Coming into the day, I imagine most of us would have been happy with a point at Anfield. When the lineups were announced, and we saw that Stephen Warnock was playing in midfield, I imagine we would have been ECSTATIC with a point. Well, we got the point, but ecstatic isn't the right word for how I think most Villa fans feel. No, I think we're all just relieved.
Things started rather quickly, and it seemed to be going in Villa's favor to begin the match. Liverpool threatened once and very well may have had a goal, but the officiating crew ruled that the ball was stopped by Shay Given just short of crossing the line. It signaled the beginning of a few things for the day. First, it seems that for once the calls were coming in Villa's favor. On the replay it looked to me as if Liverpool had scored a goal, but I'm happy the refs disagreed. Secondly, it let us know that Shay was going to be in top form today. Even if his last second parry was actually a bit too late, it was close enough, and that's how the keeper was all day. His effort, combined with Liverpool's stunning ability to not finish, is the reason Villa managed a point.
Well, those and an absolutely magnificent goal from Chris Herd. In the 10th minute, Barry Bannan received a ball to the right of the Liverpool goal, but the angle was no good for a shot. He decided to place a perfect pass on the ground to a Chris Herd who took a quick strike and put the ball above the reaching hands of Liverpool keeper Doni into the upper-left corner of the net to put Villa ahead 0-1. On twitter, I called the shot a volley. One of our followers pointed out that it couldn't be, since the ball was on the ground. They were right, but I don't know how else to characterize the shot. It came as an almost instantaneous reaction and seemed to be more of a deflection of a pass than a shot. Regardless of what it was, it was marvelous. Chris Herd became the third Villan in four matches to score his first Premier League goal following in the footsteps of Andreas Weimann and Eric Lichaj.
But sometime in the last 10 minutes of the half, Liverpool began to pressure, and they kept it up into the second half. Villa seemed likely to concede numerous times, but only luck and Shay Given prevented it. Finally, in the 82nd minute, Luis Suarez--a diving, cheating, all-around reprehensible player--scored on a soft header that Given had no chance on. From there until the final whistle (after five minutes of stoppage), it was terrifying, as Villa had to essentially stack the defense to stop Liverpool's relentless attack.
But the Villans did hold on, and they took a point at Anfield. Combine that with the losses by Blackburn, Bolton, and Wigan and Villa look much better now than they did this morning. Other items of note included Samir Carruthers' senior squad debut (marred by a pretty ticky-tack simulation yellow), and the continued excellent play of Villa's youth. Every match that the kids get to play makes me more confident of their skill. The more I see, the more willing I am to have the club get rid of someone like Darren Bent.
All in all, it was a pretty decent day for Villa. Certainly the three points would have been amazing, and to lose them so late in the match hurt, but we all have to remember what we felt like this morning. One point isn't a bad showing, and it's a nice way to go into Monday's match against Stoke.