Aston Villa looked better against Premier League Champions Liverpool, but still didn’t do enough to come away with points.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa returned to Premier League football today, with Pepe Reina returning between the sticks against his former club Liverpool.
The first fifteen minutes was an entertaining affair, with both sides edging forward in attack – but neither managing to get a concrete chance from their attempts. Anwar El Ghazi looked lively down the right and was causing Andrew Robertson a problem or two early on.
Robertson was booked in the 20th minute after some skilful passing between El Ghazi and Douglas Luiz saw the Brazilian looking to break, but the Scotland international left a trailing leg which saw Luiz hit the floor.
The first major shot on target came in the 32nd minute as the ball fell to Douglas Luiz just inside the Liverpool box, wit the Brazilian striking it directly at Alisson on the half-volley.
John McGinn was booked for a late challenge on Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain in the 35th minute.
Half-time seemed to take an age to come, but at the 45-minute mark, Aston Villa found themselves level with the Premier League Champions after a resolute defensive display which saw Liverpool struggle to make any real chances.
Both sides returned in the second half with no changes.
Aston Villa had another strong chance in the 50th minute as Trezeguet found Jack Grealish in space, who turned and fired with his left foot and forced Alisson into a strong, rooted save with his right hand. The whistle blew for offside once the ‘keeper had made the save.
A minute later and there was another chance as Aston Villa broke on the counter attack with Jack Grealish, who played El Ghazi through, forcing Alisson to palm his shot wide for a corner.
The hour mark saw Liverpool make a triple substitution, bringing Roberto Firmino, Georginio Wijnaldum and captain Jordan Henderson off the bench for Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Divock Origi and Fabinho.
On the 71st minute, Sadio Mane broke the deadlock as Keita found himself with a wealth of space on the edge of the box, who cut it into a central position for Mane to smash onto the bar and into the back of the net.
As the game edged into its final fifteen minutes, Anwar El Ghazi – who was having his strongest game since the resumption of the league, was replaced by Jota Peleteiro, and Keinan Davis was replaced by Mbwana Ally Samatta.
The final ten minutes saw two youngsters enter the field of play, as Naby Keita was replaced by Curtis Jones and Trezeguet was replaced by Indiana Vassilev.
The Liverpool sub made an impact. In the 88th minute the ball fell to him in the box during a Liverpool attack, with the midfielder poking into the bottom left past Pepe Reina.
Much better from Aston Villa – but still not enough to come away with points.