|image via express.co.uk|
The Reds looked lacklustre from the off and were struggling to make any promising moves as Villa zipped the ball around the pitch with ease. Liverpool who perhaps took their opposition for granted took ages on the ball and failed to penetrate the Villa defence with any real threat until scoring at the 30 minute mark.
It was a goal the Reds desperately needed as things began to look more and more difficult for Brendan Rodgers’ side in a game that really they should have had under control. The goal saw a link between Sterling and Coutinho, the latter netting from inside the box after a deflection from the Villa defence. It was elation for Liverpool as they had finally sprung into action.
As predicted though, it wasn’t long before that man Benteke was creating problems. The striker who is no stranger to netting against Liverpool managed to put his team level after just six minutes. A right footed shot from the centre of the box meant Villa were right back in the game and the equaliser would be a huge blow for an already faltering Liverpool side.
It was particularly frustrating for me at this point because I cannot stand playing without a striker. We have scraped through many games this season via a bit of Sterling luck or some Coutinho magic and I’m afraid it just doesn’t cut the mustard, especially not in a big game like this. Liverpool looked lost, lacking in options and had completely lost the battle in midfield in my opinion. Something needed to change and quickly.
At the start of the second half Rodgers brought on Balotelli, it was 45 minutes too late in my opinion but then I would say that. However, to be honest I was quite surprised he’d brought him on so early. Balo perhaps didn’t have the most amazing performance but he instantly began to draw fouls, hold up the ball, win corners etc, it’s all positive for me and something that we were lacking in the first half.
At 53 minutes Villa found their second goal. After continuing their second half much in the same manner as the first, their constant pressure resulted in another top goal. A move involving Benteke, Grealish and Delph left Liverpool in bits as Delph netted with a right footed shot. It was a lovely goal for Villa and they fully deserved to be in the lead.
Liverpool had barely troubled Shay Given and despite there being 30mins left of the game it felt like a massive hill to climb in order to find an equaliser.
Then came the 77th minute wonder sub… That’s right Glen Johnson. Glen bloody Johnson.
Who the hell puts on a defender when you’re 2-1 down in an FA Cup semi-final?! I just don’t get it. This seriously pissed me off. I don’t care how shite you think Borini or Lambert are, at least with one of these on the lone Balotelli would of received some support. Glen did nothing, he added nothing. There are some fans saying he was brought on to push Can forward, yeah… so what? How does pushing a now moulded defender forward help you when you’re losing a cup final? It’s just daft in my opinion, absolutely daft. I’ve spent most of this season disagreeing with starting line ups and substitutions because I just don’t like his tactics but this one took the biscuit. It’s been horrible for me this season team selection wise as I’m never usually this negative but I just don’t agree with the set up half the time.
People argue the set up has won us games and yes it has but often through luck or one piece of brilliance in my opinion, not because the system is solid and works.
Anyway, the only glimmers of hope in the second half for Liverpool involved Mario Balotelli and Steven Gerrard. A Gerrard header that seemed to occur in slow motion as the thought of hero headlines loomed was blocked by Richardson on the line. This is exactly why you have a man on the post as without him, that was in.
Finally, Balotelli had the ball in the back of the net however he was called offside except he wasn’t offside was he, he was miles on. I’m convinced this decision was made on the basis that he had been offside on several occasions in the game, it was a poor call in my opinion. Whilst it is fair to say the Villa defence had stopped after the decision, you can never know what would of happened had the correct decision been made. I was obviously gutted here.
And that was pretty much that. Brendan Rodgers brought on Lambert with five minutes to go but what was the soddin’ point? Lambert may not be a brilliant player but he’s far from incapable of putting in a shift against Villa. It’s Aston Villa for god’s sake (no offence Villa), Lambert offers experience and much need support to a lone striker, himself or Borini should have been risked earlier in the game for me, it was just pathetic bringing him on with five minutes left, like a last minute “oh shite I better do something” call.
All in all I’m pretty pissed off as you can probably tell. That should be a game that Liverpool are winning especially when essentially there is nothing else to play for. I personally think Rodgers needs to take that result on the chin. It will be interesting to hear his comments in the coming days.
Next up for Liverpool is West Brom away.