Liverpool slipped to a home defeat against Aston Villa courtesy Agbonlahor’s first half goal.
The Reds looked far for impressive during most parts of the game and could do little to rescue even a solitary point against a determined Aston Villa, who went back home sitting in the second position.
Villa got the lead in just the ninth minute. Philippe Senderos, who had a good defensive outing, got in front of summer recruit Dejan Lovren, freeing Agbonlahor, who headed the ball in from Ashley Westwood’s corner. It was as much a good goal from Lambert’s side as it was poor defending and marking from a set piece (again) from Liverpool.
Liverpool were extremely poor in front of goal and didn’t even test Brad Guzan. The closest the home side came in front of goal was when Philippe Coutinho hit the post and Jordan Henderson came in front of substitute Raheem Sterling’s rebound.
Brendan Rodgers was left unimpressed after the tame performance put on by his side. He did however, praise Aston Villa’s defending but said that his side lacked the killer touch:
“As a team we probably didn’t quite have the intensity in our game and the speed in our game. When they get a goal and go 1-0 up, you’ve got to get around the sides and switch the play a bit quicker. We were just unable to do that. Everything was centralised when they were very compact centrally. The second half was much better in terms of domination and getting the ball into wide areas. But apart from Coutinho hitting the post, we never really created anywhere near what we normally would do. We started slowly and gave away a poor goal. We picked up the tempo after that.
“The players gave everything but we just lacked that bit of quality in the final ball and you’ve got to give Aston Villa credit. They defended well once they got the goal, kept their lines tight and defended with a low block. We just couldn’t get the final pass – it was really frustrating for us. They defended well; the back four and midfield five were in, and with Agbonlahor on the counter-attack they are always a threat.
“We just started slowly in the game and it’s unlike us really because normally we start very quickly. In the two games here, we haven’t quite started as fast.
“We have found a problem with Aston Villa in my time here. We have won away from home but again today the bit of quality in the final third let us down.”
Raheem Sterling came on after the hour-mark to replace debutante Adam Lallana. The 19 year old has been an important player so far and is expected to be the same for the remainder. When asked why he wasn’t started, Rodgers said, “It is a long, long season and it was an opportunity to give Raheem Sterling a break because he probably won’t have many this season.
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert was obviously pleased with a solid away win against last season’s league runners up. He said, “It is one of toughest places to come in Europe, let alone Britain, but I think we deserved the win.”
Lambert praised summer loan signing Tom Cleverley along with Fabian Delph and Ashley Westwood.
“I thought that Tom Cleverley was excellent and Ashley Westwood could be ready to take the same step up that Fabian Delph has taken if he keeps playing like that,” added Lambert.
“There is a lot of momentum on and off the pitch at this club, the players have been excellent as a group and the supporters have stuck with it and now our young guys are turning into young men.”