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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 December, 2004, 16:56 GMT
Aston Villa 1-1 Liverpool
Liverpool's Harry Kewell heads past Aston Villa's Thomas Sorensen
Separated by just a point before Saturday's start, Aston Villa and Liverpool emerged with honours even.

The game's goals came from set pieces, with Liverpool scoring first when Harry Kewell nodded in after Jamie Carragher headed back a Steven Gerrard free-kick.

Nolberto Solano's equaliser was a more spectacular affair, the Peruvian winger hitting a shot up and over the Liverpool wall and past Chris Kirkland.

After the break, Gerrard went close for Liverpool as did Solano for Villa.

Both those chances came from set-pieces, Thomas Sorensen rushing across his line to save Gerrard's effort, while Kirkland had to tip over the bar another dipping Solano free-kick.

Shorn of their most experienced strikers, Liverpool looked to their five-man midfield to assert control, much as they had done against Arsenal last weekend.

The plan worked for long periods, with Gerrard superb in a more advanced role.

Liverpool ultimately lacked a final cutting edge, even more so when manager Rafael Benitez withdrew his only striker, Neil Mellor, no doubt with Wednesday's crucial Champions League against Olympiakos in mind.

Villa also lacked potency in attack, though that had more to do with Liverpool's midfield domination.

Even before Kewell's goal Liverpool had troubled the Villa defence with Mellor causing problems first down both wings, while Joh Arne Riise also tested Sorensen with a dipping shot.

Given that domination Liverpool's opening goal came as no surprise, though the scorer certainly was, as before Saturday Kewell had failed to score this season.

Olof Mellberg fouled Dietmar Hamann to give away the free-kick, allowing Gerrard's to find Carragher at the far post.

The Liverpool defender sent the ball back across goal and Kewell had the simple task of heading in.

Soon after Sorensen had to fling himself to his left to tip away a Mellor shot after the Liverpool striker had been picked out by Gerrard.

It was next the turn of Gerrard to drift into space, this time behind Ulises De la Cruz, but after collecting Xabi Alonso's pass the England international lofted his shot over the bar.

Just before the break Alonso's vision again picked out Gerrard, who cut inside De la Cruz before hitting a shot that Sorensen pushed away.

Up to that point Villa had been completely devoid as an attacking force, so much so that on 35 minutes Carlton Cole was replaced by Luke Moore.

But after referee Mark Halsey ruled Carragher had fouled Gavin McCann, Solano curled a dipping shot into the roof of the net.


Aston Villa: Sorensen, De la Cruz, Mellberg, Delaney, Samuel, Solano, McCann (Berson 69), Davis, Barry, Angel, Cole (Luke Moore 35). Subs not used: Postma, Whittingham, Ridgewell.

Booked: Mellberg.

Goals: Solano 44.

Liverpool: Kirkland, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Nunez (Josemi 45), Gerrard (Sinama Pongolle 82), Hamann, Alonso, Kewell, Mellor (Traore 62). Subs not used: Dudek, Diao.

Goals: Kewell 16.

Att: 42,593

Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).


WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez


Interview: Aston Villa boss David O'Leary




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