Continuing the series where I look back at my five favourite wins the Liverpool’s next opponents. This was written before Liverpool travelled to Villa Park to meet Aston Villa and here are my five favourite wins from past encounters.
18th December 1982
ASTON VILLA (2) 2 (Shaw 34, Withe 35)
LIVERPOOL (3) 4 (Hodgson 5, Dalglish 9, Kennedy 27, Rush 88)
ASTON VILLA: Rimmer, Jones, Evans, McNaught, Williams; Bremner, Mortimer, Cowans, Walters; Shaw, Withe
LIVERPOOL: Grobbelaar; Neal, Lawrenson, Hansen, Kennedy; Lee, Souness, Whelan; Rush, Hodgson, Dalglish
When Liverpool arrived at Villa Park in December 1982 they were defending League Champions having taken the title off Villa. But Villa were the European Champions. Villa’s defence of their league title had been poor the previous season but this time they were competing again, lying 5th in the table with Liverpool leading again, 5pts ahead of Manchester United.
On a ridiculously frosty surface both sets of players struggled to keep their footing, which spoilt the game although some players tried to con the referee into believing they’d simply mistimed their challenges when in reality they were kicking each other. Early on Dalglish got into one such battle with Peter Withe which lead to a free-kick about 25 yards out. Sammy Lee took the kick and Jimmy Rimmer spilled the save and David Hodgson was on hand first to put the ball into the net and give the visitors the lead after just 5 minutes. Four minutes later Rush forced a save from Rimmer which lead to a corner. Kenny Dalglish took it and swung it in right-footed from the left wing and it missed everyone and bounced past Rimmer for a goal. 27 minutes in and Ian Rush was brought down by Allan Evans and Liverpool again had a free-kick on the edge of the ‘D’. This time Alan Kennedy ran over the ball and Graeme Souness fired his shot into the wall. The ball bounced off the wall and straight into Kennedy’s path and he beat Rimmer to put the visitors 3-0 up.
But Villa hit back within 7 minutes to score 2 goals in a minute. Villa had a free-kick wide on their left around the halfway line and as the ball was floated into the area, Withe made it difficult for Hansen to clear and his header fell for Bremner to hit on the half-volley. His shot hit Whelan and the ball bounced kindly for Gary Shaw to equalise from close range. Almost immediately Villa came forward again and Dalglish was adjudged to have fouled Mark Walters on the left wing. Cowans took the free-kick and Peter Withe got up first to head past Grobbelaar.
In the second half Liverpool put Villa under all sorts of pressure but towards the end the home side sensed their chance and it took some fine saves from Grobbelaar to keep Liverpool in front. Then 2 minutes from time they managed to put the game beyond Villa’s reach. Winning the ball in midfield, Mark Lawrenson played a long ball forward where David Hodgson held it up on the edge of the area. He played it square to Dalglish who then played a lovely ball for Rush to run onto and he converted from 12 yards for a 4-2 win.
Liverpool went onto retain their League title and also the League Cup too in Bob Paisley’s final year as manager.
20th January 1984
ASTON VILLA (1) 1 (Mortimer 15)
LIVERPOOL (1) 3 (Rush 46, 70, 80)
ASTON VILLA: Spink; Williams, Evans, Bremner, Evans, Gibson; Curbishley, Mortimer, McMahon; Shaw, Withe, Rideout
LIVERPOOL: Grobbelaar; Neal, Lawrenson, Hansen, Kennedy; Nicol, Lee, Johnston, Souness; Robinson, Rush
By the time Liverpool visited Villa Park in the following season BBC and ITV had taken the plunge for live football. On a cold Friday night in January BBC cameras turned up to watch league leaders Liverpool take on Aston Villa in 8th. Liverpool had won the previous two titles and were now managed by Joe Fagan, who would go onto win three trophies by the end of his first season in charge. Villa were an ageing team as they tried to hang onto their European Cup winning side, and had lost just once at home all season. They were given a first half lead from skipper Dennis Mortimer but then it became the Ian Rush show.
