Aston Villa 1-0 Liverpool

Match Summary
Liverpool missed out on Europa League football next season, ending the Premier League campaign with a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa.

At White Hart Lane, Tottenham left it late to beat Birmingham City 2-1 and finish fifth, meaning any result for the Reds at Villa Park would not have changed things and the club will makedo without European football at Anfield next season.

Today’s result, and last week’s defeat to Tottenham, can be seen as a reality check for Liverpool with a big summer of spending ahead and the expected departure of several squad players.

Raul Meireles and Fabio Aurelio returned from injury for the Reds, whilst there was no place for Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll.

Villa played well for their win, scoring the only goal of the game through a first half Stewart Downing strike.

Meireles went close from close range in the second half, but his shot appeared to hit the hand of Richard Dunn and rebound out.

But it wasn’t a good day for the Reds who finish sixth in the league, on 58 points with a big summer of rebuilding and big decisions ahead.

Match Report from BBC Sport

Liverpool failed to end their revival with a spot in the Europa League as they finished sixth the Premier League after a defeat at Aston Villa.

Stewart Downing provided the home side with the lead when he fired in after a cross from Marc Albrighton.

Reds midfielder Raul Meireles thought he had scored with a sidefooted strike only for keeper Brad Friedel to impressively claw away his effort.

James Collins came close for Villa before the home side held on for a win.

The victory moved Villa up to a respectable 10th place finish and, despite the Midlands club being aware they have under-achieved this season, they ended the season with just one defeat in eight to provide some encouragement for the future.

The same can be said for a Liverpool, even though they lost their final two games of the season but are expected to embark on a summer of major strengthening.

Ahead of the game, the Merseysiders knew that a Europa League place would be theirs if they could better Tottenham‘s result against Birmingham at White Hart Lane and finish fifth in the top flight.

As it transpired, the Reds failed to overtake Spurs but you cannot imagine there will be too much angst felt at the Anfield club about not qualifying for a competition getting a reputation for being more of a hindrance than an honour.

Joe Cole was give his first start for Liverpool since 17 March as Reds boss Kenny Dalglish also chose to do without Andy Carroll, Maxi and Glen Johnson for the trip to Villa.

Carroll’s absence was the most notable with the striker emerging as a doubt to play in the England Under-21 squad for the European Championships in Denmark this summer because of injury concerns.

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has been injured since the start of March and he opted to watch the final game of the season among the Reds fans at Villa Park.

But there was little for him to get excited about with more injury problems for both sets of teams than goal attempts in the first half.

Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing was first to go as he felt the effects of a Nigel Reo-Coker challenge and went off injured after 12 minutes, with Jonjo Shelvey coming on his replacement.

Visitors centre-back Jamie Carragher had to go off briefly to have running repairs done to a head wound before Villa midfielder Fabian Delph was replaced by Marc Albrighton, who quickly made an impact.

With Liverpool having had an earlier poked Lucas Leiva effort cleared off the line by Ashley Young, Albrighton provided the cross to the far post from which Downing scored.

Downing controlled with his chest, let the ball bounce and fired in an angled shot high into the Reds net.

Villa had conceded 59 goals so far this season and that record provided a Liverpool side, who improved after the break, with hope of getting back into the game.

The visitors thought they were set to do so when the tricky Suarez outwitted Villa centre-back Richard Dunne and squared the ball for Meireles.

The Portuguese midfielder sidefooted had the Villa net at his mercy and was about to celebrate sidefooting in a leveller before 40-year-old Brad Friedel, making his 400th Premier League appearance, scampered across to claw away the shot.

Thereafter, the home defence stood firm and, instead, looked the more likely to score.

An Ashley Young free-kick was guided narrowly wide by James Collins before Gabriel Agbonlahor agonisingly failed to get an outstretched leg to a Darren Bent cross.

And, while Villa have endured a frustrating season, their fans were celebrating after the final whistle as they gave off a huge roar when the relegation of derby rivals Birmingham, who lost at Spurs, was confirmed.

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