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Liveblog: Liverpool v. Aston Villa

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** Liverpool trounce Aston Villa 5-0 to pull within a point of Manchester United at the top, and surprisingly ahead of both United and Chelsea on goal differential.

FULL TIME Great effort by the Reds, a game that was honestly over after the first half. Scary times for Villa. Recap later on.

90+3 Torres controls well and rounds a defender, but Milner tracks back and dispossess him. Milner has been really good today despite the scoreline.

90'+2 Gardner is booked for attempted homicide, replay shows he didn't make any contact but had studs high.

** 3 minutes of added time. Howard Webb looking menacing as usual.

90' A gopher pops up and knocks the ball away from Aurelio on the left side. Stoppage time guess? -20 minutes.

89' Gardner replaces Carew while the Champions League hopes of Villa are eulogized.

86' Just replayed the Kuyt goal...that certainly seems like forever ago. Nice montage of Rafa not smiling after goals. Someone is getting paid to put that together?

84' Agger gets forward unchallenged but tries to play it to an offside Torres. It's almost like Villa are only playing with 10 men.

82' Nice flying dragon kick by Riera to break up Villa's passing.

80' N'Gog on for Gerrard...Sentiment aside, I'd like to have seen Torres off. A little bothered by performance today-if it's a bad day at the office, fine, if Villa have shut him down, great, just hoping it's not a question of fitness.

78' Gotta love Masch, still busting ass to break up a lazy pass by Agbonlahor.

77' Torres looking game still, probably feels left out since he hasn't scored. Probably should have been a handball, but...it's 5-0.

76' Good to see Daniel Agger back on the pitch, he's struggled with fitness and when healthy hasn't been a regular part of the squad.

74' Little bit of showmanship by Liverpool outside the box...more impressed by 5 goals than a backheel. Agger looks like he's readying to come on.

73' Mascherano hits a decent effort with his left foot, but it's right at Guzan.

72' Shooting privileges revoked for Martin Skrtel.

72' Riera plays Milner for a fool in the corner, flicking it over him on the first touch. MOTM for sure.

71' The Kop singing the bounce...and you have to say that it hasn't been Torres' best day. Hoping it's not fitness, but he's remained anonymous for much of the match. And on cue he slices in an inch-perfect ball for Riera. I'm fired.

71' It's 5-0.

69' Lucas scuffs a chance after more good work from Riera. Man of the match has got to be Riera or Kuyt. Did I just type that?

66' Lucas/Ellen comes on for Xabi Alonso. Seems like some resting is in order for the top men.

GOAL Gerrard piles on, 5-0. Nice spot to come in for Guzan. Hat-trick for Gerrard, two from the spot, one from the free kick. Other than that really not his best day, but with 3 goals what do I know about it.

65' Gerrard will take the penalty...

64' Harsh red on Friedel...Torres with a bad touch and runs into Friedel, who can't really do anything short of teleport himself somewhere else. Nice round of applause for the former Liverpool keeper.

63' Lots of passing.

61' Liverpool press back up the pitch, but the ball is pushed back to the other end, where Agbonlahor fouls Martin Skrtel.

58' Gabby Agbonlahor on for Emile Heskey in a rehab stint after he was booed of the pitch at Villa Park...interesting to see how Carra and Skrtel handle his speed.

57' Kuyt finds Alonso in the middle, but his shot is pulled wide. Not much energy left in the match, it seems.

55' Let's hope the last 35 minutes are little more than a formality.

52' Carew with the foul on Carragher...Villa look battered, and rightly so.

GOAL Not the traditional blaster, but Gerrard sneaks it past Friedel into the bottom corner. 4-0.

48' Kuyt is dragged down just outside the box, great spot for Liverpool...Aurelio here? Gerrard to take...

47' Fabio Aurelio does well to shield Milner from the ball, goal kick to Liverpool. Milner and Carew have easily been the most dangerous for Villa.

46' Gabby Agbonlahor looks confused on the bench as the second half kicks off, probably wondering which one of the women he impregnated is in the stands today. Pow!

** Phenomenal control by Riera on the long pass from Kuyt that led to the penalty. Scary good.

HALFTIME Tough to explain how it really happened, but Liverpol are up 3-0 at the half. Kuyt and Riera have been oustanding today, the Ugly Dutchman has run a half-marathon so far, and Riera's control on the left has been a constant source of danger. Torres has been largely anonymous, probably a result of being the central focus of the Villa defense in the pre-match buildup. The defense has had to play well-Villa has been swinging in cross and long balls to Carew and Heskey throughout the half, and a clean sheet thus far speaks to how well the back four have played. For all the questions about his fitness, Arbeloa has been impressive. It's going to be tricky in the second half-obviously 3-0 is more than enough, but you get the feeling that Villa could notch a couple very quickly.

45'+2 Riera lucks out after his attempt at a backpass floats towards Heskey.

45' Kuyt wins a corner after a nice piece of sexy chest control...Gerrard's corner finds an unmarked Fabio Aurelio, whose volley flies wide. Straight from the training ground.

43' Villa looking to scratch one back, but Milner's cross bounces away. Get to the half at 3-0.

41' Petrov runs through Riera, and Gerrard swings the long free kick into the box but nobody on the other end.

40' Luke Young is booked for a challenge on Masch, who tends to make a meal out of incoming challenges. Gareth Barry also booked, this one for dissent. Good times for Villa.

GOAL Gerrard sends Friedel the wrong way, and Liverpool march on. Wow. 3-0. Gut punch for Villa.

