FULL-TIME. LIVERPOOL 3-0 ASTON VILLA. A great display for Liverpool, with goals from Ngog, Babel and Maxi securing a comfortable victory which moves the Reds up to eighth in the table. But it’s another poor result for Villa, who lie in 16th place, just two points above the drop zone. Thanks for joining Goal.com tonight and be sure to stick around for all the post-match reaction.
Downing looks to grab a late consolation goal for Aston Villa as he drifts inside from the right wing onto his left foot. After evading two challenges, the angle becomes tight, but he goes for it anyway and sees his strike fizz wide of the post.
Two minutes of added time to play at Anfield…
Aurelio swings in a free-kick from the right but it is header clear by Dunne. Downing is then set on his way down the right and looks to break forward with pace past Lucas. The Brazilian isn’t having any of it, though, putting in a strong challenge to slide the ball out of play.
Delfouneso lays the ball off to his left 25 yards out from goal to set up a chance for Carew. The big Norwegian takes a touch before having an ambitious pop at goal, but he’s soon closed down and the ball is easily cleared away.
Substitution Sotirios Kyrgiakos Martin Kelly
Another substitution now, as Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who went down a moment ago with cramp, is replaced by youngster Martin Kelly.
“It’s just like watching Brazil!” The Aston Villa fans sing. Good to hear they’ve got a sense of humour despite their side trailing and playing so poorly. Houllier won’t be pleased to have that, though, having failed to stamp his mark on the Villa team so far since his arrival.
Substitution Dirk Kuyt Joe Cole
Another change now for Liverpool, as Kuyt makes way for Cole. It’s not been a great start to life at Anfield for Cole, but here’s a real chance to stake his claim for a place back in the first team.
First change of the night for Liverpool. Aurelio makes an appearance, and he replaces the goalscorer Maxi.
Substitution Maxi Rodríguez Fabio Aurelio
KYRGIAKOS WITH A HEADER! The big Greek gets in between Collins and Dunne to get on the end of a Liverpool corner from the right, and he guides his strong header towards goal. However, Hogg is on the line to clear the danger, but the hosts soon come back with another chance. But Skrtel’s effort isn’t well struck and his pot-shot from 18 yards out flies wide of the post.
And there it is, another sumptuous attacking move from Liverpool. Meireles, Maxi and Ngog are all involved with a number of fancy flicks and inch-perfect passes. Nothing develops from the move, however, but nevertheless, a fine bit of play.
Just moments after Delfouneso wrestles Skrtel to ground in the final third and gives away a cheap free-kick, Liverpool break and regain possession. Glen ‘Carlos Alberto’ Johnson makes another run forward from right-back and is left in plenty of space to get a shot away at goal. However, he doesn’t get this one right, as he blasts his rather rushed effort over the bar.
SAVE FROM FRIEDEL! Johnson goes on a terrific run from right-back and soon finds himself on the edge of the Villa area. He has one more man to jink past, and he does that with ease, before hammering a fierce right-footed effort at goal from inside the box. Friedel is equal to it, though, and palms the ball away, much to the relief of Houllier, who will already be frustrated enough by his side’s display on his return to Anfield.
Early chance for Carew! Downing receives the ball on the right side of the Liverpool area and checks inside so he can whip in a cross with his preferred left foot - and he does just that. Carew steals in and looks set to prod the ball home with his first touch but he can’t connect from six yards out and the ball runs through to Reina in the Liverpool goal.
Substitution Gabriel Agbonlahor John Alieu Carew
Two changes from Gerard Houllier now. Veteran Robert Pires replaces Marc Albrighton and big John Carew comes on in the place of Gabby Agbonlahor.
Substitution Marc Albrighton Robert Pires
Babel makes his first major impact on the second half as he drifts inside from the left onto his right foot. He then looks to skip past one last man before getting in a shot at goal, but it’s on too many, as his extra touch sees the ball run away from him.
Villa have a rare spell of good possession as they build a nice attack down the left wing. However, the final ball is lacking again and Liverpool soon clear. They then have a similar spell of possession - only it’s the same result and Reina deals with the danger.
Hogg is in possession on the right side of the Liverpool area and is desperately short of options. The midfielder manages to find Downing making a run towards the edge of the penalty area but, after latching onto the ball, the former Middlesbrough man can only fire wide of Reina’s right-hand post.
Downing plays the ball into the feet of Delfouneso in the Liverpool half, but the youngster is chopped down by Lucas. Villa look as though they are going to take the free-kick quickly and catch Liverpool out - that doesn’t happen and the move peters out.
