Andy Hayes’ Villa (A) match report

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Liverpool dropped their first points of the season and lost Fernando Torres due to injury in a disappointing goalless draw at Villa Park. The reds number nine limped off on the half hour mark with a hamstring problem and a scan tomorrow will reveal whether or not he will be out of action for the home game against Manchester United after the two week international break.

There were first starts of the season for Olympians Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva and a recall for Andrea Dossena as Rafa Benitez’ men looked to go top of the table without injured captain Steven Gerrard, who hit the match winner in this fixture twelve months ago.

The first half was an even affair with both teams failing to create many goal scoring opportunities and it was the home team who threatened first through John Carew. Ashley Young got behind the Liverpool defence after good work from the much talked about Gareth Barry and laid the ball back to the big Norwegian who could only fire straight at Pepe Reina when everyone was expecting the net to bulge.

Liverpool ended the half the stronger as David Ngog, who had replaced Torres, came close to a debut goal as his effort was deflected onto the top of ex-reds keeper Brad Friedel’s net before Dirk Kuyt hit the side netting when well placed.

With no Torres or Gerrard to rely on for inspiration it was up to Robbie Keane to provide the spark for Liverpool’s attack and he showed glimpses of what he is all about as Liverpool’s main threat in the second half with his sharp movement and clever passing. Xabi Alonso, who surely would have loved a goal after the speculation surrounding him and Barry all summer, nearly benefited from Keane’s link up play when his goal bound effort from twenty yards was deflected wide.

Liverpool’s recent record at Villa Park has been excellent and it was Keane who missed the best chance to turn one point into three after he slashed his shot wide after Mascherano sent him clear and it’s surely only a matter of time before he breaks his duck.

A draw at Villa Park isn’t a bad result at all but the fact that Friedel didn’t have one shot to save will be of concern to Rafa Benitez and Liverpool fans alike, who will all be hoping that Gerrard and Torres will be fit and ready in time for United’s visit.