Immediately after the break Lawrenson cleared a ball downfield for Ian Rush to run onto and his pace took him beyond Williams. He controlled the ball and then as Spink came out, coolly placed it into the corner of the net. Rush was in dominant form that season and this was his 25th goal already. 70 minutes in and Souness picked up the ball on the right wing, crossed it for Nicol to flick it on and there was Rush at the far post. As the ball fell to him the Welshman struck it first time on the volley to put Liverpool in front. With 10 minutes remaining Nicol headed the ball forward just over Allan Evans and Rush was in again. He controlled the ball on his thigh and then chipped it over Spink for a brilliant hat-trick, leaving commentator John Motson to utter the immortal line of “the man just can’t be stopped”. That brought his tally to 27 in a season where he’d eventually score an incredible 47 times. Liverpool won the league for the third time running, the League Cup for the 4th time running and picked up their 4th European Cup.
21st November 1998
ASTON VILLA (0) 2 (Dublin 47, 63)
LIVERPOOL (2) 4 (Ince 2, Fowler 7, 58, 66)
ASTON VILLA: Oakes; Watson (Charles), Ehiogu, Southgate, Wright (Joachim); Draper (Thompson), Barry, Hendrie; Collymore, Dublin, Merson
LIVERPOOL: James; Heggem, Babb, Staunton, Harkness (Bjornebye); Redknapp, Carragher, Ince, Berger (McAteer); Owen (Riedle), Fowler
For a change, Villa were top of the table when the two met in November 1998. They lead Man United by 3pts with Liverpool back in 11th. Villa were unbeaten for the 12 games of the season so far, dropping just 2pts at home. This game was famous for some boorish behaviour from former Liverpool striker, Stan Collymore. Collymore had been involved in a bust-up with Steve Harkness 9 months earlier when Stan accused Steve of uttering a racial slur. The two had threatened to sue each other and Collymore had also threatened to break Steve’s leg next time they came up against each other. It took only 12 minutes for Collymore to try and carry out that threat which resulted in Harkness being stretchered off. By then Liverpool had exploded into a 2-goal lead. Paul Ince had taken advantage of some indecision in the home defence to give the visitors a 2nd minute lead. Five minutes later Redknapp’s cross from the right was glanced in by Fowler as he got in between the two Villa centre-backs. Both teams had chances to score again before half-time but it wasn’t until 2 minutes into the second half when Villa got a goal back as Dublin volleyed past James. Ten minutes later Liverpool had restored their 2-goal lead as Heggem was in space in midfield and then found Fowler who drilled a precise shot for his 2nd of the game.
Villa fought back as Merson played a great pass to allow Collymore to cross for Dublin to finish from close range. But Liverpool came at them again almost immediately as Redknapp was again involved and his pinpoint cross was steered in by Fowler to complete another hat-trick against Villa. Collymore was then sent-off for a ridiculous lash out at Michael Owen’s head, and Villa’s misery was complete. Villa ended the season in 6th just 1pt ahead of Liverpool.
13th January 2001
ASTON VILLA (0) 0
LIVERPOOL (2) 3 (Murphy 24, 53, Gerrard 32)
ASTON VILLA: James; Samuel (Hitzlsperger), Southgate, Staunton, Wright;Alpay (Vassell), Barry, Stone; Merson, Dublin, Ginola (McGrath)
LIVERPOOL: Westerveld; Babbel, Hyypia, Henchoz, Carragher; Smicer (McAllister), Gerrard, Hamann, Murphy; Litmanen (Biscan), Heskey (Owen)
2000-01 was a famous season for Liverpool. They won a unique treble of three cup competitions. When they turned up at Villa Park they had just been beaten by Championship side, Crystal Palace in the 1st leg of the League Cup Semi-Final. That game saw the debut of one of the best players I’ve seen wear a Liverpool shirt, Jari Litmanen. Manager, Gerard Houllier had bought the Finnish legend from Barcelona to the club he supported as a boy. Litmanen was such an LFC fan that when he left Ajax for Barcelona he said goodbye by having “You’ll Never Walk Alone” played as he left the pitch for the final time.
