Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool: Reds fight back to down Villa
Liverpool scored two late goals – including a dramatic injury-time winner from Sadio Mane – as they came from behind to beat Aston Villa and preserve their six-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
With their 10-month long unbeaten league record seemingly about to end, the Reds dug deep to conjure a stellar finish, begun when Andy Robertson arrived at the back post to head them level.
Mane then provided the final, remarkable twist, glancing a header from Trent Alexander-Arnold's corner past Tom Heaton and into the far corner of the net.
It was a cruel blow to Villa, who had led from the 21st minute through summer-signing Trezeguet's first goal for the club – a volleyed finish from John McGinn's free-kick.
The home side had shown huge endeavour, in a display that saw them match the European champions in the first half and then hold them largely at arm's length until the dying moments of the second.
Liverpool's win means they retain their advantage over second-placed Manchester City, who staged their own comeback to beat Southampton and visit Anfield for a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash next Sunday.
Having won two on the bounce earlier this month, Villa have now lost back-to-back games – admittedly to the league's top two sides – leaving them in 16th place, three points above the relegation zone.
Liverpool find a way
The old adage goes that good sides find a way to win, even when they are playing poorly.
Liverpool did just that during last season's Champions League run, most notably in the semi-final against Barcelona. They did it again here.
This was not a good Liverpool display, but it was a winning one.
They lacked control for large parts, were rattled by a hard-working opponent and lacked their usual composure in front of goal until Robertson and then Mane seized the initiative.
Part of this could be down to the absence of Fabinho, benched by Jurgen Klopp with the looming shadow of Man City next weekend and the fact one more yellow would have seen the Brazilian sit out that game.
Fabinho – nicknamed ‘Dyson' by his manager after last weekend's win over Tottenham for his ability to “hoover up” danger – has been magnificent in midfield this season.
His replacement, Adam Lallana, spent the summer retraining for the deeper role but he lacks the authority and composure of the man he replaced.
Too often he dwelt on the ball and found himself swarmed by Villa players, failing to provide the platform on which his side could build.
He was also guilty of a glaring miss in the second half, slicing well wide from a cut-back from Roberto Firmino, who had earlier been denied himself when an offside flag ruled out his neat finish.
He was not alone in his profligacy, though, with Mane and Mohamed Salah also spurning good opportunities to give their side a less stressful afternoon.
However, with 31 points from 11 games this season, Liverpool will have to set an unwanted precedent if they are to end this campaign without the top-flight trophy.
The two clubs with the same tally at this stage of a Premier League season – Chelsea in 2005-06 and Man City in 2017-18 – both went on to win the title.
If they indeed win the title, it will have been because of the grit they demonstrated in the final moments here, as well as the guile they have showed for much of the last 10 months.
Villa deserve more
Villa were the nearest challengers the last time Liverpool won the title in 1990, pushing them all the way until the final month under Graham Taylor.
Having returned to the top flight following a two-year absence, their ambitions this season are more humble. In truth, a 17th-placed finish will probably do.
They look far more equipped to secure their Premier League status than they did the last time they faced Liverpool at Villa Park, when Remi Garde's side surrendered to a humiliating 6-0 defeat en route to relegation.
They are a much better side now, emboldened by a promotion and the acquiring of superior talent during the summer and this felt like a statement performance to a division in which they feel they belong.
They could have led through a saved Anwar El Ghazi effort, should have gone ahead through a Wesley header that he somehow glanced wide and finally did go in front when Trezeguet broke the offside trap to fire home from McGinn's free-kick and provide a deserved lead.
The opportunities dried up in the second half as they conceded greater and greater territory to an opponent growing increasingly desperate.
But with backs to the wall, they rarely turned away from a challenge.
A win would have been fair, a draw the least they deserved and a defeat an extremely harsh reward for all their effort.
Having beaten Norwich and Brighton in their first two games in October, Villa have been somewhat unfortunate to face Man City and then Liverpool in successive fixtures.
The rest of November sees them make a short trip to Wolves before hosting Newcastle – two games from which they will feel far more confident of securing points.
Man of the match – Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa)
‘We were in the wrong path'- what the managers said
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “We had our good moments during the game but were not clinical enough, especially in the first half.
“I don't always believe we can win every game but I never give up. So when we scored the equaliser I thought, ‘that's what we deserve'.
“We know we can do better, but on days like this you just need to be ready to fight. When you play in a stadium like Villa Park it's fair you might get a little knock.
“After the first half we realised we were in the wrong path and we made changes.”
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith, speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “We're disappointed we have come out with nothing.
“It's a tough one to take. We created some big chances in the game but two basic mistakes cost us.
“We were always a threat on the counter-attack. We knew they were always going to have the ball.
“Their full-backs are very attacking. I think we got away with one with the VAR incident [Firmino's disallowed goal] and Lallana missed a big chance as well.”
Reds leave it late again – the stats
- Sadio Mane scored the 35th 90th-minute winning goal by Liverpool in the Premier League, at least 10 more than any other side in the competition's history; five of those have come since the start of last season, more than any other team.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in seven Premier League games in which they have conceded the first goal, winning six of those (D1); they have won more points from losing positions (10) than any other side in the top-flight this season.
- Liverpool have earned 31 points from their 11 Premier League games this season; in English top-flight history, only Tottenham in 1960-61 (33, adjusted to three points for a win) have had more at this stage of a campaign.
- Aston Villa have lost 11 points in games in which they have gone ahead this season, more than any other Premier League side.
- Liverpool have won 14 consecutive Premier League games against newly-promoted opposition.
- Liverpool's Sadio Mane has more assists in 11 league games this season (two) than he provided in 36 such appearances last term (one).
- Trezeguet is the first Egyptian player to score a Premier League goal for Aston Villa, meaning players from 32 different nations have now scored in the competition for the Villains (excluding own goals).
- Andy Robertson has scored two goals in his last six games for Liverpool in all competitions, one more than his first 88 appearances for the club before this.
- Aged just 21 years and 26 days, Trent Alexander-Arnold made his 100th appearance in all competitions for Liverpool. Since his debut in October 2016, only Roberto Firmino (36) and Mohamed Salah (28) have more assists for the Reds than Alexander-Arnold (22).
Liverpool welcome Genk to Anfield in the Champions League on Tuesday (20:00 GMT) before hosting second-placed Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday, 10 November (16:30).
Villa travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League next Sunday (14:00).
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