Warm reception but Steven Gerrard’s Anfield return ends in defeat

The Aston Villa boss took his side to face his former club Liverpool.
Steven Gerrard made a losing return to Anfield (Nick Potts/PA)

Steven Gerrard made a losing return to Anfield (Nick Potts/PA)

By Carl Markham, PA

Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s return to Anfield as Aston Villa manager ended in a 1-0 defeat.

Here the PA news agency takes a look at how his afternoon went.

Reception

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His Villa team may have been booed as they left the tunnel but a roar went up when Gerrard emerged behind them. Gerrard offered a little wave to the Kop and then appeared to be looking for people he knew in the main stand behind him. It took eight minutes for the Kop to break into their ‘Steve Gerrard’ chant but it was quickly drowned out by shouts of ‘Liverpool, Liverpool’. He received another rendition at the final whistle but he was in no mood for hanging around to accept the adulation.

Tactics

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For over an hour the plan appeared to be based upon keeping Liverpool at bay by any means necessary and while the hosts created a number of chances, that strategy appeared to be working. However, with the emphasis on defence when they did get the ball it was often lumped forward aimlessly to no-one in particular. Gerrard’s side came to life after going behind when he switched to a 4-4-2 by sending on former Reds striker Danny Ings to partner Ollie Watkins and it caused Liverpool plenty of problems for the final 16 minutes.

Presence

Steven Gerrard, centre, issues instructions to his team (Nick Potts/PA)

Steven Gerrard, centre, issues instructions to his team (Nick Potts/PA)

Gerrard did not sit down for the entire 90 minutes, standing in his technical area with hands in pockets or arms folded. He briefly turned away in disappointment when Mohamed Salah stroked home the winning penalty but he largely kept himself out of the long-running touchline shenanigans between Jurgen Klopp and fourth official Graham Scott, with the pair constantly arguing about on-field matters. He cut a calm and composed figure, regularly consulting with coaching staff on how to tweak their approach, and was quick to offer words of advice. However, after a small wave to the Kop singing his name at the final whistle he applauded the travelling support before heading down the tunnel.


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