martin Skrtel had a really good outing and though Christian Benteke got a few chances, it was not because of the Slovakian’s indiscretions. In fact, Skrtel repeatedly beat the usually adept aerial threat Benteke in the air. While Skrtel might not have been the best performer in the past few games and is prone to lapses in judgement, he was resolute on the day. Mamadou Sakho was good but not his glorious best. The powerful Frenchman had a tough time dealing with Benteke and the marauding runs of Alan Hutton, winning only 20% of his aerial duels and allowing Hutton to make 10 crosses. His passing was also not as fluid as before but still at a high 87% rate. With that being said, Sakho stopped some very dangerous Villa counters and it was by no means a bad performance.
Phillipe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling, so often the stars of an often-disastrous season, had tough games today. While Coutinho showed flashes of his usual brilliance in the first half, he went missing in the second. This has been a common trend with Coutinho, especially in away games. But, this did show signs of abating in previous games so I would put it down to fatigue. Sterling, back from a winter break in Jamaica, looked lot at times and the maturity that has been so accustomed to the 20- year old was not there. I would put it down as an anomaly and am sure that he will be back to his best in no time. Both players struggled against the physicality of Columbian midfielder Carlos Sanchez who managed to stifle the two players many times, registering 6 successful tackles.
But, without a doubt, the two shining lights of the game were Lazar Markovic and Jordan Henderson. While Markovic shined last game with his attacking verve, his defensive grit was on show today. Playing in an unfamiliar right back position, Markovic kept the dangerous Gabriel Agbonlahor quiet throughout the game. Markovic is showing a diversity and dexterity to his game which has not been seen before. As for Henderson, the stand in captain produced a very solid performance. He ahs started to combine his tenacity with proficiency and is developing an end product to his game. He got another assist on Saturday and now has a total of 11 goals/assists. In the absence of talisman Gerrard, Henderson has started to step up and provide the goods for the Reds.
Last but not least, Simon Mignolet also had a good game with one breathtaking save to put out Benteke. The Belgian still has some issues with crosses but had more assurance and authority against the Villains. Jordan Ibe, also, had a lively cameo and showed flashes of his blistering pace and he can be a useful weapon in tight games. Meanwhile, Rickie Lambert got a really good goal to his name. While the Liverpudlian might be severely criticized by many, he has shown that he can provide. He is doing what he was brought for: an impact sub to finish off dead games. It is good to see players performing their roles and the celebration with the fans was something to behold.
|Rickie Lambert fires in ( Credit - thisisanfield.com)|
All in all, another good win and clean sheet for the Reds. Even though there was a slight struggle, I put it down to adaptation to the pressing game. Many of the new signing are not used to such physicality and it is only natural that they drop off. But, I am sure that the players will eventually adapt. Now, the Reds approach a crucial stage of fixtures, which could make or break their season. In the next five games, they play teams all above them in the table and the small matter of a Merseyside Derby. This is wedged in between a League Cup semi final against Chelsea, an FA Cup tie and a nostalgic return back to Istanbul in the Europa League. Brendan Rodgers has belabored on the point that the Reds have found their “identity” and have “turned a corner”. Now, we will really find what the Reds are made off.
How do you think the Reds will manage in this crucial stage of fixtures? Do you think Brendan Rodgers can walk the walk after talking the talk? Write down in the comments section below.