Game #4687

Season | 2000-01 |

Matchday | #27 |

League Game | #21 |
Premier League Match-week | #22 |
Manager Game | #137 |

Saturday, 13 January 2001
Premier League | Home | Liverpool | Villa Park | 41,366 |

Game Summary

Manager | John Gregory | 

KO | 15.00 |
Referee | Graham Barber | 

HT Score | 0-2 |
FT Score | 0-3 |

FT Result | Lost |

Last 5 Games | WLLDL | 

League Position | 13th | -2 |

Line Up |

GK David James | 
LB Steve Staunton | 
FB Jlloyd Samuel | 
SUB OFF | 84' |
LB Alan Wright | 
CB Gareth Southgate | 
BOOKED | 60' |
CB Alpay Özalan | BOOKED | 45' | SUB OFF | 47' |
M Gareth Barry | 
M Paul Merson | 
M Steve Stone | 
W David Ginola |
SUB OFF | 46' |
CF Dion Dublin | 

Substitutes |

M John McGrath for W David Ginola | 46’ | 
F Darius Vassell for CB Alpay Özalan | 47’ | 

M Thomas Hitzlsperger DEBUT | for FB Jlloyd Samuel | 84’ | 

Unused Substitutes |

M Michael Standing 
GK Peter Enckelman

Cards | 

 Yellow | Alpay Özalan | 45’ |

 Yellow | Gareth Southgate | 60’ |

Team Stats |

Starting XI Average Age | 28.87 | 

Oldest Player | W David Ginola | 33.99 |

Youngest Player | FB Jlloyd Samuel | 19.81 |

 On this day 13 January 2001 

Midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger made his Villa debut aged 18 after joining from FC Bayern in July 2000


Match Report

The Guardian

Sunday, 14 January, 2001

Match Report from Paul Wilson

Sven-GÖran Eriksson and Tord Grip went to the wrong game. This was vintage Liverpool, as impressive as anything from the Anfield golden era of 20 years ago which the Swedish pair remember so fondly.

Finnish international Jari Litmanen might have been the catalyst for what was only Liverpool’s third away win of the season, but Steven Gerrard and Danny Murphy are both English, and the two goalscorers were at the heart of a performance which left Aston Villa as dazed and confused as Juan Pablo Angel, the £9.5m signing they introduced at half-time. The only thing which might have perplexed Eriksson was having to wait 82 minutes to see Michael Owen - and perhaps a lot longer for a glimpse of Robbie Fowler.

Gérard Houllier is not a man to do things by halves, and obviously not a manager to meddle with. When he said Fowler had lost his place in the side and would have to work his socks off to get back, he was not joking. Fowler did not even make the squad, and though Litmanen is still short of match fitness he was given a full debut, with Owen relegated to the bench. ‘Robbie travelled with us. He is not being punished,’ said Houllier. ‘I simply picked the 16 players most ready for this match. We will need Robbie in the future and he’ll play. It’s just a matter of attitude.’ 

Litmanen was certainly ready. The former Ajax and Barcelona striker showed up well in Liverpool’s opening attacks, displaying a neatness and ability to find space which should come in handy once his team-mates tune in to his wavelength. A single touch from Litmanen set Vladimir Smicer free down the left as early as the fourth minute, only for his cross to sail over the penalty area. 

Litmanen was also involved in a clever one-two from a corner which led to Dietmar Hamann hammering a shot narrowly wide after 10 minutes, though Liverpool did not have the early stages all their own way. David Ginola forced the first save with a dipping shot which Sander Westerveld only just reached in time, and a precision pass from the Frenchman gave Paul Merson a rather better opportunity, but his first-time effort flew high and wide. 

Although Liverpool were dominating a makeshift Villa midfield, they almost paid for a defensive lapse in the 17th minute, when Sami Hyypia allowed Gareth Barry a shooting chance from the edge of the area. But he missed the target with Westerveld out of position. 

Seven minutes later, Villa were regretting that miss and counting the cost of a defensive error of their own. Alpay ignored a call from David James and cleared straight to Murphy, who struck a post with a thumping shot but was able to stroke in the rebound. John Gregory confessed he was ‘slightly embarrassed’ by the altercation between goalkeeper and centre-half which followed, and indicated Alpay would be disciplined for slapping James in the face. 

Liverpool’s second was entirely self-created and, ominously for Fowler, was started by Litmanen. The Finn’s piercing pass from the centre circle picked out Murphy, who laid it off into the path of Gerrard, for a first-time shot which whistled past James. ‘A magnificent goal,’ Houllier purred. ‘Believe me, Stevie is going to be a player. I think he could be another Vieira or Keane.’ 

