Having bludgeoned the front runner and chief bogeyman Man U and then used CL hopefuls Aston Villa as target practice within a week of each other, Liverpool might be excused for believing in its immortality. An impressive 9 goals scored and just the solitary spoiler in Reina's clean sheets will do just that. Even better, they are building a full head of steam to seriously challenge for the top title in almost two decades even as Man U and Chelsea have seen some serious stumbles.
The answer lies somewhere in between Fabio Aurelio's delectable free kick and Nemanja Vidic's defensive meltdowns. Yes, Liverpool is playing great attacking soccer and their success has much to do with its stepped up set piece capability and opportunism but much of it has to do with examples of defending vulnerabilities of opposing teams. Liverpool has proved adept at making them pay.
A makeshift Villa defense struggling with injuries was left to cope with Steven Gerrard and Albert Reira (surely the best player in the match) and it showed. An unprepared Reo-Coker was forced into defensive duties contributing to an error prone performance and Luke Young for all his speed and aggression came unglued with his tackles and erratic ball supply. Reira's magnificent goal came from a complete miscalculation of Reina's kick which was a bit of Andrea Dossena deja vu from the previous game. So did the clumsy challenges that led to the PKs inflating Gerrard's goal total. But there was almost a half hour where Villa looked the better team just like Man U did in large parts in their game which does not reflect in the final score. It also deflects from the fact that the midfield and Torres were not on the same page with their connections throughout the match.
Where Liverpool really elevated its game was in Gerrard's clever opportunism that took advantage of an out of position defense and an unsighted Friedel to squeeze a perfectly placed free kick into the left hand corner of goal. That moment revealed a fine soccer brain that no team can protect against.