Sadio Mane and Curtis Jones kept up below-par Liverpool’s perfect home record in their 2-0 win over struggling Aston Villa.
In their first home game since being crowned Premier League champions 10 days ago, Liverpool were fortunate to edge past their relegation-threatened visitors, who had the better of the few chances at Anfield.
However, Mane, so often Liverpool’s saviour in times of need, was picked out by Naby Keita’s precision pass inside the box 19 minutes from time to rifle an effort in off the crossbar and beat former Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
And when substitute Jones, who signed a new long-term deal at Anfield earlier this week, doubled the lead with a placed finish late on, that confirmed Liverpool would move within two matches of becoming the first team to win every home game in a Premier League season.
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (6), Gomez (7), Van Dijk (7), Robertson (6), Keita (7), Fabinho (7), Oxlade-Chamberlain (5), Mane (7), Origi (5), Salah (6).
Subs: Firmino (7), Henderson (7), Wijnaldum (6), Jones (7), Williams (n/a).
Aston Villa: Reina (7), Konsa (7), Hause (6), Mings (7), Taylor (6), McGinn (6), Luiz (7), Grealish (7), El Ghazi (6), Davis (5), Trezeguet (6).
Subs: Samatta (5), Jota (6), Vassilev (n/a).
Man of the match: Sadio Mane
Villa could have led by the time Mane struck the opener with chances falling for Anwar El Ghazi and Douglas Luiz in either half but failed to sufficiently test Alisson, as the visitors remained a point adrift of safety inside the relegation.
Liverpool show mark of champions to grind out win
Aston Villa’s guard of honour to welcome Liverpool onto the pitch at Anfield would have been a good reminder for Jurgen Klopp’s team of the season they have enjoyed after a difficult defeat at Manchester City on Thursday night.
But any hope of a response from their humbling at the Etihad was premature, as became rapidly evident during a dour opening period where Villa – coming into the game on a run of only two points from their previous eight – shaded the game.
Douglas Luiz stung the palms of Alisson with a well-struck volley in the only moment of note before the interval, as Liverpool floundered against an increasingly resolute Villa defence, with their ample possession wasted by a lack of intensity with the ball.
Surely the champions would see an improvement after the break. Not immediately. Jack Grealish fed El Ghazi to fire at Alisson’s near post from a tight angle, but with an hour gone and Jurgen Klopp clearly unimpressed with what he had witnessed, a triple change reinvigorated the hosts.
Liverpool made three changes from the defeat by Manchester City, with Divock Origi getting a rare start in place of Roberto Firmino in attack.
Aston Villa restored Pepe Reina in goal for his first return to Anfield since leaving in 2014, as one of five changes.
With that in mind, you could feel the tide turning by the time Keita looked up inside the Villa box to pick out Mane on the right, and after escaping the clutches of Neil Taylor he fired home the opener via the woodwork.
And with the hosts now looking more assured, youngster Jones wrapped up victory with a smart eight-yard finish from Mohamed Salah’s knockdown.
Grealish could have given Villa the goal their performance deserved in injury time but was denied by a superb Alisson save, leaving the champions’ copybook unblemished as they kept up their assault on Manchester City’s 100-point record tally from 2018, which four wins from their final five games will be enough to beat.
- Liverpool have now won each of their last 34 Premier League matches when scoring the first goal of the game, since a 1-1 draw with West Ham in February 2019.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 57 Premier League home games (W47 D10), winning each of the last 24 in a row.
- Aston Villa are without a victory in nine Premier League games (D2 L7), the longest current winless run in the competition.
- Curtis Jones (19 years, 157 days) is the youngest Liverpool player to score a Premier League goal since Trent Alexander-Arnold (19 years, 80 days) versus Swansea in December 2017.
Liverpool’s trip to Brighton on Wednesday is live on Sky Sports Premier League from 8pm; kick-off at 8.15pm.
Aston Villa welcome in-form Manchester United to Villa Park on Thursday, also live on Sky Sports Premier League from 8pm; kick-off at 8.15pm.