It was fairly smooth sailing for Liverpool in the first half of the Premier League clash with Aston Villa. Two goals and a rash of additional opportunities had the Reds looking like they might just cruise on to a win. As we’ve seen all too often this season, however, Liverpool struggled to put together two complete halves of football, and spent most of the second half under duress from an Aston Villa side looking to right the ship under Unai Emery. In the end, however, Liverpool weathered the storm despite conceding a goal, and got a third themselves courtesy of young Stefan Bajčetić.
Below, then, we dig into some of the winners, losers and narratives on the night.
Trent Alexander-Arnold gets most of the plaudits for the attacking play from his fullback position, but Andy Robertson has quietly been doing his bit from the left side for quite some time now. After providing the assist to Mohamed Salah for Liverpool’s opening goal, Robertson took over the record with the most assists from a PL defender with 54. Robbo as always also put in a strong defensive shift, making some key tackles and blocks in the second half.
Another week, another record for the Liverpool striker. With his goal, the Egyptian King tied King Kenny Dalglish for 7th all time in goals for Liverpool with 172.
Mohamed Salah— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) December 26, 2022
One hundred and seventy-two goals for Liverpool.
Joint-seventh most in club history. pic.twitter.com/asg5mZYkrE
Besides scoring the goal, Selfish Mo Salah showed off his proclivity for setting up others, providing four key passes on the match, notching an assist on the second goal.
Set Piece Dominance
Just a couple of seasons ago, Liverpool dominated the league in goals off of set pieces. The Reds rolled back the clock against Aston Villa, scoring their two first half goals from scrambles after corner kicks. They looked like they had a third set piece goal but Joel Matip was just offside before heading the ball into the net.
As the game wore on and Jürgen Klopp went to his bench, he put his trust in a trio of youngsters. Harvey Elliott is pretty much a grizzled vet at this point despite being just 19 years old, but Stefan Bajčetić and Ben Doak were not players anyone expected to play any sort of role coming into this season.
18 year old Bajčetić showed off a calm head in midfield despite entering a game being played at a frenetic pace. He made a well-timed run into the box to collect the ball, and coolly rounded the keeper before slotting the ball between Tyrone Mings’ legs for Liverpool’s third goal of the game. He also pitched in on the defensive side, notching a tackle, and interception, and a clearance in his short time on the pitch.
Ben Doak, just turned 17 last month, showed off some of the skill that has Liverpool fans salivating. He fantastically dummied the ball to himself down the wing, absolutely skinning Lucas Digne in the process. Doak was eager to get on the ball and get on the run in his Premier League debut, and could be in line for some more minutes with the glut of injuries across the attacking band.
I get it, a striker’s main job is to score goals, and Núñez did a spectacular job of NOT scoring today. Still, the creature of chaos had the Aston Villa defense on their back foot all day long with his runs in behind. Does his timing on some runs need work? Yep. Should he have finished at least one of his six shots? Absolutely. Still, the Uruguayan was an absolute livewire and a willing runner, tracking down what seemed to be hopeful balls over the top to create something out of nothing. One of those resulted in Liverpool’s third goal.
The Aston Villa attacker turned into one of Liverpool’s best defenders, absolutely fluffing several very good chances in front of net.
From The Manager
“Darwin Nunez played an incredible game. He will score goals, I have no doubt about that. He gives us so much more than that - he will score. Everything will be fine. This game was exceptional.”
What Happens Next
After a month and a half off for the World Cup, the Reds now enter a very busy holiday fixture list. Let’s be honest, the entire season’s fixture list is just ridiculous. The Reds will return home to take on Brendan Rodgers’ hapless Leicester City on Friday. They’ll have a whole two and a half days rest after that before taking on Brentford.