Preamble: Aston Villa must carry particularly good memories for Liverpool fans. I'm not even a Liverpool fan, but I can remember half a dozen stonking moments between these two clubs. Robbie Fowler had some particularly good days against them: this has to be one of his great ever goals, but then the man himself rated this his all-time No4, and this was a decent hat-trick against a previously unbeaten Villa (in November!), Gérard Houllier's first win in sole charge. That hat-trick, though, wasn't as good as this one, mind, when Villa had the misfortune of coming up against Ian Rush on a good day, in 1984. Here's a stonking John Barnes header, from the days when Liverpool looked great against pretty much everyone, and a slightly fortunate 3-2 win against Villa, then European champions, in 1982 (revenge, perhaps, for this defeat the previous year).
Then of course there's Ronnie Rosenthal (Liverpool lost 4-2 that day, with Dean Saunders, who they'd only just sold to Villa and was making his home debut, scoring two).
It's perhaps no surprise, given the one-sided flood of memories, to learn that since the advent of the Premier League Liverpool have taken more points from Villa than any other club. But it's not all one-way traffic, and Villa won this fixture on the last day of last season (and promptly sold the scorer of the winning goal, Stewart Downing, to Liverpool).
So what absolute stonkers has my selective memory filtered out?
I've got the teams!
Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Albrighton, Delph, Petrov, N'Zogbia, Heskey, Delfouneso. Subs: Marshall, Clark, Cuellar, Bannan, Weimann, Johnson, Burke.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enriqué,
Bellamy, Adam, Shelvey, Henderson, Downing, Suarez. Subs: Doni, Carroll, Maxi, Coates, Kuyt, Carragher, Kelly.
Referee: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).
Some statistics: Villa have had the fewest shots (124) and the fewest shots on target (45) in the Premier League. Their players have also been fouled 146 times, which is fewer than every other side in the division bar two. So my challenge to you: guess the two.
Apologies for the lack of team-sheet analysis. Villa are without Bent and Agbonlahor, which has got to hurt; Liverpool have given Jonjo Shelvey a first start since the premature end of his loan spell at Blackpool, where he excelled. "Jordon [Henderson] and Jonjo in midfield seems a bit risky to me. But in Kenny we trust," writes Douglas Fenech.
this debacle. The FA thinks that it's both reasonable and within their interests to force YouTube to take down the best goals seen in the Premier League. And they are of course correct, I am definitely going out to buy those goals on DVD right now. Well, right after this." Glad you brought that up, Math. Why the Premier League thinks it's a good idea to stop everyone from seeing the finest moments of Premier League past, when they're making no effort to bring anyone those moments themselves, is beyond me. They are idiots, and don't deserve our attention. And you've got one of your two guesses right: Man City are the second least fouled side in the Premier League. The No1s are miles ahead. Or behind."Good evening. I will hazard a guess that the two sides who have been fouled fewer than Villa are Stoke and Manchester City. Stoke are too big to foul whereas City are too fast," writes Math Wiliam. "Posting all those wonderful 'Pool-Villa goals may be a bad idea you know, have a look at
The players are out, they've shaken hands and tossed coins, so action is really very imminent indeed.
1 min: Peeeeeeeep! They're off. See, I told you.
2 mins: Charlie Adam brings Delfouneso down from behind. A silly tackle, and probably deserving of a yellow card. He doesn't get one, mind. Petrov's shot from the resulting free-kick is saved with only mild discomfort.
3 mins: Suárez questions a refereeing decision for the first time. Not the last, I'd wager. Anyway, he was offside.
5 mins: The referee's next decision, to overrule his linesman and deny Liverpool a corner, is a silly one.
8 mins: Albrighton crosses from the right, Heskey heads at goal. The ball goes straight at Reina, and he was offside anyway. "We might 'trust Kenny' and young Shelvey deserves a run in the team, but there remains this unaccountable fascination with wingers who hint of being out of their depth," writes Lou Roper. "That would be you, Jordan Henderson, walking in the boots of Jimmy Carter, plus, dare I say it, England's Stewart Downing?" I have always taken Downing to be proof that I don't actually know very much about football – after all, it's always seemed perfectly obvious to me that he's not up to much, but people actually in football have always disagreed. They can't all be wrong, so I must be. It always puzzled me that he got in Middlesbrough's team over Adam Johnson, let alone England, Villa, Liverpool etc etc.
10 mins: Philippa Booth beat Manoj Joseph by two minutes to correctly identify Spurs as the least-fouled Premier League team. Now Liverpool do have a corner.
