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Aston Villa 0, Liverpool 2: First Thoughts

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

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Aston Villa 0
Liverpool 2 Borini 24', Lambert 75'

  • Pre-match thought: Seeing Steven Gerrard on the bench is a pleasant surprise. Many assumed that if he was available, he would start, but with the first leg of the League Cup semifinal against Chelsea looming in a few days, resting him is the right move. Playing Fabio Borini as essentially a lone striker with Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling in support seems a little iffier, but why not give him another shot, eh?

  • Liverpool were all over Villa early, but failed to properly exploit the acres of space that their defense were leaving behind them. Raheem Sterling definitely looked like he wasn't quite all the way back from his vacation yet, often looking a step slow and not executing his final ball with his usual panache. His fluffed chance at a chip of Brad Guzan

  • That goal for Borini was... wow. The chipped cross from Jordan Henderson was GORGEOUS, dropped in to perfect space for the Italian to get on and give the slightest touch on the volley to finish. Everything was lovely, all around.

  • Liverpool let Aston Villa get a little bit too in to the match as the first half waned. Emre Can had a hard time handling Christian Benteke before Villa inexplicably had the Belgian start working on Mamadou Sakho instead, but Villa were still able to create some chances to give Liverpool fans nerves late in the half.

  • Half-time thought: Liverpool are dominating a Villa side that lacks ideas or execution, but that doesn't mean they're playing especially well. Several individual players are, especially Sakho, Henderson, and Coutinho, but the overall teamwork portion of the match has been... lacking. Too many times Liverpool got in to the final third only for Borini or Sterling to try and do everything on their own, ignoring far better options and ultimately turning the ball over instead of doing something useful.

  • The second half started much as the first ended: Villa applying pressure, Liverpool players being useless in the final third, and things generally not feeling too great. Then, just before the hour mark, Aston Villa brought on new signing Carles Gil, and for a good 12 minutes, Liverpool were just holding on for dear life. Gil brought pace and dynamism to a previously flat Villa attack, and helped Villa create several excellent chances, at least two of which they probably should have scored if not for some excellent reaction saves from Simon Mignolet and some woefully poor finishing on other tries.

  • Villa ran out of steam around when Liverpool made their subs, though. Chances started to flow for Liverpool again, and even Lucas Leiva had an excellent crack at goal that it took a good save from Guzan to stop. Then, of all people, it was Rickie Lambert hammering a ball from the edge of the box past the American goalkeeper and in for Liverpool's second goal.

  • The rest of the match played out looking like two teams without a lot of energy just trying to finish the match. Jordon Ibe made his season debut for Liverpool, which was fun, and both sides created a handful more chances, but with the exception of a long-range rocket from Fabian Delph in stoppage time, there wasn't really another true threat to score from either team.

  • Post-match thought: Three points! Woo! The overall performance wasn't anything to write home about perhaps, but a goal each for Borini and Lambert is neat. Aston Villa should probably be pretty proud of their performance despite the result, as they looked much better in stretches of this match than they have at basically any point this season. If they can find a way to make that form consistent, they won't have to worry about relegation.

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.

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