Aston Villa took on Liverpool, as they sought to boost their unlikely survival hopes.
Good afternoon! The second of three Premier League games today sees bottom-placed Aston Villa, buoyed by victory over Norwich last weekend, hosting Liverpool at Villa Park.
Kick off is 2pm.
The teams are in and the big news is that Daniel Sturridge starts for Liverpool in the Premier League for the first time since 4 October.
ASTON VILLA: Bunn, Richards, Okore, Lescott, Cissokho, Westwood, Gana, Bacuna, Vertout, Gil, Agbonlahor.
LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Clyne, Toure, Sakho, Moreno, Can, Henderson, Milner, Coutinho, Firmino, Sturridge.
So Daniel Sturridge makes his first Premier League start since 4 October.
It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on.
Some nice tidy passing from Liverpool in the opening stages.
This looks like it might have to be a bit of a backs-to-the-wall performance from Villa.
Kolo Toure is well positioned to stop Agbonlahor on the counter-attack.
That’s one area Liverpool will be need to keep a close eye on, as it’s a clear mismatch in terms of pace.
Gil tries to thread a through ball to Agbonlahor, and this time it’s Sakho who’s alert to cut out the danger.
Villa are coming into this game more following a slow start.
Coutinho tries to find Sturridge but passes it straight out of play, much to the amusement of the home crowd.
Liverpool haven’t really got going yet.
ASTON VILLA 0-1 LIVERPOOL (STURRIDGE 16)
Sturridge is left totally unmarked in the middle of the box.
The Liverpool striker makes no mistake on his return to the team, heading home and inch-perfect cross.
LIVERPOOL 2-0 ASTON VILLA (MILNER 25)
The ball falls to Westwood on the edge of the box, but he slices his volley well wide.
Aston Villa have reverted to a more attacking formation now, with a midfield four and Gil more or less playing as a second striker.
Milner’s free kick evades everyone in the box and floats into the corner of the net to make it 2-0.
Liverpool are in total control now, though last week’s Sunderland fightback will still be fresh in their minds no doubt.
Interestingly, there’s been just two shots on target in the game and both have gone in.
Liverpool’s attack certainly appears to have a clinical edge with Sturridge back in the team.
As I type, Milner heads down to Henderson, whose shot is deflected wide.
Great link-up play between Moreno and Firmino.
The Brazilian’s return pass is just a little too heavy for the full-back to latch on to.
Liverpool are well in control here.
Richards picks out Bacuna on the wing, but much to the crowd’s frustration, his cross is straight into the arms of Mignolet.
Villa have, at least, shown a bit of fight and attacking ambition in these last few minutes.
Panic in the Villa box, as the ball falls to Sturridge.
The England striker’s shot forces a good save from Bunn.
Henderson’s cross goes straight into Bunn’s arms.
There’s a very downbeat atmosphere at Villa Park right now — it’s as if the crowd feel like the game’s a lost cause already.
HALF-TIME: ASTON VILLA 0-2 LIVERPOOL
So half-time and Daniel Sturridge is likely to be the name on most people’s lips.
On his return from injury, Sturridge demonstrated the type of ruthlessness in front of goal that Liverpool have often been lacking this season.
In truth though, the Reds have barely had to get out of second gear, as it’s been a typically lackadaisical performance from Remi Garde’s side, with poor defending and a lack of genuine attacking threat both regularly apparent in their play.
James Milner’s slightly fortuitous second demoralised the hosts further, with the Villa Park faithful growing increasingly impatient ever since.
“They could be one of the worst teams in Premier League history… This is as bad as you’ll see.”
Jamie Carragher is not holding back in his scathing assessment of the Villa performance.
The second half is underway…
Better from Villa.
Agbonlahor’s shot is spilled and gathered at the second attempt by Mignolet.
Bacuna clears a ball straight out of play.
It’s eerily quiet at Villa Park right now, and the hosts certainly aren’t doing much to rectify that.
Bacuna gets caught ball-watching and Moreno finds space down the left.
However, there is no Liverpool player in the box to capitalise.
ASTON VILLA 0-3 LIVERPOOL (CAN 58)
Right after the goal, Agbonlahor finds himself through, but his shot from Mignolet is well saved from a tight angle.
Meanwhile, Origi has replaced Sturridge for Liverpool.
Bacuna dwells on the ball and gets punished.
Can then powers forward and strikes it into the corner of the net from the edge of the box to score his first league goal of the season.
Liverpool are running away with it now.
Origi, who’s just come on, sprints through on goal and finishes coolly to make it 4-0.
LIVERPOOL 5-0 ASTON VILLA (CLYNE 65)
ASTON VILLA 0-4 LIVERPOOL (ORIGI 63)
Villa are caught sleeping from a quick Liverpool free kick, as Clyne is played through.
The full-back’s initial shot is saved, but he slots home at the second attempt.
Just like Anfield last week, Villa Park is emptying out rapidly well before the final whistle.
Toure heads home Jordan Henderson’s corner to make it 6-0.
This is turning into a complete humiliation for Villa.
22-year-old Kevin Stewart replaces Coutinho to make his Premier League debut for Liverpool.
Meanwhile, Bacuna, who has been woeful, is replaced by 20-year-old Jordan Lyden for Villa.
ASTON VILLA 0-6 LIVERPOOL (TOURE 71)
Benteke replaces Firmino for the final 15 minutes.
Now feels like the ideal time for the out-of-sorts striker to give his confidence a boost.
Veretout gets booked for a cynical challenge on Stewart.
He’s also lucky the referee didn’t see the nasty stamp on the Liverpool player thereafter, or he presumably would have been sent off.
Excellent effort from Scott Sinclair. His curled strike from the edge of the box hits the post.
That bit of play temporarily awakens the home crowd from their stupor.
Alan Hutton is on for Micah Richards.
Villa have at least managed to arrest the flow of Liverpool goals in recent minutes.
Okore clears after Clyne again catches Veretout sleeping down the right and puts a dangerous cross into the box.
Certain Villa players look like they have simply stopped trying.
FULL-TIME: ASTON VILLA 0-6 LIVERPOOL
So that’s that — a ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre’ as Sky call it. You will be hard pressed to find a more one-sided game this season.
For Liverpool, there were only positives, Daniel Sturridge, in particular, looked sharp on his first Premier League start since the beginning of October, and took his goal very well.
But the Reds’ life was made infinitely easier for them by a Villa side that effectively threw in the towel in the second half.
If there were any doubts before today’s game about Remi Garde’s team going down, there are surely none now.
Jamie Carragher sums it up perfectly: “An embarrassment… If that team was in the Championship, it would be closer to the bottom than the top.”
Right, that’s all from me for now.
Thanks for reading and commenting, and do join me in a moment for the Man City-Tottenham liveblog.