Assist David Ngog
Goal Maxi Rodríguez
GOAL!! MAXI BRINGS AN END TO A FANTASTIC LIVERPOOL COUNTER-ATTACK! Reina starts the move and before you know it, Maxi plays in Ngog on the left wing and continues his run into the penalty area. The Argentine then strolls into the box to receive the return pass before expertly steering the ball into the far corner. The Villa defence parted, Liverpool capitalised. Great move, game over.
REINA SAVES! Ireland plays the ball down the left wing looking for the run of Downing. It looks as though Johnson will intercept but the full-back horribly mistimes his clearance and Downing is away and with plenty of options as he approaches the penalty area. The England international then drills a left-footed ball across the face of goal towards Agbonlahor but, just as it seems he is about to turn the ball home, Reina makes himself big and parries the ball away. Good goalkeeping from Reina, who has made some uncharacteristic errors this season.
A change at half-time, and a change of system for Villa. Delfouneso is playing up top alongside Agbonlahor, which means Ireland has dropped deeper in midfield with Hogg, as Albrighton and Downing keep their places on either wing.
Aston Villa launch an early attack as Agbonlahor is set on his way down the right wing. The flying forward escaped the challenge of Skrtel before driving the ball across the face of goal, but there are no Villa players to be seen, as Johnson takes the most composed touch in his own area you will ever see to regain possession for the hosts.
A stat for those pessimists amongst you: The last time Liverpool surrendered a two goal lead at half-time was back in 2002 against Blackburn when, ironically, Houllier was still the manager.
Substitution Ciaran Clark Nathan Delfouneso
Aston Villa kick us off for the second half. One change at the break, with Delfouneso replacing the booked Clark for the visitors.
Greg Stobart at Anfield reports: That's half-time and I'm off for a cuppa. Liverpool in complete control here since two goals in quick succession from David Ngog and Ryan Babel. Boos from the Villa fans at the break for their side, who have been pitiful in the Anfield chills. Odds on Fernando Torres' baby being called Babel?
Just the one minute of added time to be played at Anfield.
Meireles rather fortunately wins the ball in midfield before driving a long pass in towards Babel and Ngog on the edge of the Villa box. Dunne is there, however, and manages to hack the ball clear. It’s not been a night to remember so far for the Villa defence, and Houllier will surely have a few words with them at half-time, with Warnock in particular not at the races.
Babel really is working his socks off at Anfield tonight. The forgotten man may turn his fortunes around with this display, hustling and harrying opponents and looking comfortable on the ball, with an attacking threat too.
Clark picks up a booking. The Irishman goes in high on a challenge with Lucas in midfield and catches the Brazilian’s shin. A poor attempt at winning the ball, and that rules him out of Villa’s clash against West Brom this weekend.
Yellow Card Ciaran Clark
BABEL SHOOTS JUST WIDE! Meireles drives a superb low pass into the feet of Babel on the edge of the Villa area. Collins slips, leaving Luke Young to deal with the Dutchman, but he isn’t tight enough to the Liverpool man, who turns well to fire a right-footed effort wide of the bottom right-hand corner.
Wonderful football by Liverpool. The hosts are looking like a completely different team that lost to Blackpool, Stoke etc earlier in the season. After a fantastic passing move all the way from their own penalty area to Villa’s, Babel eventually gives away possession as his drilled cross into the area is cut out.
Great challenge from Clark. Kuyt capitalises as Warnock again fails to clear just inside his own area and the Dutchman looks to skip past Clark. However, the youngster isn’t fooled by Kuyt’s feint and puts in a solid challenge to clear the ball out of play for a throw-in.
Agbonlahor attempts to use his blistering pace to catch Skrtel out on the edge of the Liverpool area and nip in to have a chance through on goal. But the forward clips the heels of the Liverpool defender and gives away a silly free-kick. The Villa striker is involved again moments later as his flick on looks to set up a chance in the hosts’ box, but Johnson is there to coolly chest the ball back to Reina to deal with the danger.
Albrighton gives away a free-kick on the Liverpool right and is given a talking to by the referee. Kyrgiakos, much like Ngog for his goal, peels away from his marker and is given plenty of space at the far post to have a pop. However, his effort isn’t accurate enough and he heads well over the bar.
Clark combines with Hogg in the centre of midfield for Villa but Meireles is quick to put a challenge in and win back possession - an act which sums up this Liverpool performance so far. The Reds are looking a much better outfit now, they’re more organised and always look a threat going forward.
Agbonlahor tries to turn past Kyrgiakos down the left wing but isn’t strong enough for the Greek, who holds off his challenge before regaining possession for Liverpool. Good defending from the centre-back.
