For the third straight season, Aston Villa stunned Liverpool at Anfield, this time earning a 1-0 victory after racing out to an early lead and defending it valiantly for the remainder of the match. Liverpool suffered from a string of mishaps - most notably during Villa set pieces - and failed to turn around the match despite owning possession throughout.
Liverpool played attractive passing football, but as is so often the case in the Premier League it wasn't enough to achieve a result. There wasn't much incision from the Reds, and even as the clock ticked late into the second half, the flow of play appeared aimless.
The decision to play with two deep midfielders dulled Liverpool's forward thrust while simultaneously leaving them vulnerable to counterattacks. It's been discussed here before, but putting Gerrard next to anyone in a two man defensive midfield at this point is a mistake, even when his partner is Henderson. To Hendo's credit, he worked his ass off and did his best to keep Villa from running freely at the defense, but without much help beside him it was an ultimately hopeless task and it was clear from the outset that the visitors would be able to break through the Liverpool midfield whenever possession was turned over in the middle of the pitch.
However, Villa's lone goal of the match came from a ball stoppage. Mamadou Sakho awkwardly turned the ball out of play for a corner when he should have done better, and the resultant corner was the kind of crazed ping pong ball set piece fuckery that we've grown all too accustomed to, with Gabby Agbonlahor eventually poking the ball into the net.
Liverpool never really bounced back and it was the visitors who almost made it 2-0 when Philippe Senderos somehow failed to score with a wide open header from, you guessed it, a free kick. Not long after, Senderos kicked out at Mario Balotelli off the ball, tripping the Italian and visibly shaking him off his game. Balotelli struggled to make an impact today, although he didn't have much service to work with. And we should give him some credit for not snapping Senderos in half for the aforementioned tripping incident.
Even amid a disappointing result, it was impossible not to notice the potential for greatness in Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno, as both players were excellent again. On the other hand, Coutinho was the most disappointing player for Liverpool, taking a plethora of ill advised shots from outside the box and failing to finish the best chance of the game when he struck the inside of the post in the 82nd minute.
Liverpool didn't do enough to win today, and so now all we can do is move on to the next match - a Champions League fixture. Things could be much, much worse but it still stings all the same.