Unwanted men become useful again

Last updated : 22 January 2008 By Tom Vickers
Two strikers emerged from the footballing wilderness to state their individual cases for a first team place.
Marlon Harewood and former Villan Peter Crouch both struck in what was a lively second half in Liverpool.
The hosts had taken the lead after 19 minutes after the ball ricoched around the Villa box and Yossi Benayoun was on hand to slot home.
The Claret and Blue restored parity and quickly went in front in the space of five second half minutes as first Marlon Harewood and then a Fabio Aurelio crushed Liverpool.
But Peter Crouch was brought on and saved the game for Reds with a shot that swept in after Martin Laursen of all people misjudged a cross.
Crouch has been a goalscoring hero at times for the national side but is out of favour with his club and is restricted to cameo appearances from the bench.
Ironically, he finds himself in the same situation as he did at Villa where he never found his feet as Darius Vassell and Juan Pablo Angel were often the preferred choice.
Similarly, Marlon Harewood has not been given a real chance to shine at Villa as yet but he may have just changed Martin O'Neill's view.
The striker has been left in the reserves for most of the season and whatever O'Neill sees in training must really put him off the former West Ham frontman.
But the two strikers stamped their imprint tonight on what was a game dominated by Liverpool until 60 minutes.
Villa seemed to be missing influencial captain Gareth Barry and struggled to get any passing flow going.
The Reds took advantage as Benayoun struck over at the start and Harry Kewell saw his shot blocked.
But Israeli Benayoun did put his side ahead not long after with an easy finish. Liverpool continued to press as Villa were constantly found offside. The in-form Fernando Torres nearly struck a second, but shot just wide on 31 minutes.
After the break the home dominance was stepped up a notch and the Claret and Blue were struggling to cope.
First Curtis Davies Davies sliced wide of his own goal and then Dirk Kuyt missed a golden opportunity to extend the lead.
Torres then had a couple of chances, one saved well by Taylor who deputised well for Carson on the night.
But then came the turning point as Marlon Harewood took centre stage. The muscular striker replaced the ineffectual Craig Gardner and quickly replied for Villa.
He found himself with his back to goal from a Martin Laursen header and he acrobatically bicycle kicked past Pepe Reina. It was a stroke of genuis from a man not renowned for his lethal goalscoring touch.
That brilliance seemed to spur the away side on and another set piece brought another chance to put Liverpool under pressure.
How Villa took advantage. The Liverpool defence failed to clear decisively and the ball dropped to Swede Olof Mellberg whose half volley hit Fabio Aurelio and left Reina stranded.
It was an unlikely lead but not necessarily a surprise as Villa have been potent from set pieces this season, scoring 45% of their goals from dead ball situations. That ratio just got even better.
It was inevitable that Liverpool would come back at Villa and the Claret and Blue dropped deeper and deeper.
The equaliser came with three minutes to go. Crouch had been introduced with little time remaining but he made the most of his short stint as he curled the ball past Taylor. The cross had evaded super Dane Martin Laursen and inadvertantly struck Jamie Carragher before falling to the England striker who duly obliged.
Villa saw the rest of the game out and it was a well earned draw for O'Neill and his men. They may have fancied all three points after being ahead but will settle for a place in the top six again. They might just be confident of challenging for that fourth Champions League spot.
For Harewood and Crouch, redemption will have been sweet and they will hope to start at the weekend. This could be the start of their season.