You could argue that this is the game where reality set in. Or, you could argue that we were unlucky not to get five points out of the first three games—a three-game start as difficult as any in the Premier League. I think I’d argue the latter.

Having managed, despite dodgy wifi, to download the app for my newish cable service, I was able to record the 11 a.m. game, and even hide from it, until returning from Minnesota last night at 7 p.m. I was watching by 7:30, and, after enjoying a bright first few minutes, I found myself growing stiller and stiller on the couch. In fact, shortly after Sturridge scored for Liverpool, in the 21st minute, I began curling inward, in what an anthropologist (or possibly a zoologist) would have identified as self-protective body positioning. Really, I just wanted to hide my vital organs in the event that Villa were about to suffer a five-nil rout.

“Seriously? You’re about to score from this angle?”

It really looked possible. They were flat and tentative, giving the Reds enough space to put on a passing clinic. (Can I even call them the Reds, or should I change that to The Visually Disjointed Away Jerseys?) Against my will, I began admiring a Liverpool team that, going into the season, I hadn’t rated very highly. And the crowd were flat, too. Come on, you Holte Enders, do you only sing when you’re winning?

I have to admit, Sturridge’s goal was a beauty. Having gotten around Guzan—how he kept it that extra step, I don’t know—it seemed that he had gone too far to possibly get a shot off. My mistake. Benteke nearly had an answer shortly before the half, but, alas. I could only conclude that the opening schedule was taking its toll. After winning away at Arsenal, and giving a fine, valiant effort away to Chelsea, on the eighth day we really deserved a home game against, say, someone from Wales.

The second half proved to be a mirror opposite of the first. Villa came out with pace and determination, showing some desperately needed creativity. They looked once again like a team I’ll enjoy watching all season, a team capable of playing entertaining and winning soccer. It’s a shame they lost, but I haven’t lost hope. Not at all. If they play this way against sides from the bottom half of the table, I feel confident they’ll finish the season in the top half.

Reasons for Optimism:

The back line. Due to injuries, it can’t have been Lambert’s first-choice lineup (at least this early in the season), but they performed admirably, especially in the face of strong pressure from Liverpool early on.

Benteke. Without much to work with, he created two great chances. He will score a lot of goals for us this season. I think I even saw him play a little defense, too. (I had something caught in my eye, so I might be mistaken; by the time the obstruction had cleared, the moment had passed.)

Okore = OK in my book. Bacuna = Not Bad. And I still like Luna A Lot.

Brad Guzan is a MAN. Did you see the way he leapt to his feet after that collision with Daniel Agger in the 53′ minute? Agger, no shrinking violet himself, needed a moment.

Reasons for Pessimism:

We have now conceded the first goal in all three games.

A silly yellow card from Delph reminded me of his hot-headedness from last season. But I’m willing to forgive it, as he’s shown tremendous growth in every other area, which means I really should have filed him in the category above. But still: an unnecessary yellow card. It bears watching.

Gabby’s shooting. Yes, he “creates havoc” along the flanks. Yes, his speed makes him “virtually unplayable,” et cetera et cetera. And I love him, I really do. But, given a decent chance in front of the goal (around 75′), he sliced it wide of the post. He looks confident in every way except with a ball at his feet in front of the net.

El Ahmady. Maybe this should go under “Reasons for I’m Not Sure What.” But I can’t make up my mind on this guy. What does he give us, exactly? A little pass to open up a yard of space in our own half? I still think longingly back to Michael Bradley’s short trial with Villa—we need a bullet-headed midfield general. We need Stan, of course, but since we can’t have him, we need someone with both grit and vision.

NBC’s time delay on the video. They clearly delay the video by a second or two so the announcers’ calls can be more on top of the action. But, as it stands, they’re calling the miss just as the ball draws level with the crossbar. Any further and it will sound as though they’re predicting the future.

Click here for highlights, and while you’re at it, shake your fist at embeds that require iframes. Then chuckle at the video description, which reads: “For the second straight game, Liverpool found themselves in a 1-0 deficit. Would they be able to complete a second straight comeback, or would Aston Villa defend their home turf?”

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