The Premier League's ninety-two remaining games, spread across nine rounds of games are set to play out beginning June 17th 2020, with Project Restart's health and safety conditions meaning the remaining games of the season will be played out behind closed doors. We will be providing match reports from these behind closed doors competitive encounters as the league campaign nears its end-game. All aboard.
Match Report (GW33): Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
Aston Villa, troubled by the reality of the drop to the Championship came to Anfield in the first-half against the newly-crowned Premier League champions, Liverpool, and had a point to prove as they went in at half-time the better of the two sides.
Liverpool barely troubled, with Mo Salah's soft volley the only shot faced by Pepe Reina, with the shot nowhere close to going in. The majority of the play saw Liverpool give the ball away in midfield due to sloppy under-hit passing, with Villa using this as a trigger to step out and hit hard on the counter. It was counter after counter for Villa as they targeted the full-back areas when vacated by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, and giveaway after giveaway in a pattern that saw Liverpool struggle and Villa thrive in a compact defensive shape - with The Reds looking on their holidays against a team with something still to play for.
The only real blood-boiling moment was watching Douglas Luiz throw himself to the floor in an shallow attempt to win a penalty - the Brazilian should be ashamed of himself after trying to con the officials, we hate seeing that form of cheating in the game.
The second-half saw Aston Villa build on their good first-half performance when El Ghazi tested Alisson from the edge of the box after another counter-attack, before Jack Grealish was deemed to be fractionally offside when he had the ball played to him against Joe Gomez in a one-on-one position.
We hit the 65th minute and Pepe Reina still hadn't had anything to do, with Villa still very much the more comfortable of the two sides and up until this point managed the occasion really well.
Then on the 70th minute the game took a turn against Villa when Liverpool took the lead against the run of play in the game. Trent Alexander-Arnold drove into midfield and fizzed a ball into Naby Keita in the penalty area, with the midfielder playing a simple and calm ball across the penalty area for Sadio Mane to smash home off the bar and into the roof of the net - Mane's 16th Premier League goal of the season.
Having notched the opener, Liverpool went close again on the 76th minute when Firmino and Salah provided a good one-two at the edge of the box, with the Brazilian looping a shot to Pepe Reina's left, with the Spaniard saving well and pushing Firmino's effort away from goal.
Liverpool killed the game off in the 89th minute when Andrew Robertson's deep-cross towards the back-post was nodded down to the edge of the six-yard area, with Curtis Jones at hand to sweep home to score his first Premier League goal for the club after coming on as a substitute.
Heading into the 90th minute Grealish thought he had pulled one back, though a curled effort towards the back-post was expertly saved by Alisson.
Man of the Match: Alisson (LIV)
Liverpool were largely pedestrian and below-par against Aston Villa and it was a game of a few moments on the whole. Naby Keita was the key that ultimately unlocked a compact Villa side, though The Reds were sloppy and it took the introduction of Henderson and Wijnaldum for Keita to find his groove. With so many sloppy mistakes and genuinely a poor match to watch, Alisson was the only composed player that did his job to the maximum. Liverpool bought a goalkeeper of Alisson's calibre so they could get across the line in fixtures like this and that's what he did - weather the storm when the game was at 0-0 with his team making many mistakes and saved well from Grealish to preserve Liverpool's clean sheet.
LIV 2-0 AVL - Insight and Analysis:
Liverpool have been bi-polar in these Project Restart games. I watched a gruesome and boresome Merseyside derby, followed by a highly-entertaining and emphatic 4-0 win at home over Crystal Palace. Then they won the league and were trounced 4-0 at City, before they laboured to a 2-0 home win over Aston Villa.
In all of our reviews surrounding Aston Villa, we have been saying the same thing - they don't have the goals in them to get them across the line in important matches. Today was evident of that as Villa were much the better side at Anfield and should they had had a natural goal-scorer on the field, Liverpool would have almost certainly lost this match. I'm not sure that even if Villa played at a higher gear they'll have the players who can find the net, they seem more pre-occupied with pulling themselves off the floor after being touched softly by the opposing sides they come up against.
At this stage it looks like Villa and Bournemouth are doomed for the drop unless there are a couple of miracle results that fall from heaven.
Credit to Liverpool and in particular Alisson though, they weathered the storm and showed how to win like Champions, getting across the line even when second best. For me, when I watch Liverpool I almost expect a show every single time, which is why this game was so frustrating at times - Villa did very well to limit Liverpool for the most part, though quality always shines through in this league.
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
DEF: T. Alexander-Arnold
DEF: J. Gomez
DEF: V. van Dijk
DEF: A. Robertson (Williamsat 90+4')
MID: A. Oxlade-Chamberlain (Wijnaldum 61')
MID: Fabinho (Henderson 61')
MID: N. Keita (Jones 85')
FOR: M. Salah
FOR: D. Origi (Firmino 60')
FOR: S. Mané
Wijnaldum, Firmino, Adrián, Henderson, Minamino, Shaqiri, Jones, Elliott, Williams
Manager: Dean Smith
GK: P. Reina
DEF: E. Konsa
DEF: K. Hause
DEF: T. Mings
DEF: N. Taylor
MID: J. Grealish
MID: Douglas Luiz
MID: J. McGinn
MID: M. El Ghazi (Jota 74')
MID: Trézéguet (Vassilevat 85')
FOR: K. Davis (Samatta 74')
Lansbury, Nakamba, Hourihane, Samatta, Jota, Guilbert, Nyland, El Mohamady, Vassilev
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