A win is a win no matter how it’s accomplished, but the 2-1 victory over PFC Ludogrets yesterday certainly echoed the age old adage that there’s no easy matches. Not even one.
I’m getting tired of saying that and you’re probably getting tired of hearing it — unfortunately, it’s the truth. While more than one pundit decided that the Bulgarian side would be easy pickings for their more prestigious bedfellows in Group B, what we saw yesterday at Anfield was an organized, disciplined side that weren’t about to be told who was going to do what to them when. We learned that quite quickly, didn’t we?
It’s Aston Villa, isn’t it? Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers did his absolute best to banish the myth of the “bogey team” last year by downing pretty much each and every one of the sides that the Reds have traditionally struggled with, but the Villains have continued their amazing run of form at Anfield to keep their unbeaten start to the season going.
Full credit to Villa boss Paul Lambert — his side came with a plan and they executed it to near perfection. Contain, stifle and counter-attack was the name of the game and when Liverpool leaked an early one, there was no need to deviate from it. Kopites everywhere don’t even have to watch Gabriel Agbonlahor’s early goal to understand that it was born not so much out of the visitors ingenuity and work rate as it was out of the Reds terrible record on the backfoot. It killed us last year and it’s starting to do it again.
It was a combination of Tottenham Hotspur being that bad and Liverpool being that good that saw the Reds follow up their 5-0 victory at White Hart Lane last season with yet another commanding performance in the Big Smoke.
Raheem Sterling got things started early on when he finished an excellent Jordan Henderson square ball across the face of goal before a second half penalty from Steven Gerrard doubled up on the youngster’s opener. There were doubts that new boy Alberto Moreno would be fit after twisting his ankle in the 3-0 loss to Manchester City on Monday, but he showed no signs of the knock when he sprinted from well within his own half on the counter-attack to curl one past Hugo Lloris.
Although neither side quite hit the beautiful heights over the 90-minutes that we witness from these two last season, Manchester City showed why their being pipped to retain their title with a comprehensive victory over Liverpool as new signing Mario Balotelli watched from the stands.
Brendan Rodgers side took the game to the defending champions, but it a familiar defensive slip saw the hosts take the lead through Stevan Jovetic just before the break. The Montenegrin striker was on hand to finish a flowing move before Sergio Aguero put the icing on the cake, finishing past Reds ‘keeper Simon Mignolet immediately after entering the fray. Rickie Lambert forced Pablo Zabaletta into an own-goal after heading an inch perfect Daniel Sturridge cross on net, but it was little consolation as they slipped to their first defeat the season.
Fifty years ago today the great Bob Paisley started his Liverpool reign with a 2-1 win over Luton Town before going on to win all manners of things with the Reds.
While it’s not quite the same at all, Brendan Rodgers got his third season in the Anfield hot-seat under way earlier in the day with an scrappy, if not unconvincing, win over visiting Southampton by the exact same scoreline. It’s far too early to draw any parallels there, but there’ little doubt that the three time European Cup winning manager would have shown too much concern with the outcome. Three points is three points, now isn’t it?