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Liverpool vs. Aston Villa: Score, Grades and Reaction from Premier League Game

Published by Bleacher Report on Sun, 14 Sep 2014

Aston Villa dealt a blow to Liverpools Premier League title hopes with a 1-0 win at Anfield on Saturday.The Reds have rebuilt following the departure of Luis Suarez, but what they do not appear to have replaced are the Uruguayans goals.Liverpool came up short in attack and were undone by a solitary goal from Gabriel Agbonlahor.The win takes Villa up to the dizzy heights of second in the table, with only Chelsea above them. Paul Lamberts side are unlikely to last the course, but they look well drilled and well capable of picking up points on a consistent basis.Liverpool were shaky at the back from the off, with left-back Alberto Moreno gifting possession to Alan Hutton deep in his own halfbut Dejan Lovren reacted well to clear the danger.Brendan Rodgers handedLazar Markovic a full debut and it almost paid off early. He had the chance to open the scoring on six minutes, but he headed over from 10 yards.Liverpools defensive frailties were exposed on nine minutes. A corner into the heart of the box caused panic and after a scramble, Agbonlahor turned the ball home from five yards.It could, and probably should, have got worse for Liverpool on 13 minutes. A free-kick from Ashley Westwood found the giant figure of Philippe Senderos in acres of space eight yards out, but he sent his header high over the bar.Minutes later, another corner caused more alarm in the Liverpool area and it took a timely Steven Gerrard block to clear the danger.Aston Villa were in control, but were fortunate to keep a full complement of players on the Anfield pitch on 22 minutes.Senderos and Mario Balotelli had been involved in a bit of defender-forward jostling that is commonplace in the game, but the Swiss went too far by kicking out at Balotelli as the Liverpool forward went in search of the ball.Fortunately for Senderos, referee Lee Mason was following the path of play and did not see the incident. It could well be one for the FA to review, which could see Senderos punished further down the line.Liverpool found it tough to gain a foothold in the game, but they came close to an equaliser on 43 minutes. An excellent lay-off from Balotelli teed up Adam Lallana for a strike on goal. The summer signing from Southampton made excellent contact, but the shot flew narrowly wide.Villas good work was almost undone in first-half injury-time, as no one prevented Moreno from dashing clear down the left. He attempted to pick out Markovic in the centre, but Nathan Baker slid in to make the interception.Liverpool enjoyed long spells of possession at the start of the second half, but they found it tough to fashion chances against a well-drilled Aston Villa side.Reds boss Brendan Rodgers turned to Raheem Sterling on the hour, and his first act was to pick himself up off the floor following a poor challenge by Hutton.Sterling added some spark to the Liveprool attack, but the Reds were unable to create that killer chancewith their day summed up when Philippe Coutinho's shot crashed against the postand slipped to their second defeat of the season.Liverpools focus will now shift to a Champions League clash with Ludogorets. It is the Reds first appearance in Europes elite competition since the 2009/10 campaign, and anything less than three points against the Bulgarians will be seen as an abject failure.GradesMario Balotelli: CIt was a mixed Anfield debut for the Italian. Balotelli was given little to work with, and received some rough treatment from the Villa defenders, but he kept showing for the ball.Adam Lallana: C+The midfielder took a bit of time to grow into the game, but he blossomed as the match progressed and showed some lovely touches.Alberto Moreno: DThe Spaniard continues to look a little shaky in defence, with his touch letting him down on occasions.Fabian Delph: C+A steady rather than spectacular display from the now-England midfielder, but he was disciplined in his positional play.Nathan Baker: B+The defender filled in for Ron Vlaar in fine fashion. He mopped up everything that came his way and was disciplined throughout.Post-match reactionVilla boss Lambert felt his side got their reward for an outstanding effort.Paul Lambert: I thought we were outstanding defensively and tactically we were great again. #AVFC #LFC Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) September 13, 2014Paul Lambert post-match: This is one of the toughest places to come in Europe. I thought we deserved the win. #AVFC #LFC Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) September 13, 2014Reds boss Rodgers felt his side lacked creative spark. Speaking at his press conference, Rodgers said:"Apart from Coutinho hitting the post, we never really created anywhere near what we normally would do. We started slowly and gave away a poor goal. We picked up the tempo after that."The players gave everything but we just lacked that bit of quality in the final ball and you've got to give Aston Villa credit."Read more World Football news on BleacherReport.com
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