Aston Villa has the worst attack in the Premier League. Only two teams have scored fewer goals than Stoke City, which meant 0-0 was always the most likely result from Saturday’s meeting at Villa Park.
But with any soccer match (particularly at the professional level), there is the expectation that teams will do basic things, like be able to show they’re capable of win the game. We assume teams actually are trying to win, but sometimes, on some very rare occasions, teams aren’t able to show it.
Saturday turned out to be one of those days. The teams combined for only two shots on goal, one of which appeared to be an ill-aimed Matthew Lowton cross. Stoke only put two shots toward Brad Guzan all day, neither of which hit the keepers’ gloves. Stuart James, on hand for The Observer, call the match “painful to watch at times.”
There were, however, three Americans on the field (Oh! So that’s why he’s posting about this):
- Brad Guzan starting in Aston Villa’s goal isn’t news, nor was his ability to keep a clean sheet. However, he did almost nothing on Saturday. No shots on goal for Stoke meant no saves for the U.S. national team’s No. 2.
- Geoff Cameron got another start at left back and had a decent day, though similar caveats apply. Aston Villa couldn’t be described as threatening.
- A for some reason, Eric Lichaj was called in to pay left midfield against one of the weaker attacks in the league. Nominally a fullback, the U.S. international got (what’s becoming) a rare start in front of Nathan Baker, playing well defensively against a Stoke flank manned by Matthew Etherington.
The most notable part of the match had nothing to do with the American trio. Darren Bent, long out of the team with injury and (lately) rumored difference of opinion with Paul Lambert, came on in the 66th minute to applause from the Villa faithful.
But as with everything else that happened at Villa Park on Saturday, it’s hard to say it mattered. The match ended 0-0 with little chance it could have done otherwise.
Check out the latest episode of Premier League Download, a look inside Crystal Palace and the club’s passionate supporters.
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Win, lose or draw it’s always a party for the fans of Crystal Palace and Roger Bennett travels to Selhurst Park to learn how the beloved team went from Championship strugglers to a Premier League success story.
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Eight days, three games, three wins, seven goals scored and just two conceded — Liverpool’s week, by the numbers.
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From the thrashing of Manchester City last Saturday, to advancing to the knockout stage of the Europa League on Thursday, to grinding out a 1-0 home win over Swansea City on Sunday, it’s been another solid week for the Reds and still-new manager Jurgen Klopp, who now find themselves all the way up to sixth in the Premier League, just four points outside the top-four.
[ MORE: Sunday’s PL roundup — Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs all draw ]
Following Sunday’s triumph as Anfield, Klopp was his usual jovial self and rightfully pleased with his side’s results over the last eight days. Klopp, speaking in his post-game television interview (above video):
“A perfect result against a strong opponent — a very, very good defending opponent. [The Liverpool players] did a good job in the last week — a good reaction on their results; they defended really good; closed their gaps. … It was a difficult game. We had to change in the second half. … It was difficult — the wind and the opponent, but the result is perfect.”
“All we need is (defensive) stability. Everybody can see our skills on offense when we can play and have a little bit of space. Of course we can create more chances and can play better passes in some situations, but for a few players it’s really hard in this moment because they have to play always. … I’m really proud tonight.”
Easily the toughest part of competing in Europa League is the quick return to Premier League action from Thursday to Sunday, well over half the time against a side that didn’t any one of Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Playing in the Europa League has cost clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur an unbelievable (though, relatively unquantifiable) number of points in their respective bids to break back into the PL’s top-four over the last few seasons. There’s a reason Slaven Bilic‘s West Ham United essentially punted on the Europa League back in August.
The Europa League slate helped give us a quartet of Sunday morning Premier League fixtures, but only five goals through those four games.
Only Liverpool seized the chance to make a move up the table, as James Milner‘s penalty conversion moved the Reds closer to the Top Four, while Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal all settled for draws.
[ SUNDAY RUMORS: Vardy, Neymar, Stones all in the headlines ]
And Arsenal is facing a worsening injury crisis
Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Chelsea — RECAP
The most notable storyline heading into this match was Diego Costa‘s reported feud with Jose Mourinho, and the Chelsea boss opted to use Pedro up top instead of his best center forward. The play was even, and Chelsea probably looked the better for a goal, and Costa remained unused before tossing his bib toward Mourinho. Surely more to come. From the Spurs’ angle, the North London side missed a chance to assert itself as a title contestant. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side remains four points back of first place.
Liverpool 1-0 Swansea City — RECAP
Not much to like here, and Liverpool could’ve scored several times before Swans’ Neil Taylor gave up a penalty by keeping his arms out as he turned away from Jordon Ibe’s cross. James Milner converted, sending Jurgen Klopp‘s side closer to the Top Four (four points back of No. 4 Arsenal).
Norwich City 1-1 Arsenal — RECAP
Speaking of the Gunners, they scored a goal off a John Ruddy gaffe, but lost Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez to injury, also sacrificing an equalizer when Robbie Brady and Lewis Grabban teamed up to get the better of Gabriel Paulista and Petr Cech. Heady times for title hopes at the Emirates, but Sunderland and Aston Villa are next.
West Ham United 1-1 West Bromwich Albion — RECAP
A simply-gorgeous free kick goal from Mauro Zarate was on of several good bits of work by the home side, but Winston Reid picked up an own goal on his 150th West Ham appearance to leave this one a draw.
Jurgen Klopp‘s resurgent Liverpool is within four points of the Top Four after a second-half penalty helped the Reds to a 1-0 win over Swansea City at Anfield on Sunday.
James Milner converted a Jordon Ibe-won PK to boost Liverpool to 23 points, good for sixth place.
Swansea is in 15th place with just 14 points, having cooled off considerably.
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Liverpool nearly opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Adam Lallana slipped Jordon Ibe in on goal, but Kyle Bartley slid to tackle the ball off the goal post.
The opening 20 minutes belonged to the Reds, with timely tackles and deflections saving Swansea on several occasions.
Nothing got through.
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Liverpool went ahead on a PK. converted the chance after Ibe’s cross was handled by Neil Taylor.
Swansea looked better from the goal onward, but couldn’t find an equalizer.