The visitors could have had more before half-time. Litmanen’s pass obliged James to race out of his area to tackle Gerrard, then Emile Heskey spotted Litmanen free on his left but was woefully unable to put his pass anywhere near him. Had that situation been reversed, Liverpool would surely have turned round three up. It was not the most auspicious time for Villa to parade their Colombian capture, particularly as he was all-too-predictably greeted with ‘Who the ****ing hell are you?’ from the delirious Liverpool fans. 

Heskey began the second half by missing a sitter off Smicer, and for a couple of minutes Liverpool looked edgy, possibly remembering what happened at Elland Road after they took a 2-0 lead. Villa could not get a toehold on the match, however, despite withdrawing Ginola and Alpay at half-time, and Heskey made amends by laying on the third goal for Murphy to score through Gareth Southgate’s legs in the 54th minute. The Villa captain was booked shortly afterwards as the rest of his side assumed the role of spectators. There were no more goals, but the Liverpool manager must have been gratified to hear his name chanted appreciatively at the end. For Gregory, there was just the silent rebuke of empty seats.

The Guardian

Monday, 15 January, 2001

Match Report from Jeremy Alexander

One Angel may not be enough

For a brief moment on Saturday Villa held their own stage. It was at half-time. Juan Pablo Angel, their new £9.5m Colombian, was led out to the centre circle. “Get him on, get him on,” chanted the Holte End. But a heavenly host would not have saved Villa. 

The signing, subject to a medical, may have saved the chairman Doug Ellis from a fans’ protest. It may not save the manager John Gregory from Ellis. Villa’s next three league games, after Wednesday’s Cup replay with Newcastle, are at Old Trafford, then home to Leeds and Ipswich. By the end of the month Gregory’s position may look precarious.

So might be Angel’s signature, with a moment’s consideration from the player. The medical could reasonably reveal cold feet brought on by acute depression. Villa, with one win in 10 games, are going nowhere.  Liverpool, who played them off the field, may be moving forward. It was no contest.

Villa were badly reduced in midfield by suspensions and injury. They have struggled with only Dion Dublin up front for three months, following injuries to Luc Nilis and Julian Joachim. Why, then, did they not show interest in Jari Litmanen who, taken on a free transfer, did most to destroy them on Saturday? Angels are needed on and off the field. 

Villa’s goal tally is as feeble as their morale, organisation and, alongside their opponents, seemingly ambition. Villa last week offered £12m for Liverpool’s fourth-choice striker Robbie Fowler. The offer was rejected. If the Colombian fears to tread, Fowler would be a natural to rush in. 

Gérard Houllier insists he needs four strikers and Fowler still has a part to play “if he works his socks off”. He was unimpressed, though, by the player’s 2am fracas outside a nightclub this month. On Saturday Fowler did not make the bench. In his last game, on New Year’s Day, the socks seemed to have fluffy reindeer on the toes; and his running was as woolly as his touch. 

As with Alan Shearer, accumulated injuries may have deprived him of the speed off the mark that made him effective. Pursuing his own line off the field makes it difficult to tell. Either way Liverpool, who sent Stan Collymore that way, may have missed their best chance to cash in on a player at risk of seeing his future behind him. 

There was no doubting their sense of purpose here until they grew bored of their superiority. Litmanen, inactive for a while at Barcelona, was sharp in all he did, slightly withdrawn on the left, sliding the ball beyond Villa’s straining defence, husbanding his fitness. It was an example to Fowler or anyone. Houllier was delighted. 

“He gives us different qualities, different options,” he said. “He can play behind the two in front. He is an experienced on-and-off striker.” Dublin might answer to that too but, without support, he has become more off than on. Angel, says Gregory, “comes with a big fee, a big reputation [17 goals in 17 games for River Plate] and a big responsibility”. 

The Finn had a key part in the goal of the match, feeding Danny Murphy, whose first-time flick found Steven Gerrard in full stride for an emphatic shot from 20 yards. Gerrard had made 50 yards from providing Litmanen in the first place. He will be satisfied that Sven-Goran Eriksson, already aware of him, has a television. 

Houllier was guarded in his enthusiasm. “Step by step he is getting to an interesting level,” he said. “He needs to repeat games like this and we must protect him. But, believe me, he is going to be a player. I think he could be another [Patrick] Vieira or [Roy] Keane.” 

Certainly he showed the all-encompassing range, strong in the tackle, ever available, willing, intelligent and powerful in foray. The force is with him. 

To a lesser extent it is with Murphy, who owed his goals before and after to Alpay’s error and a deflection that rewarded Emile Heskey’s persistence. Who needs a striker, let alone four, with midfielders like this?

The first goal led to an altercation between Alpay and David James that summed up Villa’s spirit and ended with the Turk slapping the keeper. It left Gregory “slightly embarrassed” and promising “action”. The next few games may find him slightly more embarrassed. But at least on Saturday he had an Angel in waiting.