Villa lose unbeaten start to season (Nov 21)
Aston Villa have slumped to their first defeat of the season, a 4-2 home defeat to Liverpool.  In what could be Match of the season, there were 6 goals on show, a sending off, a missed penalty and a bad injury.  All in the space of 90 minutes. 
           This was an FA Carling Premiership game which simply had everything. 

           It had a brilliant hat-trick from Robbie Fowler which 
           aroused Liverpool, who won 4-2, from the sleeping 
           sickness which had seen their season in danger of 
           becoming comatose. 

           It had another two goals from England's 
           man-of-the-moment Dion Dublin, bringing his tally to 
           seven in just three games for Aston Villa. 

           It had a penalty save from David James which denied 
           Dublin what would have been a deserved hat-trick. 

           And, don't blink yet, because it also saw Stan 
           Collymore sent off after a violent shove on England striker Michael Owen. 

           Throw in enough missed chances for either side to have reached double figures and, for sheer 
           passion and entertainment, this must be the match of the season so far. 

           But when every incident of this incredible game has been dissected and analysed it could well be 
           seen as the afternoon when wounded Liverpool won back their pride and Villa came face to face 
           with Premiership reality after their fabulous unbeaten league run. 

           When Roy Evans left Anfield just 10 days ago and Liverpool old boy Phil Thompson came in as 
           assistant to Frenchman Gerard Houllier they promised, above everything, passion from the Anfield 

           And no-one can say we didn't get buckets of that today. From the moment Paul Ince put Liverpool 
           ahead after just two minutes with a powerful header Liverpool scrapped and battled like the great 
           sides of old. 

                                          Yes, the defence still looks shaky at times, but when this 
                                           Liverpool side gets in full flow there is no more lethal 
                                           weapon in the Premiership. 

                                           Curiously, Manchester United and Arsenal produced the 
                                           biggest cheer of the day at Villa Park - defeats for both 
                                           meaning Villa stay on top of the Premiership and 
                                           Liverpool stay in touch with their big rivals. 

                                           But first let's deal with the one sour note of the afternoon 
                                           - the red card for Collymore after the Villa problem boy 
                                           had once again seen the red mist. In truth, Collymore 
                                           should have been dismissed as early as the eighth minute 
                                           for a reckless challenge on Liverpool defender Steve 
           Harkness - the man with whom he was involved in a race-hate row in this corresponding fixture last 

           Collymore left his boot in and Harkness was carried off with what appeared to be a serious injury. 
           Referee Peter Jones produced the yellow card but Collymore, back to his surly, simmering worst, 
           was always teetering on the edge of dismissal. 

           And it arrived in the 68th minute when he tangled with Owen. As Owen tried to get up off his knees 
           Collymore lashed out with an angry shove and this time the referee had no option. 

           But the incident should not be allowed to detract from a quite captivating match in which both teams 
           surged forward to justify those who maintain that the Premiership is the most exciting league in the 

           There was a wonderful ebb and flow from the first whistle and we didn't have to wait long for the 
           first goal. 

           It came from the first corner of the match after just two minutes. Patrik Berger swung over the ball 
           left-footed and Ince, criticised of late for his contribution to the Liverpool cause, came from deep to 
           meet the cross with a powerful header. 

           It was a goal of stunning simplicity and the frantic celebrations were a measure of the relief surging 
           through the side. 

           Five minutes later, Liverpool stretched their lead with another goal which owed as much to the lack 
           of communication in Villa's defence as to Liverpool's penetration. 

           Jamie Redknapp, whose tireless and inspirational performance in midfield would have encouraged 
           England manager Glenn Hoddle, won the ball on the right and swivelled superbly to fire in the sort 
           of acute-angled cross which Fowler lives for. 

           The Anfield striker reacted first to step in front of defender Steve Watson and send a lovely glancing 
           header past Villa keeper Michael Oakes. 

           There was a time, in the days when Hansen and Lawrenson did their talking on the pitch rather than 
           in a television studio, when you could have put your mortgage on a Liverpool victory with a 2-0 
           advantage at half-time. 

           Not these days, and the inevitable Villa rally produced a 
           game which at times was as breathtaking as it was 

           Collymore, clean through and looking certain to score, 
           was denied only by a desperate lunge by Jamie 

           The ex-Liverpool man then missed the easiest chance of 
           the match when, unchallenged in the middle of the goal, 
           he somehow sent a Merson cross agonisingly wide. 

           It seemed Villa were right back in it when Dublin fired a super volley past James within two minutes 
           of the restart. And they would have been if it hadn't been for the uncharacteristic errors in the Villa 
           rearguard which allowed Fowler in to crack home a 20-yard drive. 

           Still, Villa came back again, Collymore this time providing the cross for Dublin to score from a 
           couple of feet with the Liverpool defence all over the place. 

           At 3-2 it looked as if Liverpool were running out of steam but Redknapp, the man-of-the-match by 
           a distance, provided the final piece of inspiration to secure the first victory points of Houllier's new 

           He picked out Fowler for the umpteenth time and the penalty-box poacher showed he is back to his 
           best by bringing the ball down and coolly sliding the shot past Oakes. 

           Even then Villa could have come back, James saving Dublin's penalty after Julian Joachim was 
           brought down by the Liverpool keeper. 

           It has to be said the defending on show would have given Hansen nightmares but who cares - it 
           made for a truly fantastic match. Villa are still on top but Liverpool are back. 

Martin Sivorn © 1999.E-Mail Me