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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 March 2007, 15:33 GMT
Aston Villa 0-0 Liverpool
By John May

Wilfred Bouma and Dirk Kuyt are locked together
Like their teams, there was no separating Bouma and Kuyt
Aston Villa and Liverpool fought out a dull deadlock in a defence-dominated encounter at Villa Park.

Villa, though, were left feeling sore at referee Lee Mason's refusal to give a penalty when Stilian Petrov had his heel clipped in the box.

In a game of few chances, Liverpool substitute Robbie Fowler saw a header saved by Thomas Sorensen late on.

Ahead of England's Euro 2008 qualifiers, Liverpool's Steven Gerrard limped out of the action.

On a ground where they have not been beaten since February 1998, Dirk Kuyt missed a chance to get Liverpool off to a flier.

John Arne Riise's cross found him unmarked, only eight yards out in the centre of goal, but the Dutch striker got his timing completely wrong and looped his header woefully wide.

As Villa's back line squeezed up to compress the space and constrict the life out of Liverpool's passing game, the visitors decided to go over the top and use Craig Bellamy's pace.

Daniel Agger's lump forward was a legitimate tactic as Bellamy outpaced Phil Bardsley but Sorensen was alert to the danger and his starting position enabled him to sprint out and take the ball off the Welsh striker's toes.

Jamie Carragher and Gareth Barry
Jamie Carragher and Gareth Barry decide the hokey-cokey is more fun

Liverpool had plenty of possession but Villa's two well-organised lines meant the visitors were forced to shuffle crab-like sideways and the game meandered along, crying for somebody to grab it by the scruff of the neck.

Despite having the turning-circle of a Norwegian supertanker, John Carew was a good focal point for Villa and his touch-on of Ashley Young's cross just eluded Gabriel Agbonlahor's lunge at the far post.

Villa had a very legitimate shout for a penalty on the stroke of half-time when Steve Finnan's poor control allowed the ball to run to Petrov.

In attempting to atone for his error, Finnan caught the Bulgarian across the right shin, while Jamie Carragher appeared to clip his left heel but referee Mason amazingly waved away the appeals.

That Liverpool did not utilise Bellamy's pace enough in the first half was evident at the start of the second when he left Olof Mellberg choking on his exhaust fumes to deliver a cross that Wilfred Bouma won as Gerrard closed in.

606: DEBATE

Mellberg provided Villa's first effort on target on the hour, although his weak header did not even warm Jose Reina's hands, while at the other end Gerrard cut inside but fired powerfully into the side netting.

Javier Mascherano had flitted decoratively in and out of the game but his surging run set up Gerrard, whose shot almost deflected into the path of Fabiano Aurelio.

Villa's Patrik Berger, on as a substitute, had a glimpse of goal against his former club when a corner was cleared to him but his half-volley sailed over the bar.

Liverpool substitute Fowler almost snatched the winner at the end with a typical poacher's near-post header but was denied by Sorensen's sharp save.


  • Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill:
    "It was more of a chess game, I've seen the incident it, it looked a penalty, but the ref hasn't given it so we move on.

    "We can play much better than that and the responsibility is on us at home to do just that.

    "There might have been a bit of anxiety left over from the Arsenal game in midweek where we played well and got nothing."

  • Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:
    "It wasn't a good game and the only positive thing is that we have one more point towards a top-four place.

    "We had plenty of possession but we couldn't move the ball about in the final third of the pitch.

    "Robbie Fowler almost snatched it but you have to create more chances if you want to win that type of game."


    Aston Villa: Sorensen, Bardsley, Mellberg, Cahill, Bouma, Petrov, McCann, Barry, Agbonlahor, Carew, Young (Berger 76).
    Subs Not Used: Taylor, Angel, Hughes, Maloney.

    Booked: Petrov, Carew.

    Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Gerrard (Fowler 83), Mascherano, Sissoko (Alonso 59), Riise, Bellamy (Pennant 72), Kuyt.
    Subs Not Used: Dudek, Hyypia.

    Booked: Mascherano, Bellamy, Pennant.

    Att: 42,551

    Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).

    SEE ALSO
    Sunday's football photos
    18 Mar 07 |  Football
    Premiership clockwatch
    18 Mar 07 |  Premiership


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