39' Penalty! Kuyt finds Riera with a long pass across the pitch, and Reo-Coker clips him in the box. Chance to kill it here...

37' Ashley Young's free kick has plenty of dramatic buildup but nothing to show for it.

36' And now Friedel's not too happy with himself, he passes it to Arbeloa in the box, who tries to set up Torres and wastes a phenomenal chance to go up 3-0.

35' Gerrard with space, not able to find the target, but a decent effort. Friedel not too happy with his defense.

GOAL Pepe Reina boots one up the pitch, Riera finds himself unmarked on the other end, first-time volley by Albert Riera into the top corner. Reminiscent of Robbie Keane at the Emirates, really. Out of nothing, up 2-0.

32' Riera again looking good on the left, but his cross finds an empty patch. Kuyt and Riera have covered some ground today, let's hope Liverpool can find it through the middle as well.

30' Pace of play has slowed a bit, which was bound to happen at some point. Another long ball from Villa, another open chance for Carew to control.

27' Milner again with good work to get himself a chance to cross, and it's John Carew again on the end of it. Torres almost gets loose at the other end...Villa have kept him mostly under wraps so far.

25' Long free-kick is headed towards goal by Carew, and Reina does well to save again. Young's follow-up is wide of goal. Villa might be decent in the air today.

24' Arbeloa gets free on the right side and plays one back for Torres in the box, but he's unable to get anything on the shot. End-to-end stuff so far.

23' Gerrard is booked for a reckless challenge on Curtis Davies...probably justified.

22' Villa are sending balls in from both sides, good defense by Liverpool.

21' Arbeloa has looked fully fit thus far, he's had about 5 tackles. Great chance for Villa, Ashley Young flings one in, and John Carew puts an effort on target that Reina has to parry away.

19' Milner slips one in for John Carew, but Reina is out to sweep it up. Certainly capable.

19' Kuyt moves forward with great intent, but his lay-off for Arbeloa leaves a little to be desired.

18' Another corner for Liverpool, Aurelio's cross is blocked by Milner...corner is headed away, Liverpool able to keep possession for a bit, but no chances.

16' Riera's cross from the left is deflected but finds Steven Gerrard at the far post, but it comes up too high and he can only graze it with his boot. So far so good from Albert Riera, who's been struggling to find form.

14' Villa with a nice spell of possession, Ashley Young swings one in from the right, really dangerous ball that's knocked away. No quit in Villa after the early strike. Great football at this point.

13' Torres gets on the end of a light punt and tries to flick it back over Curtis Davies, no such luck, but a good idea nonetheless.

12' Nice interception by Masch to maintain possession in the Villa half...

10' Arbeloa holds onto the ball too long at the other end, tries to play Gerrard through in the box but plays it too far ahead.

10' Gareth Barry's attempt at a volley flies into the Kop after the cross finds its way through.

9' Here comes another wave, great passing football by the Reds ends with Gerrard close to goal but no real chance.

GOAL Dirk Kuyt!!! Great delivery by Gerrard finds Xabi Alonso's head, off the bar, Kuyt is the first to react and smashes it through about five bodies. Great start for Liverpool.

7' Not sure who that was, but someone just absolutely crunched Dirk Kuyt. Fair tackle though. Riera wins a free kick at the other end for Liverpool, clumsy challenge by Reo-Coker.

4' Nice blind through-ball from Torres to get Steven Gerrard free on the right side of the box, but Gerrard's attempt to cut it back to the middle is too firm and gathered up by Friedel.

4' Riera cuts in from the left, tries to play in Gerrard but no joy. Good attacking start by Liverpool

3'Milner's shot outside the box is deflected, sent Reina the wrong way. Corner to Villa...Barry swings it in, but no real danger.

1' Early corner for Liverpool, Gerrard down the left side...Aurelio takes...Skrtel heads it towards goal but not enough pace.

KICK-OFF After a minute's silence, the teams are ready to go. Come on you Reds!

** Black armbands for the Reds today, marking the passing of longtime club secretary Bryce Morrison.

** Gary Gillespie and Roy Evans seem to be in agreement that the media have created more stress and tension than there actually needs to be. Unheard of.

** I have no idea how Peter Crouch walked away from the goal he scored against Villa last year, it looked like he dislocated every limb in his body upon contact.

** Martin O'Neill has never won a game in the month of March as Aston Villa manager. Today is March 22nd. Thus, Martin O'Neill will not win today. Simple syllogism.

** On the LFCTV interview, Lucas just attributed his newfound confidence to his haircut. At least he's aware of what the problem really was.

** Really nothing but masters of the obvious, including myself, leading up to the game. "Liverpool cannot afford to drop any more points," "Liverpool have lots of confidence after beating/demolishing/humiliating/ravaging/pillaging United last weekend," "Liverpool should score goals"

** Starting eleven for Aston Villa:

----------Friedel--------------
Reo-Coker-Cuellar-Davies-L.Young
Milner--Petrov--Barry--A.Young
-----Heskey----Carew--------

Bench: Guzan, Gardner, Shorey, Knight, Delfounseo, Salifou, Agbonlahor

** Starting eleven for Liverpool:

-----------Reina---------------
Arbeloa-Carragher-Skrtel-Aurelio
----Alonso----Mascherano------
Kuyt------Gerrard------Riera
---------Torres---------------

Bench: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Agger, Ngog, El Zhar, Dossena, Lucas.

A bit surprised that Babel doesn't make the 18...John Bradley says it's because of the possibility that Arbeloa could break down, thus two center-halves on the bench. Good to see Agger back in the squad, but I doubt he'll figure save a blowout.