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As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.
This graphic makes for interesting comparison to the reverse fixture.
Villa attempted and completed more than twice as many passes as they did three months ago, 79% accuracy yesterday compared to 69% accuracy. They had had 46.5% possession compared to 27.9% in the match at Anfield. And they made 39 interceptions – by far, the most by a Liverpool opponent this season, more than double the opposition average prior to yesterday – compared to just 14 in the last meeting.
But Villa took fewer shots yesterday – 10 to December's 11 – with only four on target compared to six in the last meeting. At Anfield, they created eight chances. Yesterday, they created seven.
There were four changes to Liverpool's XI from the last meeting: Henderson for Allen, Coutinho for Shelvey, Enrique for Sterling (Downing was at left-back), and Carragher for Skrtel. Henderson scored the crucial equalizer (and had a team-high six interceptions), Coutinho provided the crucial assist, Enrique won possession 12 times, and Carragher, along with Agger, held Benteke to half as many successful aerial duels as in December – Benteke only won 5 of 10 compared to 10 of 17 at Anfield. Agger was 6/7 on aeriel duels, Carragher was 3/3; three months ago, Skrtel was 4/8 and Agger was 2/5.
The first half seemed all too familiar. Liverpool struggled to make the breakthrough; Villa looked dangerous every time they countered, prevented an opener by a brilliant Reina save but scoring soon after. Liverpool were impatient in attack: eight of the 15 first half shots were blocked, six came from outside the box, hoping for a goal more than working for a goal.
But the second half was a different story. A brilliant move to dice through Villa's defense before it could set up, highlighted by two unerring long passes and Henderson's storming run and finish. Two outstanding chances, better than almost anything created in the first 45 minutes, narrowly off target by Coutinho and Johnson before Suarez won the penalty for Liverpool's second. Liverpool pressed higher up the pitch, unsettling's Villa's back line – who were crucial in starting attacks; as usual, Villa often ignored its midfield. 12 of Liverpool's 17 successful tackles came in the second half, including three of Lucas's five, two of Agger's three, and both of Gerrard's. Lucas committed five fouls in the first half, but just one in the second half. For the first 70 minutes, Villa took nine shots: five on target, three off, and one blocked. But in the last 20 minutes, with Liverpool protecting its narrow lead, Villa took just one: a 75th minute N'Zogbia effort from nearly 30 yards out.