Premier League - Villa hold Liverpool at Anfield

Sat, 07 Apr 16:57:00 2012

Liverpool fought back from a goal down against Aston Villa to arrest their damaging run of defeats but were ultimately held to a 1-1 draw at Anfield.

Miss a Match? We didn't

Liverpool 1 Aston Villa 1

Captain Steven Gerrard had requested on Friday that supporters remain patient in the face of the club's worst run of form since 1953, yet due to a combination of their own wastefulness and some bad fortune Liverpool were unable to come away with anything more than a point, even if they did eventually avoid a seventh defeat in eight games.

Chris Herd put Aston Villa in front after 10 minutes when exploiting an error from debutant goalkeeper Doni and Liverpool were denied a succession of possible penalties and hit the woodwork three times before Luis Suarez finally beat Shay Given with just eight minutes remaining.

Though in the context of the match a draw came as a relief to Liverpool - however much they deserved a win having had 21 shots to Villa's five - the Reds remain one point behind local rivals Everton in eighth place following a troubling league campaign for Dalglish and his side.

Villa move onto 34 points despite their young and inexperienced side creating very little of note at Anfield, meaning they are six points clear of the relegation zone.

Liverpool's response to a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle was to drop Andy Carroll - who came off in a strop against his former side - along with Jay Spearing and Craig Bellamy. However, Jonjo Shelvey kept his place in a team also notable for a debut for goalkeeper Doni, replacing the suspended Jose Reina following his red card on Tyneside.

The Brazilian, who joined the club on a free transfer from Roma, had to wait nine months for his first Liverpool appearance but having finally pulled on the jersey was guilty of a critical error inside 10 minutes as Aston Villa took the lead at Anfield.

Doni flapped at a Stephen Warnock cross from the left and diverted the ball to Barry Bannan, who picked out Herd with a clever cut-back. The Villa midfielder met the ball with a fine first-time finish as he curled the ball out of the reach of Doni and into the far corner.

At that stage Liverpool could already have been in front though. Just three minutes previously, Stewart Downing accelerated past Alan Hutton and swung in a dangerous cross that flew across the face of goal and found Dirk Kuyt at the back post. His shot from a tight angle was palmed away by Shay Given as replays proved inconclusive as to whether the ball had crossed the line.

Liverpool felt aggrieved: an emotion that was to reoccur with regularity throughout another frustrating afternoon in front of an Anfield crowd that had witnessed only three wins in the past 12 home Premier League games.

Within a minute of Villa's opener, goalscorer Herd handled in the box to cut out a cross from Suarez but referee Michael Oliver deemed it was not deliberate, much to Suarez's annoyance. The Uruguayan had further cause for complaint later in the half when playing a cute one-two with Kuyt in the box before going to ground under contact from Alan Hutton.

It was slight, but should have been a penalty. Suarez's reputation for play-acting may have contributed to referee Oliver's decision to point for a goal kick and Bannan was certainly unconvinced, accusing his opponent of throwing himself to the floor to earn a rebuke from Suarez.

Having been denied two possible penalties, Liverpool endured further frustration just 60 seconds before half time when Kuyt was guilty of a glaring miss. Gerrard thumped a Suarez cross into the path of the Dutchman, who somehow turned the ball over the bar from just two yards out and with an empty net in front of him.

As a metaphor for Liverpool's remarkably wasteful and borderline embarrassing league campaign, it was rather fitting.

The home side's misfortune continued into the second half when Suarez struck the woodwork after 54 minutes. His flicked header from a Gerrard cross was fantastic, yet struck in the inside of the post and drew a fine reaction save from Given as he flicked out a hand to prevent the ball sneaking over the line.

Despite some undoubted bad luck - with the home side again failing to get a penalty when the ball struck the arm of Eric Lichaj - Liverpool were struggling to create genuine clear-cut chances and on 65 minutes replaced Stewart Downing and Jonjo Shelvey with Carroll and Bellamy.

Carroll, who had such a chastening afternoon at Newcastle last weekend, utilised his big frame to muscle in on a corner yet when the ball fell kindly into his path he was unable to bundle it home from close range.

Liverpool appeared destined for another defeat when Bellamy then collected a clearing header at the back post and slammed a shot against the outside of the post, but Liverpool finally secured the goal their efforts merited on 82 minutes.

A corner was deflected into the path of Gerrard and when he put the ball back into the box, substitute Daniel Agger struck the bar with a header and Suarez was perfectly placed on the goal-line to nod in the loose ball.

Liverpool sensed a late winner and Gerrard called Given into action with a fine drive from outside the box, yet Villa held on to take a point and deny the home side all three.

Tom Adams / Eurosport

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