Aston Villa 1 - 2 Liverpool
Villa: Luiz 3’
Reds: Matip 6’, Mané 65’
It really is do or die for Liverpool tonight. If the Reds don’t get all three points tonight, the title could be decided by the next time they kick off in the league against Southampton.
Jurgen Klopp was forced to rotate a bit, and considering how tired they looked against Spurs, it can only be a good thing. Joel Matip and Kostas Tsimikas both come into the side in defense. Naby Keita and Curtis Jones come in, each playing alongside Fabinho in the center of the park. And Mohamed Salah gets a rare spot on the bench, with the gaffer instead going for a front three of Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz, and Sadio Mané. Roberto Firmino makes the bench.
Goal. Liverpool start under a fair bit of pressure, and get undone by a fairly routine and speculative cross into the box. Tsimikas and Watkins came together, both ending up on the deck, and Douglas Luiz picked up the scraps. The move looked like it started with an offside move, but the flag never went up, and the defense was allowed to reset.
GOAL! Well that was a hell of a response! Liverpool immediately equalize with a scrappy goal of their own! The two center backs combined for the score, after Van Dijk pounced on a loose ball in the box following a free kick, and Matip poked it home!
The match has settled a bit after the mad start. Mané already looks like he’s on one today, and looks just about nailed-on for a goal. He just missed the target with a header from open play, and just looks determined to make Villa’s lives miserable. Villa, meanwhile, are giving it a go, and there have been more than a fair few rough challenges going in both directions.
Shit. Fabinho pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury. That could be devastating, especially if he can’t be back for the Champions League final. Jordan Henderson comes on in his place.
We often talk about the poor state of refereeing in the Premier League, and Jon Moss is certainly one of the worst culprits. He seems completely oblivious to about 90% of the action, acting more like a WWE ref than anything else.
The half ends in a whimper. Liverpool have had the slight upper hand, but they’ll have to do better in the second half if they want a result. Unlike against Spurs there is room to play here, but the visitors have to do better in the final third. There’s no better example of this than Keita completely whiffing on an excellent chance from about 8 yards out.
The Reds haven’t started the half as brightly as you’d hope. Their forays into the attacking third have often ended with poor decisions and/or speculative crosses to no one in particular. With a little extra patience and/or quality, there are goals to be scored.
After a lackluster hour from Jones, Klopp gives him the hook in favor of Thiago. Not a bad option to bring off the bench, yeno. Unfortunately it is also Klopp’s second sub, so he only has one more roll of the dice from the bench.
GOAL!! I TOLD YOU SADIO WAS BAGGING! It was a phenomenal team goal. Mané started the move at midfield after winning the ball back from a throw-in. He knocked it off to Jota, who sent Diaz through down the wing with a sublime first touch. Diaz picked out Mané who finished it off like a proper center forward, heading it home.
I’d like to tell you that Liverpool took the initiative, buoyed by their go-ahead goal. But instead Villa have nearly gotten in twice in quick succession. Thankfully Van Dijk was alive to the first effort and Alisson to the second.
Klopp makes his last change of the match with twenty to go, hooking Luis Diaz and bringing on the Egyptian King, Mo Salah. And Mo nearly gets in straight away! More, Mo, more!
Without a third goal, this thing could get nervy. Villa have started ratcheting up the pressure, including a chance that Alisson was just able to push past an on-rushing attacker, and another that Danny Ings slotted, though he was offside.
Final Thoughts and Man of the Match
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Liverpool go behind at Villa Park, a Liverpool defender equalizes, and then Sadio Mané scores the winner with a header. The Reds were far from their best, but they got the three points and are still, technically, in it.
Next up: another showdown with Chelsea for another domestic cup at Wembley. What a time to be a Red.
Who was Liverpool’s Man of the Match vs. Aston Villa
Virgil van Dijk