Last season the pair scored 56 league goals between them so it was immediately apparent where the Reds were most likely to be under the greatest strain. Lambert knew this, and also the fact their opponents have still not entirely cracked the defending set-pieces thing, and that was what he targeted. Liverpool were denied space in the final third which stifled much of their forward progress, while the visitors attacked with speed when they had the chance and were aggressive at corners and free-kicks – which ultimately produced their winner. Mario Balotelli was brought in by Rodgers last month to provide additional firepower but he spent much of the first half either being kicked or trying to avoid being kicked by Philippe Senderos. The Swiss defender got away with at least one blatant hack at the former Manchester City striker off the ball which would have likely resulted in a red card had referee Lee Mason or either of his linesmen seen it. Whether it knocked Balotelli, making his home debut, off his stride or not it was the latter stages of the half before he started to show signs of life with one viciously-dipping shot with the aid of a deflection off Andreas Weimann dropping just wide of the post. He also created a good chance for Adam Lallana, making his debut after injury in pre-season delayed his first appearance since a summer move, but the former Southampton midfielder drilled a half-volley just wide from Balotelli’s lay-off on the edge of the area. By that time Liverpool were already behind after mistakes by their two centre-backs. If Liverpool needed any needed a reminder how tough life will be without last season’s two leading goalscorers, it was provided by Aston Villa. Press Association First Mamadou Sakho tried to control the ball close to his own goalline instead of playing safe and ended up conceding a corner, from which Dejan Lovren got the wrong side of Senderos whose header created a scramble from which Agbonlahor scored in the ninth minute. The goal was against the run of play as Lazar Markovic, also making his first Anfield appearance, had already volleyed over Alberto Moreno’s far-post cross and headed wide after being involved in good build-up play with Jordan Henderson and Javier Manquillo. While Lallana was deservedly booked for a late challenge on Tom Cleverley, making his debut after a deadline day loan move from Manchester United, Mason missed Senderos’ kick at Balotelli and chose to take no action after Alan Hutton appeared to rake his studs down the Italian’s knee. Senderos could have rubbed further salt into the wound but blasted wide from close range at another corner. Balotelli had the first chance of the second half, heading wide Steven Gerrard’s corner. Sterling’s introduction, having been rested after international duty, on the hour raised the temperature a notch or two with Hutton booked for scything down the youngster within seconds of his arrival. Villa’s plan to smother Liverpool continued to work, however, and even the introduction of Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini for Balotelli and Markovic failed to produce the chances needed to rescue a point. The closest they came was when Philippe Coutinho bent a shot around goalkeeper Brad Guzan only for it to rebound back off the post as Villa left Anfield having taken their tally to eight points from their last four visits. Their fans left chanting ‘We’re going to win the league’ after a third win in four matches put them second in the table. Paul Lambert’s side grabbed an early lead in the Barclays Premier League match through Gabriel Agbonlahor and then clung on for a 1-0 success as their hosts struggled to create clear-cut chances. With Daniel Sturridge sidelined for up to three weeks with a thigh injury – for which manager Brendan Rodgers has still not forgiven England – it meant Liverpool started a game without him or Luis Suarez, a summer departure to Barcelona, for the first time since December 2012.
Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on January 25, 2016 at 11:20 pm Contact Connor: [email protected] | @connorgrossman On the heels of a loss to Notre Dame in which Syracuse never led, head coach Quentin Hillsman squatted and averted his sightline away from the scoreboard as he watched his team struggle to make its first basket of the game.Briana Day tried to weave her way through two Louisville defenders with the Orange having been shutout for the opening two and a half minutes. The ball flew out of her hands as the Cardinals defense closed in.On SU’s ensuing possession she clanked a layup off the back of the rim, and the tumultuous start to the game for the Orange’s junior center was punctuated by two missed free throws.“It was just sloppy,” Day said. “I wasn’t playing hard, really.”“…That’s not how you want to start off the game.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse finally scored on a Cornelia Fondren jumper after nearly four minutes of being shut out, and Briana Day was lifted for her sister Bria two minutes later. Briana Day high-fived her teammates with her head down, and waved off the team manager offering her a water bottle as she tried to piece together another lackluster start for SU.The Orange (14-6, 4-3 Atlantic Coast) faltered early again, falling behind by as many as 29 in the first half, and lost 71-53 to the No. 14 Cardinals (15-5, 7-0) just four days after being blown out by 28 points against the Fighting Irish. Syracuse was stung by poor play from its centers, who totaled only two defensive rebounds and struggled to box out a bulky Louisville team under the basket.Briana Day, SU’s leading rebounder, has secured only 12 rebounds in the Orange’s last three games after corralling 10 boards against Pittsburgh on Jan. 14.“I don’t know what it is,” Day said, “I’m not rebounding.”“…I don’t understand what’s going on.”Hillsman leaned on a rotation of both Day sisters and Julia Chandler at center to solve his team’s scoring and defensive woes. Upon entering the game with 1:49 remaining in the first quarter, Chandler was promptly rung up for a three-second violation as she dished the ball outside the arc to an open Brittney Sykes.The Orange’s centers were a revolving door of missteps early on, and Cardinals guard Myisha Hines-Allen — who led the game with 27 points — consistently made it tough down low for SU’s bigs.Hines-Allen bodied her way past Chandler under the basket for a layup on the first possession of the second quarter, continuing to balloon Louisville’s eventual 34 total points scored in the paint.“I think our transition defense really broke us down,” Fondren said. “…We should’ve just kept on competing.”SU countered with only 18 points in the paint, and was consistently met with pressure down low from the Cardinals center-less starting lineup.Briana Day corralled a pair of offensive rebounds in a stretch of seconds midway through the second quarter, but failed to capitalize on the opportunity as she heaved a layup over the basket entirely and into the hands of the Cardinals’ defense.Syracuse eventually evened out on the offensive end and clawed back to an 11-point deficit, but was met with familiar problems in the paramount minutes of the fourth quarter.On one of the Orange’s final fast break attempts with the game within reach, Sykes looked down the court to a streaking Bria Day. She lobbed a long pass forward that just deflected off Bria Day’s outstretched hand, dinging the Orange for another one of its 19 turnovers.The play provided a sense of finality to the game, one that was always out of reach.Said Hillsman: “I don’t think we were ready to play. We came out flat.” Comments