Saturday 28th October 2006 3 pm @ Anfield

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GOALS: Kuyt 32, Crouch 36, Garcia 44, Agbonlahor 56
Dirk Kuyt goal Peter Crouch goal Garcia goal

LIVERPOOL TEAM: (4-4-2) - Kuyt passed a late fitness test to start.








Garcia 44


Kuyt 32


Crouch 36

Subs: Martin, Fowler, Zenden, Pennant, Agger
][ = Yellow Card
Name = goalscorer and time(s)

Pennant on for Crouch 75
Zenden for Garcia 78
Fowler for Gerrard 81


Aston Villa: Sorensen , Hughes,Mellberg, Ridgewell, Bouma, Agbonlahor, Petrov, Osbourne (74 Davis ), Barry, Angel (45 Sutton ), Baros (45 Agathe )

Att: 44,117
Ref: Steve Bennett




Three goals in a dynamic 14-minute first half spell enabled Liverpool and their manager Rafael Benitez to answer their critics against Aston Villa.

A stunning burst that saw Dirk Kuyt, Peter Crouch and Luis Garcia put Liverpool in command was as well as the Anfield men had played all season.

But re-organisation from Martin O'Neill and an early second-half goal from Gabriel Agbonlahor saw the jitters set in before Liverpool eventually continued their cruise to victory.

Liverpool produced a first-half display to answer Rafael Benitez's critics.

Aston Villa looked to be holding their own until a stunning 15 minutes before the break when they failed totally to handle Liverpool's tempo.

First Dirk Kuyt fired a low drive home, then Peter Crouch saw a hook shot find the net before Luis Garcia rounded off a cracking passing move with the third.

After a week of behind-the-scenes turmoil following defeat at Manchester United, Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez changed his side for the 99th time in succession but came up with about the strongest possible line-up.

Benitez's demeanour after an un-named director sounded off about the Spanish manager's style, and with rumours persisting of Steven Gerrard's concerns about his role in the side, would improve with a victory over previously unbeaten Aston Villa.

Dirk Kuyt recovered from a calf injury which meant Robbie Fowler was on the bench while Craig Bellamy failed to get over his own calf problem. For Villa, Gavin McCann is still out injured while Thomas Sorensen returned after a shoulder problem. Teenager Isaiah Osbourne made only his second league appearance in midfield.

The Kop left no one in any doubt about their support for Benitez, greeting his appearance on the line with a barrage of support that spread right around the ground, the coach responding with a wave.

His team, too, needed to be as supportive as the fans, but they were confronted with a fiercely competitive Villa, who pressed deep into the Liverpool half and looked as superbly organised as you would expect from a Martin O'Neill team.

Gerrard was swift to move in from the right, and Liverpool were as sharp this week as they were lethargic at Old Trafford.

On five minutes Sami Hyypia's 40-yard crossfield pass found Luis Garcia, and his lay back to Kuyt ended with the Dutchman shooting just over.

John Arne Riise had one first time volley from 20 yard just over before sending a free kick tapped to him by Xabi Alonso inches too high from 25 yards.

Liverpool were playing quick mobile football with Riise overlapping on the left more than he has done for weeks. One cross touched down by Peter Crouch, was scooped off Kuyt's toes by Sorensen.

From Gerrard's corner, Crouch headed strongly down, and up over the bar from eight yards. But Villa's defence withstood the flow towards them, until Olof Mellberg's pointless tug on Mohamed Sissoko's shirt 40 yards out which cost him a booking on 30 minutes.

From the freekick the ball was worked back to Jamie Carragher, who launched a high ball into the box for Crouch to nod down for Kuyt to take on his chest before cracking a fine angled drive from 18 yards into the far bottom corner.

Crouch, twice more, saw half chances go begging as Liverpool went for their second. But the big striker made up for those misses with a fine goal on 38 minutes.

Steve Finnan's low cross came in from the right and Crouch met the ball 12 yards out and saw a hooked effort bounce away from Sorensen's dive to his left.

And on 43 minutes it was three with a stunning team goal. Gerrard surged from midfield, found Crouch who shifted the ball into Luis Garcia's path for the little Spaniard to coolly lift beyond Sorensen.

HT: Liverpool 3 Aston Villa 0

O'Neill responded to indifference from strikers Milan Baros and Juan Pablo Angel by replacing both at the break. On came Chris Sutton and Didier Agathe, with Gabriel Agbonlahor moving to a central attacking role.

They were smart substitutions because it helped shut down the route Riise had been using.

And Villa got on the scoresheet on 56 minutes when Sutton's pass set up Agbonlahor to beat Jose Reina from 10 yards.

Kuyt, Alonso, Riise and Hyypia all had chances but by now there was a nagging doubt that things could go wrong for Liverpool.

They worsened when Luis Garcia was put in by Gerrard, and managed to flick his shot wide of the far post.

Villa were sensing a miracle recovery and almost scored again on 71 minutes when Stiliyan Petrov's corner was met by Sutton with a near-post header, but Reina produced a stunning save to his right.

Steven Davies came on for Osbourne on 74 minutes and within seconds Liverpool responded by withdrawing Crouch and sending on Jermaine Pennant. Then Boudewijn Zenden came on for Luis Garcia and Gerrard pushed into a support striker role.

Benitez was now planning to send on Fowler, but his choice of player to withdraw was probably changed when Gerrard stormed down the left and fired in a cross before crashing into the barriers in front of the Kop.

He was on his feet after treatment, but taken off to allow Fowler on.

Paul Walker, PA Sport

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Match Report filed: 28th October 2006