For a twenty-minute stretch in the second half yesterday, it looked as though Aston Villa would not only equalizer, but go on to take the lead. Liverpool had been dominant to that point, with the hosts only threatening for a brief spell at the end of the first, but they conceded possession and sank deeper and deeper as their 1-0 lead looked increasingly fragile.
Their defensive contingent stepped up, however, and few moments were more important than Simon Mignolet's point-blank save on Christian Benteke. The international teammates found themselves one-on-one on the far side, and it was the goalkeeper who came out on top, denying the striker with an excellent reaction save to preserve the lead and, ultimately another clean sheet away from Anfield.
It was a significant moment as part of a more confident display from Mignolet, who came in for praise from Jordan Henderson in the post-match, as the vice-captain picked out the recently restored number one for his work over the past few weeks:
"I thought Simon Mignolet was outstanding for the whole game, dealing with crosses coming into the box, he was very dominant.
"Simon is a great lad and a great professional, who works really hard. I think he's dealt with everything fantastically well. That was the same last week. He put in a great performance and he did that again today, which was not only great for the team, but also for him personally."
Relative to his performances before Rodgers benched him, it was clear to see that Mignolet has made improvements, even if they're supposed to be part of his job. He has certainly done plenty to earn criticism throughout the first half of the season, and while meeting the minimum expectations of his job might not sound like reason for high praise, it does represent a positive change from his performances earlier in the season, and for that he should be commended.
He'll need to continue to get better if he's going to retain his spot beyond this summer, but for now, it's nice to see Simon Mignolet rebounding after what's easily been the worst few months of his young Liverpool career.
- Deconstructing Fabio Borini's Opener vs. Aston Villa
- Lambert Reflects on "Brilliant" Second Goal in Victory Over Aston Villa
- Watch: Mamadou Sakho vs. Aston Villa
- The Promise: On Talent, Expectation, and the Departure of Suso
- Liverpool "Can Put a Run Together" on the Strength of Improved Performances