When soccer purists criticize the Premier League, they often mention Bolton Wanderers and Hull City as two teams that send them into a comatose state. They conjure up images of a nil-nil draw with the ball played in the air more than on the muddy pitch. They imagine unskillful players playing drab, gray football.
But if they gave both teams the benefit of the doubt on Tuesday night, they would have been awed to see an entertaining football match between two sides so hungry for the three points that it ended up being a nail biter finish. The final result was 2-2, which brought a smile to Hull City manager Phil Brown’s face as he saw his side fight back to salvage the draw in a spirited display by both sides. Steven Hunt was particularly instrumental for the Tigers by scoring both goals.
One hundred miles south of Bolton, it was a winter wonderland at Villa Park as Aston Villa and Liverpool battled for 90 minutes in what at times looked like a snow blizzard. It’s pretty rare to see a Premier League game played in snow these days, so it was a delight to see how both teams coped in the adverse conditions and whether the snow and freezing cold temperatures would add an added dynamic to the game. In fairness to both sides, the weather conditions didn’t affect play that much except for a couple of slips and slides.
Over the course of the 90 minutes, Liverpool were the slightly better of the two sides. Aston Villa, like against Arsenal, played better in the first half than second and had a couple of golden opportunities to grab the lead but were denied a goal after excellent reflex saves by Pepe Reina from Stewart Downing’s point-blank shot and Gabriel Agbonlahor’s shot that almost slid under the Liverpool goalkeeper.
But Liverpool battled on and grabbed an injury-time winner when the ball rebounded to Fernando Torres outside the edge of the penalty area and the Spaniard then struck the ball into the corner out of the reach of Brad Friedel.
Despite there being the solitary goal, it was an entertaining match to watch and both teams played well under the circumstances. For Villa, though, the loss will be a massive blow to their confidence coming only days after their loss to Arsenal. Liverpool, meanwhile, will gladly take the three points and hope that this begins a winning streak which they so badly need. Their performance wasn’t as good as it could have been, but they showed enough glimmer of hope to mount a climb back up the league table.
Last, but not least, spare a thought for the 42,788 fans who braved the cold conditions at Villa Park Tuesday night to sit, bundled up in warm clothes in the stands as they watched 90 minutes of football. This was one night I’m sure many of them would have preferred to have a run on the pitch, like the players, to keep their body temperature warm.