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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 21:52 GMT
Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa
By Jonathan Stevenson

Peter Crouch celebrates his late equaliser for Liverpool
Peter Crouch celebrates his late equaliser for Liverpool
Peter Crouch earned Liverpool a draw against Aston Villa as the Reds failed to move back into the top four.

Reds fans held up banners throughout to show support for boss Rafa Benitez and criticise their American owners, though there was no mass protest as suggested.

They took the lead when Yossi Benayoun stabbed in at the second attempt, but Marlon Harewood's overhead kick and a Fabio Aurelio own goal put Villa ahead.

Substitute Crouch volleyed home with two minutes left to earn a point.

But the draw is another blow to the Anfield club's already slender title hopes and leaves them 14 points behind Manchester United and Arsenal - and two behind Everton, who are fourth.


Liverpool's future has been the subject of much speculation in recent days and some Reds fans were keen to vent their fury at the club's US owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Hicks' admission last week that the club spoke to Jurgen Klinsmann about the managerial position in November has enraged many supporters of Benitez.

There were plenty of banners backing the under-fire Spaniard and also asking for the Americans to sell the club to Dubai International Capital, which BBC Sport understands is considering making an offer to buy them out.

Liverpool and Benitez badly needed a win and after a scrappy opening they went ahead, the goal brilliantly created by Kuyt, who has come in for some criticism for his displays this season.

Liverpool fans protest against the club's American owners
Liverpool fans protest against the club's American owners

The Dutchman received a Steven Gerrard pass with his back to goal 18 yards out, turned and played the ball through to Benayoun in one movement and, after the Israeli's initial shot was blocked, he reacted quickest to turn in the rebound.

Villa's attacking threat was being curbed by their own failure to stay onside and they were nearly punished at the other end again when Kuyt neatly laid the ball off for Aurelio to rifle just wide from 15 yards.

The visitors were offering little, their midfield badly missing the drive of the injured Gareth Barry, the Villa captain sidelined for the first time this season due to a pelvic injury.

It seemed a matter of time before Liverpool doubled their lead, Harry Kewell forcing Stuart Taylor to save low down to his right and then Fernando Torres firing onto the roof of the net from the edge of the box.

But the introduction of Harewood for Craig Gardner proved a masterstroke from Villa boss Martin O'Neill and swung the game dramatically in the visitors' favour.

He almost set up a goal with a powerful run down the left, before Martin Laursen headed a free-kick back across goal and Harewood performed an overhead kick to beat Jose Reina and silence Anfield.

Two minutes later and Villa, unbelievably, were ahead as Olof Mellberg's shot from an Ashley Young cross took a wicked deflection off Aurelio and looped into the net.

Benitez brought on Ryan Babel and Crouch and the giant hitman rescued a draw when he ran on to Jamie Carragher's pass and smashed the ball past Taylor.

  • Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill on Harewood:
    "I'm delighted for him, Marlon has had to wait patiently for his chance with others doing so well.

    "He made a big difference when he came on and after we've gone ahead I'm a little disappointed we didn't win it.

    "The top three would be happy to get a point from Anfield and I think on the balance of play a draw is fair."

    Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa (Skrtel 70), Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio, Benayoun (Crouch 80), Mascherano, Gerrard, Kewell (Babel 74), Kuyt, Torres.
    Subs Not Used: Itandje, Alonso.

    Booked: Arbeloa, Mascherano.

    Goals: Benayoun 19, Crouch 88.

    Aston Villa: Taylor, Mellberg, Laursen, Davies, Bouma, Gardner (Harewood 66), Petrov, Reo-Coker, Young, Carew (Knight 90), Agbonlahor.
    Subs Not Used: Sorensen, Cahill, Osbourne.

    Booked: Laursen, Young.

    Goals: Harewood 69, Aurelio 72 og.

    Att: 42,590.

    Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

    BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Marlon Harewood 7.73 (on 90 minutes).

  • Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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