By Eamonn Smith
Anfield – a home from home
Since Villa last played away from home, five long weeks had passed, which meant the 1,813 travelling faithful to Anfield were more than up for the clash with last season’s runners up in the league, Liverpool. Talking the train up to the 2008 City of Culture, the feeling was one of excitement, given our performances in recent years on the famous Anfield pitch.
On a London Midland train full of a mixture of colours, including well as a wealth of Villa supporters, Stoke, Leicester and even some Liverpool fans, we made the two-hour trip to Liverpool Lime Street station.
As we entered the Liverpool city centre, we were greeted by hundreds of weekend shoppers, people busking on the street corner and even some flying scousers on a zip wire over the high street! Eventually we found our desired destination, The Slaughter House, an Irish pub on Fenwick Street, where I, accompanied by a few other Villa fans, had some pre-match food, and naturally a routine pint. As we tucked into our grub, spirits were high, due to the great start of the season which filled us with considerable amounts of confidence.
As always, all good things must come to an end, and we moved on to the next pub, or at least we tried to, we attempted to get a taxi to the Flat Iron pub on Anfield road. Instead, we ended up getting thrown out of a taxi, just because we asked for advice on how to get back to the train station after the game!
After that very weird encounter, we found ourselves in another cab, with a driver who was actually willing to talk to us, and set off on the short trip to the Flat Iron, a sort of long-lost cousin of the popular pub, The Arkles, about 200 yards further down the road, and much quieter!
The Flat Iron has always welcomed us away fans, we have been attending for years, and nothing was different this year. There was a mix of Liverpool and Villa in the pub, which lead to discussions about the game, and obviously a bit of banter too, but it all added to the build-up.
As we had the final few drinks before walking down the long stretch of the Anfield road to the away end, a sense of nervousness started to creep in, as we all knew the capabilities Liverpool had to open up teams (especially after what they did to Spurs), we’d certainly find out how solid our defence really is.
Queuing to enter the stadium, renditions of ‘We are by far the greatest team’ were sung. On the concourse, it really was a party atmosphere; ‘My Old Man Said’ was chanted loudly, and ‘Villa, Villa, Villa’ echoed around Anfield while the team entered the hallowed turf.
Road to Victory
After hearing Liverpool’s established anthem, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, it was then, a tense, edgy atmosphere was felt. But nonetheless, Villa kicked the game off, with us hoping another shock at Anfield was on the cards.
The first 15 minutes of the game passed, and Villa dominated. After going ahead with a scrappy Gabby Agbonlahor goal from inside the six-yard box on nine minutes, Villa fans were sent into ecstasy, silencing the already quiet home support. Cries of ‘Gabby Gabby Gabby Agbonlahor’ echoed around the stadium. As the half went on, with Villa still in command, the travelling support ironically belted out, ‘We are gonna win the League!’
As half-time approached, Villa fans turned to taunt the home support, ‘Where’s you famous atmosphere?’ was chanted, making a mockery of Anfield’s so called legendary atmosphere. But as we went into half-time, still with our one-nil lead intact, confidence was high.
As Liverpool kicked off the second half, we knew we were in for a long, hard-fought 45 minutes, plus the obligatory five-minutes injury time for no reason at all. The longer the half went on, the more it looked like the Merseyside team would find a route back into the match.
Hearts were in mouths when Philippe Coutinho fired his finessed effort right back off the post, but when Raheem Sterling’s effort was blocked by Henderson and out for a Villa throw, it really did feel like our day.
As Villa held on, and battled through almost 50 minutes of pure defending, the final whistle finally went, provoking a huge roar from the Aston Villa away supporters. Every player came and acknowledged the fans, just showing how winning at Anfield brings everyone together! You could see on the players’ faces how elated they were and that rubbed off on to us in the crowd.
Determination, effort and pride are the words that came to mind after the spirited performance, as we made our way back to the train station celebrating another very successful away day in Liverpool and the rise to second in the league. UTV
Home Atmos Rating
Based on the fact Liverpool have a reputation for having the best and most inspiring atmosphere in the Premier League and them falling well short of it, and partnered with the fact that the Villa fans made the majority of the noise at Anfield – 6/10.
Follow Eamonn on Twitter – @EAmonn_Smith