ASTON Villa remain in the bottom three of the Barclays Premier League after Liverpool yesterday came from behind to claim the three points and keep alive their faint hopes of securing a Champions League spot.
Scorers: Aston Villa - Benteke (31); Liverpool - Henderson (48) Gerrard (60, pen)
Villa looked on course for a third successive win after leading at the interval through Christian Benteke’s 18th goal of the campaign. But the Reds equalised through Jordan Henderson early in the second period and then skipper Steven Gerrard’s penalty sealed victory for the visitors.
The home side, who, on Saturday, slipped into the relegation zone for the fifth time this season, are level on points with Wigan but have an inferior goal difference. Villa manager Paul Lambert continues to take heart from their performances, saying: “For 45 minutes we were excellent, we competed brilliantly, we looked a threat every time we went forward against a really good side.
“The goal two minutes after the restart was disappointing to lose. But we are playing well enough to win games.
“We are four points from 11th place. There’s going to be some twists and turns. The thing for myself is that, in spells, we are playing really well and confidence is a big part of football. If you keep that, then that will certainly help you.”
Villa posed plenty of threat to Liverpool in the first half with Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor linking well and Ashley Westwood pulling the strings in midfield. But Liverpool upped their game a gear in the second period as they closed the gap on sixth-placed Everton to three points.
Luis Suarez was a handful throughout the 90 minutes, despite his World Cup qualifier exertions in Uruguay in midweek, and came close on several occasions to notching his 30th goal of the season.
Andreas Weimann had a volley blocked but Agbonlahor should have put Villa ahead after 17 minutes. Matt Lowton delivered a superb curling cross into the danger area which picked out the run of Agbonlahor. But the England striker turned his shot straight at Jose Reina when it looked easier to score.
Benteke put Villa ahead after 31 minutes. Westwood’s cross was turned back by Agbonlahor to Benteke who drilled a fierce shot past Reina. It was the 18th goal of the season from the Belgian international.
But Liverpool needed only three minutes of the second half to get back on level terms. Philippe Coutinho’s defence-splitting pass was seized on by Henderson who flicked the ball past Guzan into the corner of the net for his fourth goal of the season.
Coutinho should have put Liverpool ahead in the 56th minute after beating the offside trap to run onto a pass from Suarez but he dinked his shot wide of the post. But Liverpool were not to be denied and went ahead three minutes later. Suarez was brought down in the box by Baker and the resulting spot-kick was converted by Gerrard.
Weimann could have made it 2-2 but scooped his shot over the bar from ten yards. Then Gerrard headed Benteke’s header off the line at full stretch from a Westwood corner.
Liverpool had by then succeeded in taking much of the string out of Villa’s attacking threat and silenced the Holte End.