Final, 1-0 Aston Villa: It’s over at Anfield. Aston Villa beats Liverpool in what is likely to be the biggest upset in this weekend’s round of Premier League games.
Aston Villa stunned Liverpool at home for the second time in three years Saturday. Gabby Agbonlahor’s goal was the difference in the scoreline, as the Villans came to Anfield, scored early and defended bravely to take all three points from this game.
Liverpool’s defense creaked and broke early on, and Aston Villa profited from its early surge. Liverpool then took control of the game, but the Reds new-look attack lacked the necessary sharpness and invention in the final third to break down the visitors’ dogged defense. Things might have been different had Sterling played from the start or Sturridge played at all.
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In the end, it was a smash-and-grab win for Aston Villa, who celebrate another Anfield raid. Aston Villa now sits second in the Premier League after four games with 10 points.
In contrast, Liverpool only has six points from its first four games — good for eighth place. The Reds now must rebound from this disappointing result, as its first UEFA Champions League campaign in five years begins Tuesday when they host Bulgaria’s Ludogorets.
That’s all for now, and thanks for joining us. Let’s discuss this one on Twitter @NESNsoccer and Facebook. Be sure to keep an eye out for some news, fan reactions, analysis and opinion that is on the way on NESN.com.
90th minute +3, 1-0 Aston Villa: Liverpool now has pushed all 10 field players into Aston Villa’s half, as it desperately searches for the equalizer.
90th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Bent replaces Agbonlahor, as Aston Villa makes its final change.
There will be a minimum of four minutes of stoppage time in the second half.
89th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Coutinho tries another shot, but this long-range effort misses by some distance.
86th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Cleverley departs. Sanchez replaces him in the Aston Villa midfield.
Cleverley will be happy with his Aston Villa debut. He showed good energy and poise by running hard and closing down space throughout the contest.
85th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: The tension is growing at Anfield, as Liverpool searches for the tying goal.
81st minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Coutinho cuts inside and shoots, but the ball agonizingly hits the post. It then comes back to Sterling, who shot, but it hit Henderson before reaching the goal.
It was Liverpool’s best scoring chance so far and its first in some time.
78th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Moreno is cautioned for needlessly kicking the ball away from Richardson (in a dead-ball situation).
Liverpool’s frustration is there for all to see.
72nd minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: N’Zogbia comes on for Weimann, as Aston Villa makes its first change.
71st minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Balotelli’s Anfield debut ends. Lambert replaces him. Also, Borini replaces Markovic.
Liverpool has made all three substitutions.
70th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Liverpool has changed formations but still is having trouble linking up in the final third and breaking down Aston Villa’s defense.
66th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Sterling shoots high and wide, as he looks to drag Liverpool back onto level terms.
63rd minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Hutton is cautioned for his foul on Sterling.
62nd minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Hutton hacks down Sterling, and there’s a minor fracas with teams pushing and shoving.
61st minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Lallana exits, and Sterling enters the fray.
Lallana was positive in his debut but he lacked burst and sharpness. It’s not really surprising, as it was Lallana’s first competitive game this season.
59th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Sterling is getting ready to enter the game. Sterling, 19, played 90 minutes in both of England’s recent games.
54th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Liverpool continues to probe with its passing but is having trouble finding space in Aston Villa’s half.
Liverpool should look to exploit the space in the wide areas, perhaps by shifting its formation from a diamond to a 4-3-3, in an effort to stretch Aston Villa’s compact defense.
51st minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Now Henderson heads a corner kick over the crossbar.
47th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Balotelli heads a corner kick wide.
46th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: The second half is underway at Anfield.
Halftime, 1-0 Aston Villa: That’s the end of the first half. Liverpool trails by one.
Aston Villa has the edge of the break thanks to its lively start and Liverpool’s early defensive struggles. The visitors took the early initiative and caught Liverpool off guard in the ninth minute when Agbonlahor slotted Senderos’ header into the goal. Senderos could have doubled the lead two minutes later. Liverpool controlled play for the rest of the half, but the damage was already done.
The Reds have struggled to create a lot of scoring chances. Aston Villa’s compact, united and determined defense is making it hard for the Reds to strike back.
Aston Villa has targeted Balotelli. The Italian has lacked service so far, but he became more of a menace as the half neared its conclusion.
Sterling could come on in the second half to add new life and fresh ideas to Liverpool’s approach play.
45th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Moreno breaks through on goal but elects to pass to the far post for Markovic.
It might have reached the Serbian for a tap-in, but Baker made a timely intervention.
45th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: There will be a minimum of one minute of stoppage time in the first half.
45th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Balotelli curls a shot towards Guzan’s goal, but it takes a deflection and goes out for a corner kick.
43rd minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Balotelli sets up Lallana at the top of the Aston Villa penalty area, and the Liverpool debutante hits a left-footed shot from 25 yards out, which goes wide.
37th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Liverpool continues to search for the game-tying goal, but Aston Villa is repelling the Reds’ efforts.
The visitors know they can’t defend the whole time, and they’ve starting showing slightly more attacking ambition — primarily by counter-attacking through Agbonlahor — in the last few minutes.
32nd minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Lallana has a good chance to score, but Senderos blocks his effort.
30th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: It has been all Liverpool in recent minutes. The Reds are dominating possession and pinning Aston Villa deep in its own half but the decisive ball and end product is still missing.
