Wednesday, 30 December 2009

LIVERPOOL FC: Plenty to admire in the win at Villa

IT'S funny how people can watch the same 90 minutes of football - make that 93 - and come out the other side with completely opposing views.

Having had a quick trawl of various newspaper and LFC sites since returning from the office tonight, there's plenty of negativity out there. Considering the last-gasp win at Villa gave Liverpool their first back-to-back wins since September, perhaps that is understandable to a point.

But for me there was plenty to admire in the result at Villa. This was a team supposedly primed to jump into our shoes and a team that had already won at Anfield earlier in the season.

So to see the Reds dominate so much of the game away from home was highly encouraging. OK, the final ball was lacking but the fight was back - the players were playing with passion and commitment again. They looked like they wanted it and it was a million miles from the woeful display at Fratton Park.

There's still room for improvement of course and that's to be expected. The players have admitted confidence has been shot to bits by results this season. Add in players still looking for form and fitness and the bedding in of Alberto Aquilani, and it's clear to see that the team hitting top gear is more likely to be a gradual process rather than a sudden one.

What's key is the signs of improvement, the green shoots of recovery. And they are undoubtedly there. Villa did threaten and had their chances on the night, especially from set pieces, which is to be expected from a Martin O'Neill side.

But in open play chances were limited by a resolute defence and when Villa did get through Pepe Reina was outstanding in goal.

Lucas had ANOTHER good game in midfield and seemed to shine with Javier Mascherano out of the side, no great surprise as they are not a million miles apart in style of play. And Aquilani, while not pulling up any trees, was neat and tidy and showed promise. There's more to come from him.

Last but not least, Fernando Torres. It was, on the whole, a frustrating night for the striker. Starved of service, he even popped up on the wing at one point in an attempt to make things happen. And while there was a hint of fortune about how he received the ball  for the goal - deserved maybe after the turned down penalty appeal for Richard Dunne's foul on Dirk Kuyt - there was no luck involved in the finish which was first class.

That, as you are probably aware, made him the fastest player in Anfield history to 50 league goals. It was also a finish which shows why he is the best in the world and has the edge over Chelsea's Didier Drogba.

While Drogba has the power and strength to trouble any defence, I think his finishing under pressure is suspect. Think back to Chelsea's Champions League semi final last season against Barcelona. While everyone remembers the string of decisions that went against Chelsea in the second leg, it's often forgotten how Drogba missed two or three clear cut chances in the first leg.

In the same situation you'd back Torres to score every time. Here's to his next 50.