Roberto Firmino has “one more say” but team performance criticised

Roberto Firmino rightly received plaudits from the media after Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, but the performance was widely criticised.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side never got going in their must-win Premier League game on Saturday afternoon, as their Champions League hopes all but ended.

The Reds got away with Ollie Watkins missing a penalty, but Jacob Ramsey was soon on hand to fire Villa into a first-half lead.

Firmino came on in his final Anfield appearance and scored the equaliser late in the day, but Liverpool were unable to find a winner.

Here’s how the media dissected the Reds’ disappointing draw.


Liverpool just couldn’t hit top gear at Anfield…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 20, 2023: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo scores a goal, but it was later disallowed following a VAR review, during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This Is Anfield‘s Mark Delgado felt certain individuals were to blame for the result:

“It should have been a continuity of good form and a celebratory farewell, but this was a slog all game long without any positive ending.

“Sadly, too many individuals were… well, individuals, not performing to the benefit of the team at all.

Luis Diaz decided he’d prefer not to pass the ball all game, Jordan Henderson was an abomination in possession and largely opted against doing anything out of it, Cody Gakpo couldn’t get much of a rhythm going even before he was kicked in the throat.

“That’s three players who should be heavily involved in buildup play or creation, yet offering very little in each.”

Taking to Twitter, David Lynch thought the midfield was yet again a glaring issue for Liverpool:

GOAL‘s Neil Jones didn’t hold back in his criticism of Jordan Henderson, also touching upon the midfield issue in general:

“If Diaz’s struggles were plain to see, and his substitution an act of mercy, the same could certainly be said of Henderson, whose performance here, on and off the ball, was painful at times.

“The captain symbolised Liverpool’s sluggish start, his passes just a little off, the speed of his play just a little too slow, his press just a little too late. Villa, with the excellent Douglas Luiz, the tenacious John McGinn and the robust Boubacar Kamara, played round Liverpool’s midfield in the first half. It was too easy.

“Henderson tried, delivering plenty of balls from his usual right-wing station. Only one found its target, Diaz heading wide. It was the same story after the break, the England international not able to stamp any kind of authority on a game in which his side needed inspiration.

“With an expensive midfield rebuild expected at Anfield, the heat will be turned up on the likes of Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara.

“So it should be, too. What they have produced this season, for the most part, has been substandard.”


It was a day of goodbyes on Merseyside…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 20, 2023: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino says an emotional goodbye to the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Delgado couldn’t hide his delight at Firmino’s late contribution:

“The new kit got its first runout, the red number with thick white trim which will be on show at Anfield all of next season.

“As usual, each fan can make their own minds up if it looks chic or cheap.

“But along with that first, there were more lasts of note: the final Anfield occasions as Reds for James Milner and Roberto Firmino.


“Bobby, oh Bobby, he just had to have one more say in his Anfield career, didn’t he?

“A great near-post run saw him finish a last-minute equaliser which would usually have been far more jubilantly celebrated had we not been desperate to get the game back underway and try to get another.”

On Twitter, Dominic King hailed to influence of James Milner over the years:

Jones had to focus on Firmino, on what was an emotional afternoon:

“Where else to start? The man whose picture took up the most space on the matchday programme, whose freshly-painted mural was unveiled on the wall of a house near Anfield on Saturday morning.

“The man whose smile and skills have lit up this football club for eight years. The man who did it all and won it all for Liverpool, who wore No. 9 but redefined the term ‘False Nine’, whose no-look finishes and kung-fu celebrations made him so loved and adored.

“The man who did the business for the Reds here, one last time. Off the bench after 72 minutes, on the scoresheet after 89. A poacher’s finish, right in front of the Kop. Just as he dreamed it.

“It wasn’t quite the perfect ending, but it was close.”


That looks to be that in the fop-four race…

2R2MWWX Liverpool, UK. 20th May, 2023. Roberto Firmino of Liverpool celebrates scoring the equaliser late in the game during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture credit should read: Gary Oakley/Sportimage Credit: Sportimage Ltd/Alamy Live News

The Guardian‘s Andy Hunter is under no illusions that Liverpool’s race is run:

“Manchester United and Newcastle would have qualified for the Champions League with a Villa win at Anfield.

“For most of the contest they were on course to do so, Villa ahead and containing Jurgen Klopp’s team with ease, but even the 110th goal of Firmino’s Liverpool career did not radically change the picture.

“Both require only a point from their two remaining games to finish in the top four.”

Finally, the Independent‘s Richard Jolly was of the same mindset:

“It may be a formality for Manchester United and Newcastle to qualify for the Champions League now but, until Firmino intervened, they would be there already.

“It prolongs the top-four battle but it has altered, shifting the balance still further in the favour of the two Uniteds.

“An inability to find a winner in added time means that Liverpool’s season will end in anti-climax. Firmino at least ensured it did not finish in Anfield failure.

“Only Leeds have won here in the Premier League this season; indeed only they have claimed three points in front of a crowd in six years.

“It has been a fortress for most of Firmino’s time; disappointing as drawing with Villa was, home form is not the principal reason why Liverpool will be condemned to the Europa League.”