Torres Was The Catalyst
Liverpool battled through the snow last night at Villa Park to clinch a 1-0 victory in the dying minutes of injury time. The fight was back, the determination and most importantly the superb finishing of Fernando Torres.
In a game that was destined to finish level after numerous amounts of wasted chances and lack of ability to keep possession in the slippy conditions from both sides it was quite a shocking end to the game.
Some people have argued that in many senses Aston Villa were the one's if anyone who deserved the three points, but is this fair to say?
In most ways yes, Villa did often look more of a threat and you could also argue they had the majority of the possession but crucially they could not find the end product.
With chances from Downing, Carew and several from Agbonlahor it was a spectacular Pepe Reina who managed to keep us in the game. Downing and Carew arguably missed their chances to put the home side in front after Downing opted to shoot straight at the keeper and Carew did not provide enough from a pin point cross. His header was poor, like the Agger chance a few matches back you simply must score.
Perhaps the most poignant moment within the first half for Liverpool was when Steven Gerrard saw an opportunity to lob Brad Friedel, after executing the chance perfectly it was a back tracking Friedel who made a superb save to deny the skipper.
Another moment to note was a penalty shout for Liverpool after Richard Dunne appeared to get much more of the man than he did the ball when Dirk Kuyt went down in the box. Thankfully this wasn't one of those bad decisions we would end up having to look back on.
Dunne moments later picked up a yellow card for another bad challenge, perhaps a moment of realisation from the referee? Lucas was also booked after what to be fair did not even appear to be a challenge although he had made some late tackles earlier on in the half.
With Lucas now providing the Mascherano aspect to our fixture it was Aquilani who was relied on more so for the passing and forward play. Possibly not as influential as he was against Wolves on Boxing Day but he again showed promise. The majority of his passes reached their targets and he again was excellent in making sure he was in space for that pass back or chance to threaten the Villa area. He also opted to have a pop at a free kick which in all fairness was not half bad, i've seen Aurelio and Gerrard on many occasions be unfortunate in a similar way but of course because it was Alberto everyone was quick to jump at the fact that it did not end up in the goal. I'm sure they didn't say that the first time Ronaldo took a free kick eh? Good 75 minutes from Aquilani in my eyes.
The second half reflected much of what the first did only now it appeared both teams were beginning to tire.
Pepe Reina during the second half at one stage caused havoc when he received the ball and stopped play after experiencing a problem with one of his boots. Refusing to continue at the reason of safety he awaited just the one new boot and then with no sense of urgency tied his laces, made sure he was all set and ready to go then took the goal kick. Quality.
"All the Villa fans they hate Pepe Reina, all the Wolves fans they hate Pepe Reina, Everton fans they hate Pepe Reina - HEYYYYYYYYY PEPE REINA!"
After a very scrappy ending to the 90 minutes it was Villa who were looking to spoil the party. After what we had already seen and the performances from both teams i think it would be realistic to say that we would have taken the clean sheet and the point.
Just as you thought it was the time for acceptance though a somewhat lucky deflection from the Villa defence finds itself in the path of Fernando Torres. Bearing in mind throughout the game he had been rather frustrated with his own performance and i think it would be fair to say quiet what happened next would be surprising to anyone who does not know of El Nino.
However my reaction as i'm sure 90% of every other Liverpool fans reaction at the moment he received the ball was that this was going in the back of the net. The one man you want a ball like that to fall to and it did. With superb composure and an excellent finish the ace of Spain had sealed Liverpool a massive victory and an even bigger 3 points.
Not only this but he now has the title of the fastest player to reach 50 league goals for Liverpool in the history of the football club, faster than Hunt, faster than Rushy and faster than Fowler. If that start to your club career does not provide the basis on which you can become a Kop hero, nothing ever will. They boy quite simply is gold.
And this is what made the difference between the two teams, and what makes Fernando Torres a world class player. When the likes of Carew and Agbonlahor could not rise to the occasion, Torres did.
Although the match as a whole again was probably not a performance that reflects the Liverpool we know, it was clear that the fight and utter determination was back. The never say die attitude and the realisation that you should always play until the last minute was enforced, and that will go a long long way as the second half of this difficult season continues.
With Tottenham next up at home what a fantastic opportunity Liverpool have to again show their 4th spot rivals how the real boys do it. A win here would do wonders and on some of the key aspects from last nights performance i think it is fair to say that Spurs will need to be weary of a slightly refreshed Liverpool.