GOAL! Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 1 (Bellamy 11)
11 mins: Downing's corner is, predictably, not up to much but Shelvey makes something of nothing, backheeling the ball goalwards. Suárez, five yards out, backheels the backheel, the ball bounces off the diving keeper and Bellamy pokes it in.
13 mins: N'Zogbia gets a yellow card for fouling Downing. Adam's free-kick is the very definition of bobbins.
GOAL! Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 2 (Skrtel, 15mins)
15 mins: Finally a decent set-piece delivery, Bellamy taking the corner from the left. Skrtel makes a simple run to the near post and heads across goal and in at the far. Er, marking, anyone?
17 mins: Possession so far: Liverpool 64%, Aston Villa 36%. They're not even looking very good, which goes some way to suggesting how hopeless Villa are.
18 mins: Reina has just caught an N'Zogbia cross, possibly his first touch since Petrov's shot in the second minute (if you don't count Heskey's offside header, which we don't).
21 mins: Though Villa have utterly dominated the last 150 seconds, which have featured off-target shots from Delfouneso and N'Zogbia.
23 mins: N'Zogbia appears to be playing more centrally than he was initially, and Delfouneso looks much happier for having someone to combine with. They just combined to create a shooting chance for N'Zogbia, whose effort – pretty optimistic, it must be said – flew into the side netting.
25 mins: Crikey, when he goes for it Bellamy is still lightning quick. He just gained, what, 20 yards on Collins in a 40-yard sprint for Adam's overhit pass, earning his side a throw-in. Moments later, Liverpool win a corner and fail to score, which is unusual.
26 mins: Liverpool get another corner, which Downing plays short to Shelvey. Why you'd play a short corner when you've scored with 66.66% of those you've crossed is beyond me, but there you go.
29 mins: Heskey flings himself to the ground at the slightest of touches from Adam, who is harshly booked.
31 mins: Now Bellamy is harshly booked, for a foul on Hutton. From Albrighton's free-kick Delfouneso wins the header and sends the ball wide. A pretty good chance, that, much easier than the one Skrtel converted earlier.
33 mins:"Can we say anything good about Aston Villa's season? Such as 'They're into financial fair play and living within their means' or 'They're stockpiling money for the next transfer window' or 'They're developing some fine young talent'? Or is it just another crap year pointing toward the next one?" Starting to look like the latter, sadly. Indeed, it started to look like the latter sometime around July.
35 mins: The referee is blowing his whistle approximately 39% more than I'd like him to. The game has turned a little slow.
36 mins: Suárez neatly nutmegs Petrov and pokes a ball into the area for Shelvey to run onto. The ball looks overhit, but Shelvey does well to stick out a toe and divert it off Guzan and out of play for a corner.
39 mins: A prolonged spell of Villa possession outside the Liverpool penalty area ends with them attempting several through-balls that hit the legs of Liverpool players, and then N'Zogbia trying and failing to dribble round Johnson.
41 mins: One thing Villa have done well so far is keep Suárez quiet. He's done very little, but for a cameo role in the opening goal.
44 mins: Oh god. If there were any celebrities whose sordid sex secrets I never expected to hear about, it's these ones. I'm not sure my poor mind can handle this. Pardon the digression.
45 mins: There will be a minimum of two minutes of stoppage time.
45+2 mins: Peeeeeeep! The first half's over, and the good news for Villa is that in that they were fairly competitive, if not exactly creative, during the last 20 minutes of it. The bad news is that they had conceded a couple of goals by then.
Half-time: Not a thriller. Neither side has created a chance of note from open play. Things can only get better etc. Now, highlights of that interview with the Krankies I just linked to: "they had an 'anywhere, anytime' attitude to sex" ... "Ian, 64, admitted they enjoyed sex on golf courses" ... "we got fame and went a bit berserk" ... "I used to run round housing estates with nothing on for a bet" ... "Yes – I punched Paul Daniels". The Krankies!
46 mins: Peeeeeeeep! They're off! Again!
46 mins: Chance! Bellamy breaks down the left and crosses, Agger – who's made a random run forward – reaches the ball but sends it wide.
47 mins: Liverpool hit the woodwork again! Bellamy passes to Suárez, Dunne takes the ball off his toes but then idiotically loses it again and Suárez cuts inside and shoots hard and high, beyond the keeper and against the crossbar. I think that's the 16th woodwork strike of Liverpool's season.
51 mins: Warnock gives the ball away really absurdly, under no pressure, to Glen Johnson, 30 yards out, and his blockbuster effort is tipped wide.
53 mins: Aston Villa have, somehow, contrived to get worse since the interval.
55 mins: But it's OK – they're about to bring on Barry Bannan. Liverpool could do with changing things around as well, if you ask me. Suárez continues to look untypically uninterested.
