Steven Gerrard’s return to Liverpool was not a happy one. The former Reds captain, who played his role in their Champions League victory last season, lost 3-0 to Southampton on Saturday evening and did not even manage a shot on target. Villa meanwhile held out for a 2-2 draw against Stoke City with the help of an impressive defensive display.,
Steven Gerrard lost on his Liverpool return, but he and Aston Villa emerged with an enhanced reputation.
THE CITY OF LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND — Steven Gerrard kept the Liverpool supporters quiet for the first time in his football career, which was exactly what he wanted. It didn’t matter in the end, as the Aston Villa manager was unable to salvage his side from a 1-0 loss at Anfield against his former club, but the lack of tribute songs would not have gone unnoticed by the former Liverpool captain.
On a day when the Premier League’s top three teams all depended on penalties to secure three points in their championship fight, Mohamed Salah’s 65th minute penalty — granted after he was fouled by defender Tyrone Mings — was all that separated Liverpool and Villa. Prior to that, Villa had resolutely and frustratingly defended Liverpool, demonstrating the same passion and determination that characterized Gerrard’s 17-year career in a red jersey. They also enraged the fans, as well as Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, with some flagrant time-wasting coordinated by goalkeeper Emi Martinez.
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If Villa had been awarded a penalty in the 85th minute after substitute Danny Ings appeared to be tripped by goalkeeper Alisson Becker’s arm, Gerrard might have walked away with a point, boosting Villa’s chances of qualifying for Europe and taking the wind out of Liverpool’s attempt to keep pace with leaders Manchester City.
Despite the fact that the former Rangers manager’s first competitive encounter as an opponent at Anfield ended in loss, the 41-year-status old’s as a rising star in management was enhanced. Even though they came to Anfield to contain rather than seek win, Villa were well-organized and had a defined game plan.
If Liverpool had been allowed to go wild and inflict the type of thrashing on Villa that they have inflicted on Watford, Everton, and Manchester United in recent weeks, it would have been a nightmare for Gerrard. The Kop would have played the songs that used to applaud him as a player, but it would have been embarrassing for Gerrard to hear them when his new club was suffering. Apart from a short chant in the eighth minute — Gerrard wore the number 8 during his time as Liverpool captain — there was nothing else until the game was over.
Villa had made things so tough for Liverpool that the supporters were afraid to tempt destiny by shouting his name at a time when their own side desperately needed their support. However, if Gerrard is to gain anything out of the game the next time he visits Anfield, he may need to be more energetic himself.
Despite the fact that Gerrard and Villa lost 1-0 at Anfield, their strong defence demonstrated that they are already on the right track. Getty Images/Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC
Klopp, who is largely expected to follow German coach Joachim Low when he retires, spent the entirety of the game berating referees and disputing with the fourth official over every decision that went against his side. Even after Ings was fouled by Alisson late in the game, Gerrard remained cool and composed. Maybe next time, Gerrard will take a page from Klopp’s book and yell at the referee, since he thought his side deserved a penalty.
“In the end, a penalty decided the game,” Gerrard stated. “There were two in the game: Liverpool got theirs and we didn’t, and I believe Salah fouled Mings before to Liverpool’s penalty. He has fouled Salah as a result of getting fouled. It’s a foul if Danny Ings puts his arm anywhere near Alisson in the box, therefore why not a foul if Alisson does it to Ings? I don’t have a solution right now, but I’m dissatisfied that the ref didn’t take a second look in both circumstances.”
Although Liverpool dominated, with Villa goalkeeper Martinez needing to make many key stops, Ings, Ashley Young, and Ollie Watkins caused problems for the home side’s defence and pushed Klopp’s team to fight hard for their victory.
Klopp stated, “The opponent defended compactly.” “It seemed to be extremely fantastic; we played in the locations we wanted to play in, but we didn’t complete the scenarios, which is difficult.” We knew we had to keep pushing when we came out in the second half. We continued on our way.
“When we scored on the penalty kick, the relief was clearly excessive, and the game became an unnecessarily open one. As if it were toothache! That is unnecessary.”
You can see how Gerrard has instilled organization and discipline in this Villa club; a dependable striker might be the difference between a mid-table finish and European qualifying. Gerrard has already stabilized the squad after Dean Smith’s dismissal, but if he is to be a front-runner to succeed Klopp when he retires, he will have to consistently convert Villa into winners, which will be a difficult task.
The challenge before of Gerrard is not simple: Smith led Villa to promotion and the Carabao Cup Final, but it wasn’t enough to save him from being fired. Klopp is undoubtedly a good place to start after returning from a trip to Anfield with his image improved because he made things tough for Liverpool.
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