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Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Sunday, 31 August 2008 17:55 UK

Aston Villa 0-0 Liverpool

By Andrew McKenzie

Gareth Barry
Barry faced the side that chased his signature all summer

Liverpool and Aston Villa played out a cagey goalless draw at Villa Park.

John Carew was denied by the feet of Pepe Reina, while David Ngog shot just over the bar after being set up by Robbie Keane in a dour first half.

Keane was put clean through by Javier Mascherano after the break but scuffed his shot wide when in front of goal.

Substitute James Milner had a late chance to wrap up all three points on his return to the club, but Reds keeper Pepe Reina saved comfortably.

With Chelsea held by Tottenham, Liverpool had the chance to go top of the league on a ground where they have enjoyed plenty of success over the years.

Benitez happy with point from tough game

But it was a Liverpool performance desperately short of creativity and in the end they were left hanging on for the point.

Gareth Barry's bitter on-off transfer saga over the summer meant there would be extra spice to the clash.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez and his opposite number Martin O'Neill shared a polite handshake before the game, but it seemed both were more concerned with avoiding defeat than going for the three points.

606: DEBATE
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Liverpool's attack was already looking blunt when they lost Fernando Torres to injury inside the first half hour.

The Spanish striker appeared to tweak his hamstring when chasing down a poor pass from Mascherano.

His replacement Ngog could have broken the deadlock just before half-time when he was teed-up by Keane, but he shot over under pressure from Martin Laursen.

Other than that half-chance Liverpool were barely a threat on the Villa goal in the opening 45 minutes.

The ineffective Lucas fired well into the stands, Xabi Alonso attempted to lob ex-Reds keeper Brad Friedel from just inside his own half and Dirk Kuyt drilled into the side-netting.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez (left) and Martin O'
Benitez (left) and O'Neill exchange pleasantries before the game
Villa were the much more fluent side, with Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Carew offering pace and creativity.

Carew had their best chance after Barry had slipped in a probing pass for Ashley Young, who cut it back for the Norwegian but his tentative sidefoot shot was easily saved by Reina's feet.

Both sides picked up the pace in the second half, with Liverpool starting more brightly and Kuyt threatening from an Alonso corner only to be muscled off the ball by Curtis Davies.

Andrea Dossena saw his powerful shot deflected off target by Nicky Shorey's body, while at the other end of the pitch Stiliyan Petrov flashed a shot just past the post.

Mascherano released Keane through on goal but he mis-hit his shot, although credit must go to Nigel Reo-Coker for brilliantly tracking back to put him off.

O'Neill pleased with Villa defensive display

Milner had the chance to mark his return to Villa Park with the winner, but his curling effort was too close to Reina.

In the dying stages Laursen had a free header from close range but could not direct it on target.

It ensured Aston Villa's first goalless draw in over a year and means they have only picked up five points at home to Liverpool out of a possible 33.


Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill:
"It was a tough game and I thought they came here and played a physical game.

"I think in the end that was probably the right result.

"We have a habit of scoring goals so I think us managing to keep a clean sheet is an absolute positive for us."

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:
"In the first-half both teams had more or less same opportunities and in the second half I thought we started well.

"In the last 15 minutes they were pushing quite a lot. It was a game that we could have won and so could they.

"It is not that we should have finished quicker. I think you have to give credit to the defenders."


Aston Villa: Friedel, Luke Young (Milner 64), Laursen, Davies, Shorey (Gardner 79), Reo-Coker, Petrov, Barry, Ashley Young, Carew, Agbonlahor.
Subs Not Used: Guzan, Harewood, Knight, Salifou, Routledge.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Dossena, Kuyt (Aurelio 70), Alonso, Mascherano, Leiva Lucas, Keane (Benayoun 79), Torres (Ngog 30).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Babel, El Zhar.

Booked: Skrtel, Dossena.

Att: 41,647.

Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Aston Villa's Ashley Young (6.96 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.




see also
Premier League as it happened
31 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Sunday's football photos
31 Aug 08 |  Football
How to watch Match of the Day
08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day


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