Yes, it was a gut-wrenching feeling to walk away knowing that three points, let alone a draw, had slipped from our grasp.
Indeed, there will be some, who may prophecise that these could yet prove decisive ‘dropped’ points come May. Gulp.
However, it seems hard not to take great promise and justified hope from the display.
It was full of purpose, competitiveness and importantly, heart.
Objectively, Liverpool were relentless for long periods.
They presented undeniably our sternest challenge, mercilessly hunting a Premier League title that’s eluded them in the modern era. And they’re European champions no less.
Despite Liverpool’s eventual onslaught, they took a little while to settle at Villa Park.
This was in part due to Villa’s energy across the midfield.
John McGinn was a maruading ball of energy.
Nakamba, now growing into something quite special before our eyes, put in a eye catching performance.
El Ghazi, often inconsistent, provided trickery and pace from wide. It was his best game in a recent memory.
Trezeguet too, finally outlined his potential in a Villa shirt, producing a tireless performance. The Egyptian international was fully deserving of his first half goal.
Firmino did though provide a scare. His effort was contraversially ruled out by VAR. The armpit (and presumably the limb attached to it) being adjudged offside. His strike partner Mane had a penalty appeal rightly waved away; the Senegalese striker collapsing theatrically in the box.
Liverpool needed the break to re-formulate their game plan and emerged presumably with Klopp’s words ringing in their ears. Suddenly the game felt entrenched in Villa’s half, with a now relentless surge of red shirts available during every attack.
There was a building unnerving sense of inevitability as the half developed. The visitors probed, controlled the ball and repeatedly tried a dangerous low or angled threatening ball across the box.
Despite this, we can also look back on missed opportunities of our own.
Hourihane, when released on goal, inexplicably opted to square to a crowded Wesley rather than unleash an effort himself. There also were a number of poor or wasted set pieces, notably corners. These were chances that we worked so hard to create, yet afforded such little thought when choosing how to captitalise upon them.
As the clock approach 75 minutes, Villa began to look decidedly leggy. A second half of harrying, chasing and retrieving was visibly beginning to take its toll.
As the 90th minute neared, Mane, guilty of an embarassing act of penalty area simulation in the first half (for which he was booked), floated a ball to the far post. Robertson, excellent all afternoon, rose to plant a header into the net beyond Heaton unchallenged.
Despite the noise of encouragement from all corners of Villa Park, Liverpool resumed their bombardment almost immediately from Villa’s kick off. Having survived a Trent-Alexander free-kick, the resulting corner was defending poorly, with Mane predictably guiding a header home from the near post for the win.
From where Villa were on 85 minutes, this is a hard one to take. There are important lessons to be learned, but equally, much to be taken forward as positives too.
We will not face many sides of the calibre of Liverpool, who despite their obvious qualities, did present as carrying weaknesses in both midfield and defence. We weren’t slow at testing these weaknesses. No team are infallible, afterall, but when presented with opportunities, as we were, it underlines the importance of being clinical and ruthless.
Most heartening are the overall qualities that the squad possesses. The keeper, defence and protection from midfield look to be sound.
Our glaring inconsistency looks to be up top. This isn’t restricted to Wesley, who despite his efforts against Liverpool, looks every bit the raw and youthful talent we knew we were getting.
The responsibility must also go further than the shoulders of one man too. We need to find goals across the team, not only to take the pressure off a solitary striker, but to kill teams and games of this type of magnitude off when we have the chance.
We can live and learn against the likes of Liverpool, but we must make our qualities count, starting against Wolves this Sunday.