Albrighton looks to get his side back into the game after them shock few minutes, as his cross is deflected wide by Konchesky. Downing’s left-footed corner finds the head of Collins, but the Welshman can only direct his effort over the bar.
Greg Stobart at Anfield reports: This could be Ryan Babel's last chance to save his Liverpool career and that was a gorgeous volley and even more emphatic celebration from the Dutchman. He's got the raw talent – we've seen that in the past – but he's just never been able to show it consistently in a red shirt.
GOAL!! AND NOW IT’S BABEL ON THE SCORESHEET! Lucas receives a pass 40 yards out and plays a clever, deft chip into the path of Babel who races past Warnock. The Dutchman is marginally offside but the referee allows play to continue. He then lets the ball bounce over his shoulder to switch onto his preferred right side before firing a low strike past Friedel and into the bottom right-hand corner from just inside the area. Great finish from Babel, but he was offside.
Assist Lucas Leiva
Goal Ryan Babel
GOAL!! LIVERPOOL LEAD AT ANFIELD! IT’S DAVID NGOG! After poor defending from Warnock gifts Liverpool a corner, Meireles’ driven delivery is headed back into the six-yard box by Skrtel. Ngog then peels away from his marker, Collins, to head home unmarked from close range. Terrible marking from Collins, what was he doing!
Assist Martin Skrtel
Goal David Ngog
After a neat little passing move to keep possession down the Liverpool left, Ngog receives the ball and is abruptly stopped in his tracks by a strong slide tackle from Hogg. Good challenge from the youngster, who has become a regular fixture in the Villa set-up under Houllier.
Remember there’s no Carragher, Gerrard or Torres tonight - the spine of the Liverpool team. It’s a huge loss for Roy Hodgson, but the Reds boss has said he has full confidence in Kyrgiakos, Lucas and Ngog to step up to the plate.
Albrighton nips in just in front of Lucas to win the ball and pick out Agbonlahor on the right wing. The England man is brought down by Skrtel, though, and earns a free-kick. Downing’s resulting free-kick is poor and headed away by Ngog and Liverpool clear easily. It’s been a threatening start from Liverpool, with the Villa defence looking shaky already.
Kuyt receives the ball just inside the Villa half and lofts a nicely weighted chip into the path of the onrushing Babel. However, the forward is offside as Dunne and Collins step up at just the right time and Villa are awarded a free-kick. Good timing at the back from defenders, but an early warning sign that Babel may have some luck with his pace.
KUYT WITH A CHANCE! Ngog wins a free-kick out wide on the right wing for Liverpool. Meireles’ looping delivery causes problems for the Villa defence and Warnock fails to clear. Ngog then manages to win the aerial challenge and nods the ball down to Kuyt 12 yards out, but the off-balance Dutchman can only steer his half-volley wide of Friedel’s left-hand post.
Greg Stobart at Anfield reports: No noticeable reception for Gerard Houllier on his return to Anfield...
Liverpool get us under way at Anfield.
Goal.com UK’s Greg Stobart is at Anfield for us tonight: Not quite a full house here at Anfield, where the freezing weather might have kept a few away tonight. The Aston Villa mascot has just run down the tunnel when he was asked to come to the centre circle for the toss. That comedy moment may warm a few people up.
It’s not all about the team news tonight, though, as Gerard Houllier returns to Anfield for the first time since leaving the club in 2004. The Frenchman’s greatest achievement came back in 2001 when he guided them to the treble, winning the League Cup, FA Cup and Uefa Cup.
Meanwhile Villa, who are again without a number of their key players, including the suspended Ashley Young, begin with a youthful central midfield pairing of Jonathan Hogg and Ciaran Clark, while Gabriel Agbonlahor is fit to lead the line.
The big news from them teams is that Liverpool striker Fernando Torres is not in the matchday squad. The Spaniard is absent after his wife went into labour, so Ryan Babel is given a chance to prove himself alongside David Ngog in attack. Elsewhere for the Reds, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are injured, which means Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Lucas are handed starts.
Aston Villa line-up: Friedel; L Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Albrighton, Hogg, Clark, Downing; Ireland; Agbonlahor. Subs: Guzan, Pires, Carew, Delfouneso, Cuellar, Lichaj, Herd.
Straight to the team news - Liverpool line-up: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Konchesky; Kuyt, Meireles, Lucas, Maxi; Babel, Ngog. Subs: Jones, Kelly, Aurelio, Poulsen, Cole, Jovanovic, Shelvey.
Good evening and welcome to Goal.com’s live coverage of the Premier League clash between Liverpool and Aston Villa. My name is Danny Hart and I will be taking you through tonight’s game.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed