Skip to main content

Gerrard penalty keeps Liverpool's European hopes alive

March 31, 2013 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard fires the winner against Aston Villa, with the England midfielder's second-half penalty earning a 2-1 victory in the English Premier League clash. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard fires the winner against Aston Villa, with the England midfielder's second-half penalty earning a 2-1 victory in the English Premier League clash.
Gerrard gives Liverpool victory
Gerrard gives Liverpool victory
Gerrard gives Liverpool victory
Gerrard gives Liverpool victory
Gerrard gives Liverpool victory
  • Steven Gerrard's second-half penalty gives Liverpool 2-1 victory at Aston Villa
  • Win keeps Liverpool in the hunt for Europa League place, leaves Villa in bottom three
  • Both clubs have U.S. ownership and are struggling to regain past glories
  • Liverpool manager hails Luis Suarez and insists EPL's top scorer will not be sold

(CNN) -- It's been a weekend of contrasting fortunes for American club owners in the English Premier League.

The Glazer family can look forward to Manchester United's imminent record-extending 20th league title, and their fifth since a leveraged takeover in 2005 that left one of the world's wealthiest clubs saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars of debt.

For Ellis Short, owner of Saturday's beaten opponents Sunderland, the prospect of losing top-flight status is all too real after a 1-0 defeat that left his team just one point above the relegation zone and marked the end of the reign of manager Martin O'Neill after less than two seasons.

He was replaced Sunday by controversial former Italian forward Paulo Di Canio, whose previous managerial club job was with English third division side Swindon.

One of O'Neill's former players, Paul Lambert, has been seemingly on the verge of the sack for most of this season but the Aston Villa manager seems likely to see it out despite Sunday's 2-1 home defeat by Liverpool, which kept his side in the bottom three but only four points behind 12th-placed Southampton.

Read: Own-goal gives United victory at Sunderland

Ginola on why PSG are worth it
CNN FC: Countdown to quarterfinals
Is Juventus 'unsinkable'?

"Yes, definitely," Lambert said when asked if his team could avoid the drop, with seven games to play.

"I think anybody who was here today would say the same. We're certainly playing well enough. We don't look like a team down the bottom at the minute.

"If we keep going the way we're going, we'll win more games than not. There will be so many twists and turns."

Lambert has been consistently backed by Villa's U.S. owner Randy Lerner, who has focused on Villa since ending his ownership of NFL team the Cleveland Browns in August 2012.

Lerner, who in 2006 became only the second owner of an EPL club, fell out with O'Neill ahead of the 2010-11 season and replaced the Northern Irishman with Gerard Houllier and Alex McLeish before appointing Lambert last June.

The Scot, with considerably smaller finances to work with than his predecessors, has stuck doggedly to his task of shaping a new team out of young talent -- the most notable being 22-year-old Belgium striker Christian Benteke, who struck his 18th goal this season to put the 1982 European champion ahead against Liverpool.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has, likewise, been backed by his club's American owners -- Fenway Sports Group -- to overhaul the team and try to return to the glory days of the 1970s and '80s in which the team won four of its five continental crowns and 11 of 18 English championships.

Read: Nelson Mandela's legacy - How EPL club fell for Africa

The experiment is still a work in progress, but a mixture of youth and experience came up trumps on Sunday as 22-year-old midfielder Jordan Henderson and veteran captain Steven Gerrard -- with a 60th-minute penalty after Luis Suarez was fouled -- replied with the goals that lifted seventh-placed Liverpool to within five points of European qualification.

Football helps champion street kids
Becker: Ronaldo the tennis ace?
Boateng: Racism in football must end

If the Reds can't close that gap then Rodgers won't again have the distractions of the Europa League next season, so one of his main aims will be to keep 29-goal striker Suarez at the club.

The Uruguayan heads the Premier League charts with 23 and has already suggested that he would consider any offer from clubs playing in top competitions such as the Champions League.

"We don't have to sell him for the money," Rodgers said. "He's very happy. We're trying to build a group here and add to it. We want to keep striving forward."

Suarez returned to England from his country's midweek South American World Cup qualifier against Chile, a 2-0 defeat in which he was booked -- triggering a suspension for the next match in June against Venezuela -- and also seemingly punched an opponent in the face, which may result in further action by FIFA.

"He came back late on Thursday," Rodgers said. "He was in training on Friday and I was thinking how tired he was -- his face, his body. He just looked totally shattered from all the travel and exertions from the game.

"But you look at him today -- his energy and willingness to work for the team, and then just his sheer quality. His imagination in the game is incredible.

"He really frightens defenders, and that led to a penalty."

Part of complete coverage on
CNN Football Club
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
The 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy, which claimed 96 lives, brought the red and the blue halves of Liverpool together.
CNN's Don Riddell says the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy has caused irreparable damage to the families of the 96 victims and the survivors.
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
The Champions league trophy stands on show during the draw for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions league at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on March 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Two European heavyweights will collide in the Champions League semifinals after Bayern Munich and Real Madrid were drawn together in Switzerland.
March 24, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas Anelka looks on during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, central England, on January 1, 2014.
England prides itself on being the home of football, but is the nation dysfunctional in dealing with racist abuse?
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1339 GMT (2139 HKT)
In a city where football is a religion, Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge is fast becoming a deity.
French former football player Zinedine Zidane reacts during the gala football 'Match Against Poverty' organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on March 4, 2014 in Bern.
Some of the biggest names in football lined up for a charity match, but CNN's Tom McGowan wonders if they can help beat poverty.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
"Everyone is scared about war -- they are very nervous," former Ukraine football star Oleg Luzhny says of the rising tensions with Russia.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1807 GMT (0207 HKT)
Bayern Munich's present success rests on one key decision, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge tells CNN.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 0922 GMT (1722 HKT)
"More than a Club." It is an image Barcelona has carefully cultivated, but could the controversial deal to sign Neymar sour that view?
February 1, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Affectionately known as "the wise man of Hortaleza," Luis Aragones -- who died aged 75 -- left the legacy of helping Spain's ascension to the top.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 2118 GMT (0518 HKT)
Real Madrid hasn't won the European Champions League in over a decade, but the Spanish club is invincible in one field -- making money.
The naming of the world's best footballer is not all that it seems, says CNN's James Masters.