57 mins: Heskey has come off, with Bannan replacing him. N'Zogbia moves inside, and immediately has a low 20-yard shot saved.
58 mins: Delph shoots from 25 yards, the ball loops off Skrtel's calf and Reina seems convinced that the ball is going to loop horribly into the net. But it doesn't.
59 mins: More woodwork action! A lovely long pass by Downing which Suárez controls brilliantly, before turning, waiting for Bellamy's run to distract the defence and then chipping the ball just out of Gazan's reach and ... against the post.
61 mins: Adam wins the ball, carries it into the penalty area and, ignoring Shelvey to his left and Suárez to his right, shoots. The ball deflects off Collins' calf and tumbles wide.
64 mins: With his last shot, stat fans, Suárez overtook Ba to become the Premier League's leading woodwork-hitter with five.
65 mins: "Downing may have had one of his better, or at least not worst, games," writes Chris Caulfield, "but he's still nowhere near good enough to wear orange boots." This is true, you need to be very good to wear novelty footwear.
66 mins: Another long ball looking for Suárez. Dunne intercepts but the ball rolls invitingly to Shelvey, arriving at pace, who strikes the ball first-time from 23 yards well over the bar. Liverpool are looking far more likely to score this half, even though they haven't, than they did in the fast half, even though they did.
68 mins: Suárez is no longer looking uninsterested, and certainly isn't looking disinterested. He's looking like he's hit the woodwork twice and is right narked about it.
69 mins: N'Zogbia works a shooting opportunity, on his left foot just outside the penalty area, but totally misses his kick, tries to pass it off as a stepover and loses possession.
74 mins: Andy Carroll comes on for Suárez. The latter, I'm told by @InfostradaLive on Twitter, is the only top-flight player to have hit the woodwork twice in a single match this season. And he's done it twice.
75 mins: Villa win a free kick, deep on the left flank. The centre-backs come forward, everyone gets excited, and N'Zogbia kicks it over all of their heads and onto the grateful bonce of an untroubled Liverpudlian.
76 mins: Another free-kick, and Bannan tries a training-ground manoeuvre. This involves him kicking the ball straight off the pitch, with Petrov gamely running after it. A moment or two earlier he'd had a long-range shot that bounced off Agger's shoulder, in the penalty area. He wanted a penalty, Alan Smith thinks he could have had one as well, but the referee did not.
79 mins: Villa are going to bring on the Andreas Weimann for the closing stages.
80 mins: Johnson does well on the right, tempts Warnock into a poor challenge and skips clear into the area, where he miscontrols the ball when under no pressure and it rolls harmlessly out of play. Weimann replaces Delph.
81 mins: Weimann, who's a decent striker and quite popular at Watford, where he's had two loan spells, has gone into the middle and N'Zogbia is now to his right. Liverpool are going to counter his threat with Jamie Carragher.
83 mins: Shelvey ends a nice move by first-timing Downing's edge-of-the-area square-ball over the bar, and is promptly taken off. Carragher, as advertised, replaces. "A Jordan Henderson is listed in today's Liverpool team, but I haven't seen further evidence from the holy writ that is the MBM that he actually has done anything," writes Lou Roper. "On another note, how soon before Villa sack McLeish." He's been OK, Henderson, but was given a fairly defensive brief against a side that has done little attacking, and therefore not particularly involved.
88 mins: Bannan shoots over the bar from 35 yards, and Dirk Kuyt replaces Bellamy, who Alan Smith promptly names man of the match.
89 mins: Hutton carries the ball to the edge of Liverpool's penalty area before diving over Charlie Adam's leg and winning a free-kick, right on the corner.
90 mins: We're halfway through the first of three added minutes.
90+2 mins: Carragher gives the ball away to Delfouneso, allows himself to be nutmegged and is grateful to see the resulting cross fly harmlessly across the penalty area and out the other side.
90+3 mins: Peeeeeeeep! It's all over. Villa were dismal in the first half and worse in the second, and deserved to get the resounding thrashing that a properly good side would have given them. Liverpool did little with all their first-half possession other than score from a couple of corners, but looked brighter in the second.
Final thoughts: That was a grim performance from the home side. Villa were extremely poor, conceded from one early corner and then contrived to defend the next one even more shambolically, and then proceeded to make zero convincing attempts to score themselves. Liverpool hit the woodwork twice in the second half, when they finally suggested that they could also attack from open play. This wasn't their best afternoon, but then they were winning for almost all of it and were hardly forced to play very well. Alex McLeish can't be blamed for the absences of Bent and Agbonlahor, but his side look miserably weak without them. Now, off you go to follow Manchester City v Arsenal with Alan Gardner. Bye!