|Saturday 4th December 2004
ASTON VILLA 1-1 LIVERPOOL
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Aston Villa 1-1 Liverpool
Nolberto Solano struck for the fourth successive home game to rescue Aston Villa's unbeaten home record after they had been outclassed for long periods by Liverpool.
The Peruvian international converted a trademark free-kick to earn a Barclays Premiership point although Liverpool were convinced that Jamie Carragher had not fouled Gavin McCann on the edge of the box.
That cancelled out Harry Kewell's first league goal for 10 months after his former Leeds boss David O'Leary had described his form as "indifferent" in the build-up to the game.
The first half saw Liverpool totally overrun the home side and produce some of their best football away from Anfield this season.
Their slick passing and one-touch football had O'Leary's side chasing shadows and only some fine saves by Thomas Sorensen kept them in the hunt.
Steven Gerrard showed his class with an all-action performance and he revelled in a free role behind lone central striker Neil Mellor.
The Reds should have wrapped up their second away win of the campaign by the interval and Solano's superb strike was a hammer blow.
The visitors still had more of the possession in the second period but Villa did pose more of a threat with Solano impressing and rookie Steven Davis making more of an impression.
Liverpool dominated from the first whistle and Villa skipper Olof Mellberg put in an important tackle on Mellor as he prepared to shoot after Gerrard had turned a right-wing cross from Steve Finnan into his path.
Villa were chasing shadows and John Arne Riise burst forward and fired in a powerful shot from 20 yards which contained plenty of power but flew straight at Sorensen.
It came as no surprise when after 17 minutes Kewell put Liverpool ahead after Mellberg was adjudged to have brought down Dietmar Hamann.
The resulting free-kick was floated to the far post by Gerrard and Carragher got up well to turn the ball back across goal where Kewell headed home from close range.
It needed a fine save by Sorensen to prevent Mellor from doubling their lead after 23 minutes. Jlloyd Samuel was caught in possession by Antonio Nunez who found Hamann in acres of space on the right. His cross picked out Mellor but his volley was turned around the post at full stretch away to his left by Sorensen.
Gerrard then made a perfectly-timed run to meet a fine weighted centre to the far post from Xabi Alonso but he was unable to keep his volley down.
Villa striker Carlton Cole was substituted and replaced after 36 minutes by Luke Moore but Liverpool continued to dominate.
Sorensen knew little about a thumping drive from Gerrard which rebounded to safety off his chest after the England player had cut in from the left.
It was totally against the run of play when Villa got back on level terms after Carragher was adjudged to have brought down McCann.
Up stepped Solano and his free-kick left Chris Kirkland stranded as it curled into the corner of the net.
Rafael Benitez opted to make a half-time substitution, taking off Nunez and replacing him with the fit-again Josemi.
Sorensen again earned his spurs when he parried away a dipping free-kick from Gerrard after Gareth Barry had handled some 20 yards out.
Gerrard was continuing to be a huge influence on proceedings and it needed a last-ditch tackle from Mark Delaney to halt him as he prepared to shoot after linking up well with Kewell.
Benitez made his second switch just after the hour mark with Djimi Traore coming on for Mellor - and Kewell moving up front.
Kewell laid on an opportunity for Gerrard whose thumping drive was clung onto above his head by Sorensen.
Solano's set plays were posing Villa's biggest threat and another free-kick was tipped over the bar at full stretch by Kirkland.
Gerrard left the field to a standing ovation with eight minutes remaining, no doubt disappointed that his performance had yielded only one point for his side.PA
Aston Villa: Sorensen, De la Cruz, Mellberg, Delaney, Samuel, Solano, McCann (Berson 69), Davis, Barry, Angel, Cole (Luke Moore 35).
Subs Not Used: Postma, Whittingham, Ridgewell.
Liverpool: Kirkland, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Nunez (Josemi 45), Gerrard (Sinama Pongolle 82), Hamann, Alonso, Kewell, Mellor (Traore 62).
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Diao.
Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).
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|Match Report filed: 5th December 2004|