So Liverpool’s season ended yesterday afternoon at 16:14 when a fantastically worked goal from Fabian Delph and the rest of his Aston Villa cohorts nestled in the right hand corner of Simon Mignolet’s Goal.
The fight, determination and spirit displayed by the Villans was everything that was lacking in the Liverpool performance.
There are currently 6 games left in the BPL and Liverpool currently sit 7 points behind Man City and 8 points behind Man Utd.
Liverpool are out of every competition now, after failing to make it past the Group Stage in the UCL, falling at the Semi Finals in the League Cup and a capitulation in yesterdays game means there is nothing to play for.
Liverpool need to finish the Season with full points from every game and hope that the Teams above all drop points to even stand a slight chance of qualifying for the cash rich Champions League. With a game against Chelsea on the 10th May at Stamford Bridge, lets be honest, this does not look likely.
So back to Wembley yesterday and the pitiful effort from a Liverpool side who were trying to get stalwart Captain Steven Gerrard to a Cup final on his birthday and last game of the Season before his career with Liverpool ends.
In a season where Liverpool have failed to build on the platform they built last season, this was the Game that would have raised morale, given Gerrard a fitting final game and galvonised a Squad that appears to be fractured with Contract issues, tabloid sensation and Transfer rumours.
From the first minute I knew immediately that we were off tempo. The whole team seemed slow, lacklustre and there appeared to be no drive.
Gerrard seemed to be off the pace, the Iconic display from the 2006 Final against West Ham a distant memory. Passes that he would have collected last season left him scratching his head as the Aston Villa team consistently beat him to the ball and left him trailing in the Counter Attack. Later in the Game when Rodgers moved him to the back of the Midfield his affect on the Game was further lessened.
Sterling seemed to be on the peripheries of the game throughout the game and Coutinho was well marshalled by the Villa back 5.
With the disruption of the Injury to Nathan Baker, Liverpool capitalise on the only mistake made by Villa and score the opening Goal with some lovely touches by Sterling and Coutinho after Villa fail to clear.
Even as I celebrated the Goal I sense of unease. Villa were still in control, they weren’t panicking or leaving spaces for Sterling or Markovic to run into but rather, were closing, harassing and beating Liverpool for pace.
Benteke was pulling Can all over the place and beating him for Headers at every opportunity, Grealish was a livewire who created problems every time he moved forward and Delph, courted by Liverpool in the Autumn, was desperate to make up for his earlier error with driving runs, a deft touch and wide range of passing.
The Goal combines all three Villa players mentioned above and is a testament to the Grit and determination that Sherwood has instilled in a Villa team who, before his arrival, were in dire straights.
Benteke is a man on fire at the moment and made the Liverpool backline look toothless.
The Goal appeared the embolden Villa and cripple Liverpool. From that moment on Liverpool were shell shocked and idea less. Half time could not have arrived quicker.
Second half, a change of personnel and formation with Balotelli coming on for the ineffectual Markovic. The Idea may have been slightly different but the result was the same, Villa worked harder and wanted it more.
Their tenacity paid off with the trio of Grealish, Delph and Benteke combining to give Villa a well deserved lead.
Balotelli continued his goalscoring mediocrity with the only bright point being a tidy finish from a Goal marked incorrectly offside.
There was one moment where I believed the Fates were on our Side. Seeing Gerrard rise gracefully toward an out swinging corner from Coutinho and smash the Header toward goal, I found myself rising out of my seat ready to scream my heroes name to the Heavens and get this FA Cup Semi Final back on its correct trajectory when, of course, former Man Utd academy starlet Richardson completed a very simple clearance off the Line.
Naturally, Liverpool tried everything possible in the last 5 minutes to rescue the Game. Crosses, shots off target and near misses all contribute to a Semi Final to forget for Liverpool Fans who believed that Gerrard would be lifting the Trophy on May 30th. Instead Villa will return to Wembley to play Arsenal and if the display from Sunday is anything to go by, they stand a very real chance of winning.
The question from this Liverpool fan is, Where do Liverpool go from here?
If by some divine intervention Liverpool make it into the Champions League, this Season may be considered a Success but if we do make it there is serious work to be done.
I am yet to be convinced about Joe Allen, I believe that Rodgers continues to play him to justify the Price Tag. He seems to play very negatively and contribution to play is lacking.
Defensively we seem to be a shambles. Mignolet has the joint highest Clean Sheets in the Premier League this Season but it seems the Defenders in front of him are always liable to make a mistake. Sakho is shaky and Can is a Midfielder, granted he has coped well at times in defence but yesterday’s schooling by Benteke just proves that Liverpool need to have a more dependable Centre Back.
Up front, Sturridge continues to deal with difficult injuries and every Liverpool fan has realised by now that Balotelli was an error in judgement by Rodgers.
Let’s be honest, Liverpool have a long way to go to get close to last Seasons achievements.
In a Season that was filled with so much potential, Liverpool find themselves staring at another trophieless Season and no Champions League football to compensate.
I find myself thinking that without a Massive change in players and attitude the only positive Liverpool can take from this Season is Coutinho signing a 5 Year Contract.