Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa: Daily Mirror match report
Published 21:31 08/04/12 By David Maddock
If you are looking for a bit of straight talking, then perhaps it’s a good idea to start with a massive geezer sporting a mohican and full-body tattoos.
There is a real suspicion Liverpool have been deluding themselves in recent months, complacently hiding behind a collective belief in both their quality and their misfortune, when the evidence suggests a deeper-rooted malaise.
So it was refreshing to hear Daniel Agger’s take on his side’s problems, given that he’s been able to assess the situation dispassionately, from a detached position on the sidelines, because of his rib injury.
In his absence, the Reds have struggled not only to address their failings, but to admit to them, with a succession of players ducking the post-match inquest after every devastating defeat since the turn of the year (and there have been plenty of them).
Agger doesn’t duck much on the pitch or off it. His presence as a late substitute transformed Liverpool and at least gave them a point against a spirited Villa side.
Afterwards, though, he didn’t hold back on his team-mates, despite their impressive late revival.
“We didn’t score a winner. Maybe that’s because we aren’t good enough,” claimed Agger.
“We had a lot of good chances, especially at the end. But we couldn’t score the winner and that’s the fact.
“You can see for yourself the problem is a bit of everything. We aren’t playing well. We just aren’t working in the right way.”
And he wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence about transforming the current situation quickly.
When asked what Liverpool can do to go about changing things his blunt response was: “What can you do? You just train every day,” he added.
Liverpool have now failed to win 10 of their 15 home games in the league, and actually have a better win ratio away from Anfield.
Maybe they need to face up to the reality of their situation. Afterwards, manager Kenny Dalglish spoke of a growing sense of “conspiracy” around the place, because of the decisions he believes have gone against his side.
Yet as close as the two penalty calls were, you can’t fault referee Mike Oliver’s logic. When Luis Suarez went down in the first half, under Alan Hutton’s tackle, it was a triple salko with pike moment, and such theatrics rarely win penalties.
In the second half, there was a better shout when Dirk Kuyt’s attempted cross hit Eric Lichaj’s arm, but the defender simply wasn’t looking at the ball, and it would have been a harsh decision.
The Reds also hit the woodwork for the 28th time in the league this season when a Suarez header from Steven Gerrard’s cross cannoned off the post.
Yet for all the claims of home misfortune, a desperately young Villa side deserved their point for an impressive first-half display, and desperate rearguard in the second, where James Collins was magnificent.
Rather less than magnificent was Liverpool’s first-half performance. They were woeful and the visitors deserved their lead when stand-in keeper Alexander Doni flapped at a cross allowing Chris Herd to turn in Barry Bannan’s cutback.
Only in the last five minutes before the break did they begin to play, though to their credit Gerrard and Suarez were irrepressible after the break, with the skipper sending in a series of crosses Villa boss Alex McLeish described as “almost undefendable”.
Eventually, Gerrard’s cross was met by Agger’s brilliant header which again found the woodwork, but this time Suarez reacted swiftly enough to turn it in.
As for Villa, their young players were simply magnificent. For McLeish, his team’s battling, positive attitude should be enough to steer them clear of relegation. “What I have seen this season has been very heartening,” he said.
“It is great credit to the AV academy that we had so many players in the team today and six on the bench, and they come and get a point against Liverpool.
“Any team you inherit, you want to enhance the quality. Young players have the quality but they don’t just have the experience. That is the difference.
“We have a squad short on experience but it is so heartening to see those boys giving everything for the club. The young boys will be walking tall tonight.”