Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 0: Stuttering Liverpool sweat over Torres injury

This was the Gareth Barry transfer saga caught in 90 minutes. Both teams set their stalls out early and refused to budge. And while Liverpool always believed their superior class would tell they also did not sufficiently account for Villa's energy, doggedness and growing ambition. A draw in both contests – even Martin O'Neill concedes he can only count on Barry, a pale performer yesterday, "for the foreseeable future" – although Liverpool will certainly feel like the losers after Fernando Torres limped off with a damaged hamstring. With Steven Gerrard already sidelined after his groin operation, that will have sent a shudder through their ranks.

For their manager, Rafael Benitez, the only relief will be that there is an international break coming up and although that is not good news for Spain it may be for the Spaniard. He did not want to do without Barry and he certainly will not want to do without Torres for too long after he pulled up gingerly mid-way through the first half, clutching the back of his right leg as he tried to run on to an over-hit pass.

It does appear to be more of a strain than a tear, although Torres immediately walked off the pitch. There will be further information after a scan today. "The only positive news is that we have the break now," Benitez said. "If he's out for 10-15 days it's OK." Liverpool have a similar prognosis for Gerrard. That is still a tight timetable with Manchester United coming up in the league and then Marseilles, away, in the Champions League.

And this was a tight contest. With the impressive Javier Mascherano returning, Liverpool had a Beijing gold medal winner but this was not a game that hit Olympic heights. A victory, after Chelsea's draw, would have given them clear leadership of the Premier League, and their best start since 1994, which would have been incentive enough to attack boldly. But this is Benitez's Liverpool, who have edged their way through the season so far, including that nervy tie with Standard Liege, and they had no intention of changing their approach.

For a while the liveliest stuff came off-field. O'Neill had marched towards Benitez as the two emerged. He shook his hand when it had, probably, given the feeling between the two, crossed his mind to shake him by the throat. "I'm sure it will be absolutely fine," O'Neill later said of the pair's relationship. "Until the next time." Then Benitez was given some fairly basic abuse from the Villa supporters. "I was watching the television one day and they said that the most difficult accent is the Birmingham accent so I didn't really understand," he said.

And so it went on. Villa fans bated Liverpool's with chants for Barry while the visiting supporters chided the midfielder for not joining them. "I thought he did very well," said O'Neill, although the evidence ran contrary to his assessment. "Three weeks ago I would have imagined he would have been playing against us. We're downright relieved he's with us for the foreseeable future." That phrase again.

But, sometimes, that is what managers have to deal in. Having spent heavily O'Neill is waiting for the pieces to come together. He got £12m-man James Milner on as a second-half substitute but is still waiting for Carlos Cuellar and Steve Sidwell to recover from ankle injuries.

It will take time to gel but there is great promise in O'Neill's squad and, despite a disappointing display, Barry engineered Villa's best moment when he cleverly picked out Ashley Young's run. Inside the area the winger, when perhaps he should have taken on the shot, checked to find John Carew. It seemed certain the Norwegian striker would score but instead he went for precision and Pepe Reina's trailing leg scuffed the ball away.

Interestingly, and maybe not surprisingly, Robbie Keane fired into life only when Torres departed. Less intimidated, maybe, he had the 19-year-old David Ngog as a strike partner and took a degree of responsibility. Best of all was his clever reverse pass which found Ngog, only for the Frenchman's fierce shot to skim over.

As Villa won a series of corners and free-kicks, so Liverpool also carved out a couple of opportunities. Nicky Shorey inadvertently diverted Xabi Alonso's shot over, Brad Friedel was almost embarrassed by Andrea Dossena's dipping cross before Mascherano lobbed the ball forward. He found Keane. Through on goal he had to wait for the ball to come down, which allowed Nigel Reo-Coker to scamper back and challenge. As Keane shot wide he appealed for a penalty. It might have been but even Benitez – who expects to complete the £8m capture of Espanyol winger Albert Riera today – was not sure and was not going to argue.

And so Villa had their first goalless game in 46 encounters. "I'm not surprised," said O'Neill when reminded of that statistic. "If you had said to me that we would have kept a clean sheet then I would have guaranteed that we would have won," he added. "But I was wrong." But then who expected Barry to be at Villa Park come September?

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; L Young (Milner, 64), Laursen, Davies, Shorey (Gardner, 79); Reo-Coker, Petrov, Barry, A Young; Carew, Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), Harewood, Knight, Salifou, Routledge.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Dossena; Kuyt (Aurelio, 71), Alonso, Mascherano, Lucas; Keane (Benayoun, 79), Torres (Ngog, 30). Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Agger, Babel, El Zhar.

Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Booked: Liverpool Skrtel, Dossena.

Man of the match: Mascherano.

Attendance: 41,647.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum