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May 22, 2011
• Villa Park, Birmingham
Referee: L. Probert
• Attendance: 42785
Time is called on an incredible season and in truth the game didn't so either team much justice. The last 20 minutes provided some entertainment but for the most part it was a poor game in which both teams looked content to finish the season. Downing's goal was a strike of real quality, something the game was bereft of for the most part. A summer of signing looks to be the order of the day for both teams as they look to kick on from their seasons.
Ashley Young comes off and applauds every corner of the ground. Is he waving the club goodbye?
Liverpool look dead on their feet here as Villa continue to push for another goal. The Reds clinging onto 1-0 now.
Lovely play from Petrov who has a neat one-two with Agbonlahor on the edge of the area and the Villa skipper strikes the ball at goal and Reina gets down to parry it before Flanagan clears the danger.
Both teams continue to press but the tempo has dropped somewhat. Liverpool trying to chase the game but have little to offer with 10 minutes to go.
So close to 2-0. Downing plays a wonderfully disguised reverse pass for Bent who plays the ball across goal but Agbonlahor is inches away from getting his boot on the ball to put it into the empty net. Excellent end to this game.
Excellent move again as Flanagan drives into the Villa before finding N'Gog. The Frenchman spreads the ball towards Meireles on the right and his first time cross finds Suarez on the edge of the area but his volley is difficult to control and it goes over the bar.
The game has really stretched in the last 10 minutes and it has become a much more interesting spectacle. Both teams pouring forward at every opportunity.
N'Gog has been thrown on now as Dalglish attempts to chase the game. Should be an interesting last 20 minutes here at Villa Park.
Fine move from Liverpool which ends with a brilliant block from Reo-Coker. Flanagan's pass is flicked first time into the path of Meireles by Shelvey. The midfielder then dummied Young and should have got a shot away but instead he tries to pull the ball back which gives Reo-Coker the chance to block which he takes with both hands.
Yellow Card Joe Cole
That was close. Young puts in an absolute peach of a free kick which evades Bent attacking the ball but it lands at Collins' feet however the Welsh international stabbed at the chance and it went just wide. The game has come to life in the last few minutes.
What a save that is from Friedel! Suarez is played through on the left hand side and dummies everyone to play the ball across to Meireles who has an empty net to shoot into. However Friedel came out of nowhere to parry the ball away. Also looked as though Dunne got a slice of the ball with his hand but nothing given.
The home fans continue to sing and it still has nothing to do with the game. There has been a few glimpses of Downing and Young trying to lift the tempo but that apart the game is redundant at the moment.
Yellow Card Kyle Walker
That would have been some goal. The ball was played forward towards Cole who brought the ball down wonderfully and turned to shoot on the volley but his volley is closer to the top tier than the goal. Better build up play though.
Plenty of cheering and celebration from the Villa because there has been a goal. Disappointingly it isn't in this game. The home fans are celebrating the misfortune of Birmingham who have gone behind against Tottenham. A result that would ensure Birmingham's relegation and Spurs' Europa League qualification.
The game has picked up just where it left off for half time. Not much happening and Liverpool are the team that need to show some ambition in this half.
The second half gets back underway. No changes to report.
The whistle brings to an end a half low on quality which Villa have just edged. The game certainly has an end of season feel to it as both teams have struggled for fluency throughout and Liverpool must improve dramatically to force a win.
The game has lost the tempo that Villa imposed on the game after the opening game and once it returns to the very stop-start game that it was before. A pin dropping could be heard in the stadium right now.
Yellow Card Raúl Meireles
There have been some very daft tackles so far in the game today. Meireles the latest to swing a leg at Young after the full back had passed him. Certain amount of frustration coming from Liverpool.
If Liverpool aren't careful they could concede another here before half time. Downing and Young looking to control the tempo of the game now and Villa are playing some excellent passing football.
Liverpool must now come and chase the game to try and qualify for Europe next season. Villa have upped the tempo since the goal and in truth the forced introduction of Albrighton has really helped with that.