24th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Liverpool is passing well, making quick, sharp entries into Aston Villa’s half, but the Reds’ final ball has lacked the quality to unlock the opposition defense.
21st minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Balotelli is writhing on the ground after Sendoros kicked him in an off-the-ball incident. The referee missed it.
17th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Liverpool fails to clear a corner kick, and Weimann would have benefited, but his shot hit an opponent and went out for another corner kick.
Aston Villa has Liverpool under pressure.
13th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Senderos should have made it two for Aston Villa, but he heads Westwood’s free kick wide of Mignolet’s goal.
Senderos was free inside of Liverpool’s penalty area. He should have hit the target.
Liverpool’s early defending leaves plenty of room for improvement.
12th minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Lallana is cautioned for a late, heavy tackle on Cleverley.
Ninth minute, 1-0 Aston Villa: Agbonlahor puts Aston Villa in front.
Senderos was in the goal mouth when he headed a corner kick into Agbonlahor. The Aston Villa forward held off Manquillo, pounced on the deflection and beat Mignolet with a shot from point-blank range.
Sixth minute, 0-0: A well-worked exchange on Liverpool’s right nearly leads to the opener.
Markovic headed to Manquillo, who crossed from the right back to his Serbian teammate. Markovic’s header went wide of Guzan’s goal, but it was a good opportunity.
Third minute, 0-0: It has been a lively opening at both ends.
Aston Villa nearly breached Liverpool’s defense in the first minute. Lovren cleared Hutton’s dangerous cross, and Sakho’s last-ditch challenge eliminated the danger.
Then Markovic fired a volley over the crossbar after Lallana floated a well-placed cross to the far side of the Aston Villa penalty area.
Kickoff: Liverpool-Aston Villa is underway at Anfield.
Pregame: Liverpool’s attack has a new look, as Markovic, Balotelli and Lallana each make their Anfield debuts.
Markovic played a half hour against Manchester City and Tottenham last month. The Serbian starts for the first time for Liverpool on Saturday.
Coutinho returns to the starting 11 in Allen’s absence. The Brazilian schemer could operate centrally, out wide, in an advanced position or a mix of all three against Aston Villa.
With Sturridge out, Balotelli must replace his stricken teammate’s goal threat. The chance to do so has Balotelli fired up.
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Sterling starts on the bench, following a busy, and successful, international break.
Cleverley, who joined Aston Villa from Manchester United on loan on transfer deadline day, goes straight into the starting lineup. If Cleverley plays as well as he sings, Aston Villa could might score a transfer coup.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa is without captain and center back Ron Vlaar. The Dutchman hasn’t recovered from a calf injury he suffered against Hull City nine days ago. Baker replaces Vlaar on the Aston Villa back line. The 23-year-old only has played eight minutes in the Premier League this season but he went 90 in the League Cup loss to Leyton Orient on Aug. 27.
Cissokho will play left back for Aston Villa. The Frenchman spent most of last season on loan at Anfield.
There’s no place for Joe Cole in the Aston Villa squad.
Noon ET: Here are the lineups:
Simon Mignolet (22), goalkeeper
Alberto Moreno (18), left back
Mamadou Sakho (17), center back
Dejan Lovren (6), center back
Javier Manquillo (19), right back
Steven Gerrard (8), midfielder
Jordan Henderson (14), midfielder
Philippe Coutinho (10), midfielder
Lazar Markovic (50), forward
Adam Lallana (20), forward
Mario Balotelli (45), striker
Brad Jones (1), goalkeeper
Jose Enrique (3), defender
Kolo Toure (4), defender
Lucas Leiva (21), midfielder
Raheem Sterling (31), forward
Rickie Lambert (9), striker
Fabio Borini (29), striker
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Brad Guzan (1), goalkeeper
Aly Cissokho (23), left back
Nathan Baker (2), center back
Philippe Senderos (14), center back
Alan Hutton (21), right back
Ashley Westwood (15), midfielder
Fabian Delph (16), midfielder
Tom Cleverley (8), midfielder
Kieran Richardson (18), midfielder
Gabriel Agbonlahor (11), forward
Andreas Weimann (10), forward
Shay Given (31), goalkeeper
Jores Okore (5), center back
Carlos Sanchez (24), midfielder
Jack Grealish (40), midfielder
Leandro Bacuna (7), midfielder
Charles N’Zogbia (28), forward
Darren Bent (19), striker
11 a.m. ET: Liverpool is back in action Saturday, following a two-week break for international games.
Liverpool faces Aston Villa at Anfield in its fourth Premier League game of the 2014-15 season. The Reds are looking to keep pace with early leader Chelsea by defeating Aston Villa at home for the first time under manager Brendan Rodgers.
Liverpool will be without striker Daniel Sturridge and midfielder Emre Can, who suffered injuries while on international duty. Joe Allen also could miss out for the same reason.
Mario Balotelli should play a prominent role in his first game at Anfield, and Adam Lallana is expected to make his Liverpool debut.
Recent visits to Anfield have borne fruit for Aston Villa, having won 3-1 in December 2012 and drawn 2-2 in January 2014. Liverpool must contain attacker Andreas Weimann, who scored in both games. Former Red Joe Cole also is expected to play for Aston Villa against the team with which he played three seasons.
Liverpool-Aston Villa kicks off at 12:30 p.m. ET. Join us right here for all the action from Anfield.
Photo via LiverpoolFC.com