22nd March 2009 @ 4pm, Anfield
A Steven Gerrard hat-trick helped Liverpool dispatch Aston Villa and climb back in to 2nd place, narrowing the gap on Manchester United to one point, though United have a game in hand. With this 5-0 demolition Liverpool not only became the top scorers in the Premier League, but now have the best goal difference in the division. Pepe Reina can also celebrate, having become the fastest goalkeeper in the club’s history to get 100 clean sheets.
After beating Real Madrid and Manchester United handsomely the pressure was on Liverpool to take advantage of United and Chelsea’s slip ups yesterday, and the reds were easily up to the job. Liverpool never gave Aston Villa a moment to settle in one of the most impressive Premiership performances at Anfield for a long while. Aston Villa are no mugs, but Liverpool were a class apart from the 5th placed side – who will now have a real fight to land a Champions League place.
Xabi Alonso was a surprise returnee to the reds side – many feared that the player would not recover quick enough from his injury to take his place in the reds midfield, but he did, replacing Lucas Leiva who had an excellent game last week. Arbeloa also returned after injury to re-align the reds defence.
The reds started in determined mood and in the 7th minute we’re awarded a free kick on the left hand side of the penalty box. Gerrard’s free kick found Xabi Alonso’s head but the crossbar thwarted Liverpool. Dirk Kuyt was on hand to collect the ball and fire it past Brad Friedel.
The reds had a number of other chances, crossbar’s, decent saves – and Aston Villa too were beginning to find themselves with a few chances in front of The Kop. But the reds second goal was only around the corner and on the 33rd minute it deservedly arrived.
Albert Riera, who has been off his best in recent weeks, added the reds second with a fantastic volley after one of Pepe Reina’s quick counter-attacking hits upfield.
Riera was involved minutes later, when Reo-Coker tripped him up as he was advancing in the penalty area. With six minutes left of the first half Steven Gerrard fired the penalty in to give the reds a 3-0 half time lead.
Second half – more of the same, as the reds refused to take their foot off the pedal.
In the 50th minute the reds were awarded a free kick just outside the box. Cue an impressive side-footed pass in to the bottom right corner of the net. The Kop erupted. Again.
4 goals – and Torres had been exceptionally quiet. But when he burst through the Villa defence, Friedel simply couldn’t get out the way and Torres was taken out with the goal at his mercy. The referee correctly pointed to the spot. Friedel was shown the red card – maybe harsh – but he didn’t help matters by edging his shoulder in to Torres, and the rules of the game may suggest that a red card was the only option available to the referee.
In any case, up stepped Steven Gerrard to smash the ball home and seal his hat-trick and complete Liverpool’s 5-0 rout.
To add insult to injury for Martin O’Neill, Benitez expressed his disappointment that the reds didn’t score more in the game – suggesting ‘it was an area we need to improve’.
The reds move back clear in to 2nd place and the commentators, media and some of our fans who had suggested the title race was over only a few weeks ago may be starting to think again.
Watch the goals in this forum thread
Post Match Interviews
“The team was doing well but it’s true I am not totally happy because we could have scored more goals from the counter attack.”
“We were playing against 10 players and had three or four more chances. It’s really important to take them because you never know what’s going to happen with the goal difference.
“Today it wasn’t key but in other games it has been. I wanted more goals. It’s an area we need to improve.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am really pleased and happy. The players did a fantastic job but you can always improve.”
“We said before we needed to do our job and wait for United to make mistakes. Now we are closer but they are still in a much better position. We need to keep going and pushing them.
“You cannot be thinking too much about what they will do and how many mistakes they will make. You cannot have any influence on this.
“We are closer and they will see we are working hard to win games. Every game is like a final for us now.
“They will know we can beat anyone but each game is different so we need to keep this momentum and confidence.”
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa (Agger 76), Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Mascherano, Alonso (Lucas 66), Gerrard (Ngog 80), Kuyt, Riera, Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, El Zhar.
Goals: Kuyt 8, Riera 33, Gerrard 39 pen, 50, 65 pen.
Aston Villa: Friedel, Reo-Coker (Guzan 64), Cuellar, Davies, Luke Young, Milner, Petrov, Barry, Ashley Young, Heskey (Agbonlahor 58), Carew (Gardner 88).
Subs Not Used: Delfouneso, Knight, Salifou, Shorey.
Sent Off: Friedel (64).
Booked: Luke Young, Gardner.
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).