Aston Villa 1 – 2 Liverpool
A proper scrap, I think is what they call this kind of game. A soccer-style pinball match at its finest.
The Villans did everything they could to be the villains and extinguish Liverpool’s remaining hopes for the title, no matter how slim. They almost succeeded in the endeavor, and it took an extremely scrappy Sadio Mane to convert a lucky-or-brilliant – only he will know – cross from Luis Diaz to make the difference. It was a gorgeous header, too, under the circumstances. Mane is the kind of player that thrives in this kind of game, and it was a fitting ending.
What Stevie G is doing with Villa is remarkable, and bodes well for them in the future (and who knows, perhaps for Liverpool after Klopp can no longer be convinced to extend his stay). Their game plan was excellent and almost paid off. It was an unfortunate early exit by Fabinho due to a potential hamstring injury that brought on Gerard’s successor, and this victory had Hendo’s spirit all over it. I therefore must imagine his influence was felt by his teammates even if I couldn’t see much of it on the TV.
Pinball Machine Quality
In the end, though, what made this game stand out was its pinball machine quality. The first two goals were just as chaotic as multiball, with obstacles (in the form of players) all over the place and the ball bouncing around wildly until it goes out. Or in this case, goes in. They both occurred within a few minutes of the starting whistle, and the rest of the match just continued down that path. There were plenty of nerves (oh, Alisson), clever – often desperate – touches galore, crazy individual skills on constant display, and nary a moment of respite. Unsurprisingly, the players on both sides looked utterly exhausted by the time the spectacle ended.
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Well, perhaps all of them except one, and he is also my man-of-the-match. Virgil Van Dijk truly stood out as the one calm port in the storm, never phased by proceedings, and I couldn’t even count the number of times he intervened to stop a key play from turning into a dangerous shot on goal, especially by Danny Ings. Not to mention the assist for the goal by his center-back partner Matip – who turned in an excellent performance as well.
Can Liverpool still do it? Certainly, but somebody else would need to spoil City’s party. In the meantime, it’s nice to spend one more day top of the league. And, uhh…