Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa: Tactical changes lead to dismal draw

Premier League
Saturday 18 January 2014 - 5:30 pm
Anfield
Liverpool2
2Aston Villa
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⚽️ Sturridge45'
⚽️ Gerrard53'
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Liverpool started with 4 forwards in a tactical change that resulted in Villa storming into a 2 goal lead before Liverpool salvaged a point.

Rodgers elected to shuffle the pack one again - this time playing with two central midfielders - Gerrard and Henderson to allow Sturridge to make his first start of the new year.  Sturridge, Suarez, Coutinho and Sterling all lined up in what seemed a very attacking line up.

It didn't take too long to see the tactical change wasn't a good one.

Gerrard was operating almost as the third centre-back, meaning Jordan Henderson was effectively our only central midfielder - and he was forced to spend most of the half chasing around the pitch.

Cissokho was poor once again at left back and questions will continue over Mignolet's shot-stopping abilities.

It was no surprise when a dominant Villa took the lead, Liverpool had already been warned when Villa had a free header in the box that everyone watched rebound off the post.

Villa moved quickly down the wing and Agbonlahor played a lovely ball square across the face of the goal was forced home by Weimann in the 25th minute.  Gerrard was the man furthest back at this point, but he was powerless to stop the final touch.

There was no reaction from Liverpool, and Villa rightly deserved to double their advantage when Cissokho went walkabout at left back.  Agbonlahor  was a threat all game, and Gerrard couldn't stop him sending in a cross which Mignolet palmed straight at Benteke to head into the net.

Against the run of play, the reds got a lifeline just before half time with a good move from the forward line.  Suarez found Henderson who backflicked the ball into the path of Sturridge who put the ball away.

Rodgers made a change at half time.  Bringing Lucas on to operate as the holding midfielder - replacing the ineffective Coutinho.  Gerrard was moved further up the pitch.

Within 10 minutes of the second half starting Liverpool already looked to have a better shape in the midfield, and Suarez was felled by Villa keeper Guzan.  The ref awarded the penalty but didn't punish the keeper further - and Gerrard fired in to level the game.

Lucas only lasted 20 minutes after appearing to damage a ligament on his right knee, allowing Joe Allen to mark his return from injury.

There was little fight in the final period of the game from either team as a draw was pencilled in by both sides.  There was a late moment of comedy when Aly Cissokho showed that even throw-ins are a technical challenge.

Very disappointing.  It's fair game to point criticism at Rodgers for his tactical naivety today and also fair to point some criticism at Gerrard's performance.

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