Villa Park would witness Litmanen’s first full game for his new club and few who were there, would forget it. Litmanen was just a class apart, with slick passing, movement and positioning which seemed so effortless and simple. Some called it a masterclass and Liverpool had reason to believe he could provide the necessary quality to threaten Manchester United, who were 11pts clear at the top of the table. Certainly, Gerrard, Murphy and Smicer benefited from the industry he provided and he was involved in everything. Midway through the first half Alpay failed to clear properly and Danny Murphy was on hand to score after his initial shot hit the post. After that, Liverpool ran the game. Their 2nd goal came just 8 minutes after the first and was created by Litmanen who evidenced his ability to thread a ball through the eye of the needle when he found Murphy on the break. He found Gerrard who shot first time into the roof of the net. Within 10 minutes of the second half Murphy had doubled his tally and given Liverpool the gap they required and killed off any hopes the home side may have of getting anything from the game.
Litmanen was substituted after 70 minutes but had entertained the 40,000 crowd enough to be remembered for years. Villa were a mess with much in-fighting of which some of it spilled onto the pitch as Alpay and David James came to blows after the 1st goal. Liverpool were up to 4th and Villa had dropped to 13th. Liverpool went onto win the League Cup the FA Cup and then the UEFA Cup to cap a remarkable season.
18th December 2002
ASTON VILLA (1) 3 (Vassell pen 23, Hitzlsperger 72, Henchoz og 88)
LIVERPOOL (1) 4 (Murphy 27, 90, Baros 54, Gerrard 67)
ASTON VILLA: Enckleman; de la Cruz (Angel), Mellberg, Samuel, Barry; Hitzlsperger, Leonhardsen, Hendrie (Kinsella); Dublin, Vassell, Hadji
LIVERPOOL: Kirkland; Babbel (Carragher), Hyypia, Henchoz, Traore; Gerrard, Diao, Murphy, Riise; Owen (Heskey), Baros
This series focuses solely on League games but this particular match was a classic and so had to be included. It was a Worthington Cup tie at the Quarter-Final stage. Liverpool had knocked out Southampton and then Ipswich, on penalties, to get there, whereas Villa had put out Luton, Oxford and Preston. Liverpool entered the competition a round later due to Champions League commitments, but had suffered the disappointment of going out at the group stage. In the league they were in the middle of their worst run in living memory, having lost their last 4 and unable to find a win in their previous 6 matches. Villa had been beaten on the opening day of the season when Liverpool visited Villa Park and were sitting in 15th in the league but had hopes of a decent cup run.
The first goal came on 23 minutes after a slick passing move from Villa saw Lee Hendrie brought down in the area by a clumsy challenge from Traore. Darius Vassell stepped up and sent Kirkland the wrong way for 1-0 to the home side. Four minutes later former Red, Oyvind Leonhardsen tripped Milan Baros on the edge of the ‘D’ and Danny Murphy scored a trademark free-kick which Liverpool fans came to expect from him. 1-1 at the break, and within 10 minutes of the re-start Liverpool were ahead for the first time. A first time pass from inside his own half from Gerrard found Riise in an advanced position. He played it to his right where Baros hit a low shot to the keeper’s right and into the net. 2-1 to Liverpool. At the halfway stage of the second period, Liverpool came forward again and Baros was involved, again running at the defence. When the challenge came in Baros seemed to go down easily and no penalty was given but the ball ran on and Gerrard, who’d run from deep, was on hand to score. It was no more than he deserved as he’d been involved in nearly everything Liverpool did and now they were 3-1 up. But this Liverpool side had the propensity to shoot themselves in the foot and their confidence, at this stage of the season, was certainly lacking. Five minutes later Hitzlsperger seemed to hit a speculative shot from 30 yards out and it went through the defence and passed Kirkland. 2-3.
Then with just 2 minutes remaining Vassell chipped the ball forward for Dublin and Stephane Henchoz got to the ball first but turned it into his own net for a dramatic equaliser. But just as the crowd were getting ready for extra time and penalties, Liverpool went back down the other end of the pitch and some fine work on the right wing from Gerrard saw him twist inside and out to beat Samuel before playing the ball into the area. It was half-stopped by Kinsella and there was Murphy on hand to fire it into the net and Liverpool had pinched the game in injury time.
4-3 and a fantastic finish saw Liverpool go through to meet Sheffield United in the Semi-Finals. They beat them over 2 legs and then beat Manchester United in the Final at Cardiff to lift the League Cup for a record 7th time.
HEAD TO HEAD at Villa Park
Liverpool win: 31
Aston Villa win: 38
Liverpool goals: 119
Aston Villa goals: 160