Aston Villa vs Liverpool, Aug 11, 2007

I broke in the new DVR last night to catch the Aston Villa – Liverpool match. Villa seemed like a robust mid-table team, even though they were largely outclassed by Liverpool. Torres and Kuyt seemed to be a good combination for Liverpool – very opportunistic, fast, good passing, etc., and you can’t fault wrong-footing Villa’s Laursen into scoring an own goal. Still, Villa seemed pretty good in their half of the field, and they had some decent counter attacks. Their combination on the left of Wilfred Bouma and Ashley Young seemed to working really well – Bouma was backtracking well and getting the ball forward well, and Young has a real turn of pace. Jermaine Pennant showed his usual twat-like instincts by trying to hack down Young, and deserved it when Bouma leveled him a couple of minutes later. The fact that it was a legitimate-looking tackle makes me like Bouma all the more – not that he didn’t deserve the yellow card for retaliation, though.

For all that Liverpool seemed the better side – and I will be interested to see what kind of mayhem that Ryan Babel can unleash during the season – it still took a phenomenal free kick from Gerrard for the win. He seemed okay in the central midfield and didn’t have to carry the attack, but there was no questioning that goal. Magnificent.

Apparently (see the Tory-graph article below) Benitez is poor-mouthing his squad, but aside from a little slowness in the defense, they seemed pretty good to me for the first game of the season. Certainly Kuyt and Torres showed that they could bring the kind of speed and tactical awareness that counts in Europe. If they can just figure out how to keep the passing game from being shut down by close midfield marking – the Premiership’s revenge on teams with delusions of style, IMHO – they might be onto something for league play as well.
The Guardian – Benítez looks for perfection and Gerrard goes close to providing it

BBC Sport – Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool

The Telegraph – Benitez plays down Liverpool’s title chances

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