Assist Marc Albrighton
Goal Stewart Downing
GOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL!!!! That is exactly what the game needed. Albrighton puts a hopeful cross into the box which evades everyone before finding Downing on his own at the back post. He chests it down and smashed the ball into the net via the crossbar. Super finish from 7 yards out.
Even the fans have stopped singing now. There is a very muted atmosphere at Villa Park, almost a training ground exercise right now.
Joe Cole has looked a shadow of his former self this season and he is yet to really get on the ball this afternoon. He has plenty of endeavour but not a lot of quality right now.
There seems to be a lack of intensity out there right now. Both teams trying to go forward but not with any urgency. Delph is going to have to come off now. Mysterious injury as he went down with no one around him. Albrighton to come on instead.
Darren Bent cutting something of a frustrated figure right now as he looks increasingly isolated leading the line. Liverpool still playing with 10 men while Carragher receives treatment.
The game has got into a nice rhythm now as both teams trying to go forward. The quality in the final third appears to be missing at the moment though. Meanwhile Carragher has had to go off briefly to get stitches in his face.
Mighty good block that from Friedel. Wonderful ball forward from Kuyt towards Suarez and the bounce is a little awkward for the striker which gives Friedel the opportunity to come and block. Did very well to get off his line quickly. No wonder Spurs are supposedly interested in the 40 year old keeper.
The game just beginning to warm up a bit as Liverpool find their stride. Shelvey has looked lively after coming on. Very positive move to bring the youngster on for Spearing.
Liverpool now coming into the game a bit more. Aurelio plays a superb ball forward for Meireles who wins a corner for his team. From the resultant corner Lucas pounces on a rebound and his shot is cleared off the line from Ashley Young on the post. Much more like it.
Spearing has stayed down after that challenge and he looks devastated. He just can't continue. On a brighter note, Villa show the first signs of either team settling into the game with some nice passing between Downing and Young but eventually it comes to nothing. The game yet to get out neutral.
That is not a nice challenge from Reo-Coker. He stretches for the ball and isn't anywhere near the ball but instead catches Spearing on the ankle. Lee Probert books him but had the game not been in its infancy then it could well have been a red card.
Yellow Card Nigel Reo-Coker
Not a fluent start to this game at all as neither side can string too many passes together. Something a 'last game of the season' feel to this right now as neither team is imposing itself on proceedings.
Not much in the way of action at the moment. Very little in fact and the noise that the crowd is making is much more interesting right now. Both teams just feeling each other out.
We are underway and the home fans are in fine voice it must be said.
The Reds' recent resurgence came to an abrupt end last Sunday as muted display gave Tottenham the edge in the fight for the last place in the Europa League next season. Joe Cole comes in to start for the first time since mid-March. He is joined in the team by Fabio Aurelio and Meireles who have replaced Glen Johnson, Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll.
Villa come into the game on the back of a mightily impressive win against Arsenal last Sunday and assistant manager Gary McAllister has stuck with the same XI that played so well in the first 45 minutes at the Emirates stadium. James Collins was effusive in his praise of striker Darren Bent this week and once again the England striker will lead the line for his team.
Liverpool line up: Reina Aurelio Carragher Skrtel Flanagan Meireles Cole Lucas Spearing Suarez Kuyt Subs: Gulacsi, Wilson, Wisdom, Robinson, Poulsen, Shelvey, Ngog
Aston Villa line up: Friedel L Young Dunne Collins Walker Downing Young Delph Petrov Reo-Coker Bent Subs: Marshall, Clark, Pires, Albrighton, Bradley, Agbonlahor, Heskey
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's live commentary of Liverpool's visit to Aston Villa. The Reds know that they must win today to have a chance of overtaking Spurs and gaining the last remaining Europa League spot. Villa on the other hand will be hoping to finish their season in style in front of their fans who have had to deal with poor campaign.
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