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Match report: Villa 1-0 Liverpool
Claret and blues end season with right result.
22nd May 2011
Match report: Villa 1-0 Liverpool


By Rob Bishop

Stewart Downing, scorer of Villa's first goal of the season, signed off with the last to secure a first home win over Liverpool for more than 13 years.

The winger's unstoppable 33rd-minute shot ensured that Gary McAllister's team finished the campaign on a high note - and the celebrations reached a crescendo when the claret and blue faithful learned that rivals Birmingham City had been relegated.

Villa's victory also rounded off a memorable week for Brad Friedel, who became a father for the third time earlier in the week and turned 40 on Wednesday.

The veteran American keeper - the club's first 40-year-old player - made a brilliant save from Raul Meireles to ensure that Villa moved up to ninth in the final table.

There was a full house at Villa Park, although the opening exchanges had a real end-of-season feel about them, with both sides struggling to find any rhythm.

Almost 14 minutes had elapsed before we witnessed the first shot of the game, Meireles firing well wide with an angled effort as he turned.

There was more of a threat, though, when Lucas had a shot blocked in a crowded goalmouth - and again when Friedel had to race to the edge of the penalty area to clear from Luis Suarez.

A fine move involving Nigel Reo-Coker and Downing paved the way for Villa's first attempt at goal, Stiliyan Petrov's low shot taking a deflection which allowed Pepe Reina to save comfortably.

A minute later, the Bulgarian midfielder struck the ball much more powerfully - as Jamie Carragher discovered to his cost.

The Liverpool skipper got in the way, preventing a possible goal, but suffered a head wound in the process and had to leave the pitch for several minutes, eventually returning with his head bandaged.

If the game had been largely uneventful to that point, though, Villa's goal was a cracker. Substitute Marc Albrighton, who had replaced the injured Fabian Delph a few minutes earlier, delivered a deep cross from the right and Downing, standing just beyond the far post, controlled the ball with his chest before lashing a left-foot drive in off the underside of the bar.

It was just the lift Villa needed, and there was suddenly more confidence about their play as they began to knock the ball around with more urgency.

There was almost a surreal feel to the start of the second half as the latest scores filtered through from games affecting the relegation places, with delight all around the stadium at the news that Blues had gone behind to Tottenham.

In the midst of all this, Darren Bent delivered a dangerous cross from the right, only for John Flanagan to clear before it reached Downing.

But only a magnificent save from Friedel prevented an equaliser in the 61st minute.

Suarez produced a brilliant piece of skill as he cut in from the left before playing an inviting low ball across the goalmouth. Meireles aimed his shot just inside the post and visiting supporters rose to celebrate - until the veteran keeper dived to tip it away for a corner.

At the other end, James Collins was only just wide from six yards following Ashley Young's free-kick, although there was further relief for Villa when Fabio Aurelio was only just off target with a 20-yard free-kick.

There was now plenty of menace from both teams and Bent almost set up a second Villa goal on 77 minutes.

Moving on to Downing'ssuperb reverse pass, the club's record signing sent an inviting low centre across the face of goal, with sub Gabby Agbonlahor just failing to make contact as he slid in.

Agbonlahor was then involved in an exchange of passes with Petrov, whose low drive was pushed aside by the diving Reina.

Friedel made another fine save in the closing minutes, this time from a low Suarez shot, but Villa were good value for their victory.

VILLA: Friedel, L Young, Dunne, Collins, Walker, Delph [Albrighton], Petrov, Reo-Coker [Agbonlahor, Downing, Young [Bradley], Bent. Subs: Marshall, Clark, Pires, Heskey.

Liverpool: Reina, Aurelio, Carragher, Skrtel, Flanagan, Meireles, Cole [Ngog], Lucas, Spearing [Shelvey], Suarez, Kuyt. Subs: Gulacsi, Wilson, Wisdom, Robinson, Poulsen.

 

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