Liverpool defeated Aston Villa 2-0 at Villa Park on Saturday thanks to goals from Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert. Brendan Rodgers’ side have now won five straight away games in all competitions – their third in a row in the league.
Goals: Borini (24), Lambert (79)
Rodgers made just one change to the side that defeated Sunderland 1-0 at the Stadium of Light last weekend, with a refreshed Raheem Sterling replacing the injured Steven Gerrard.
The Reds dominated much of the first-half play, and were rewarded in the 24th minute. Jordan Henderson‘s pinpoint cross found Borini in space, and the Italian finished clinically from six yards out.
Sterling had a wonderful chance to double the lead when clean-through but was wasteful, while Borini also fired over. Villa were not without threat, however, and Tom Cleverley fired a good opportunity over the bar just before half-time.
Brad Guzan made a superb save from Borini early in the second-half, but other than that it was the hosts who were dominant in the second-half.
Despite this, substitute Lambert put the game to bed with a terrific finish with 11 minutes remaining, and the Reds held on for another priceless three points in their quest for a top-four finish.
It is now just one defeat in 14 matches for Liverpool, and they are well-set for a strong second-half to the season.
Rickie Lambert clinched victory as the Reds extended their unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions. Martin Skrtel also hit the post while Christian Benteke and Nathan Baker missed decent chances for the powderpuff hosts.
Villa’s goal misery continued and they have now gone eight hours and 42 minutes without scoring. Paul Lambert’s side have won just twice in their last 18 league games and are just three points above the drop zone, while Liverpool sit seventh.
Steven Gerrard failed to recover from a hamstring injury with Raheem Sterling back after his planned winter break in Jamaica.
Any planned protest from Villa fans – boycotting the first eight minutes to signify eight years under chairman Randy Lerner – flopped with few taking part.
They missed little, though, aside from Alan Hutton’s fine tackle to thwart the lurking Borini and Benteke heading at Simon Mignolet.
Alberto Moreno did beat Brad Guzan – with a fine low shot in the 17th minute – but his celebrations were pulled back after he was correctly ruled offside.
Liverpool were comfortable, patient and probing as they waited for a chance – and their persistence was rewarded on 24 minutes when Borini netted his first goal for the club since April 2013.
Jordan Henderson was allowed time to cross and, after pulling away from Jores Okore, Borini volleyed in at the far post.
Sterling should have made it 2-0 eight minutes before the break but blew a golden chance when Lucas’ header put him clean through and he could only chip weakly at Guzan.
Villa offered little going forward although the previously anonymous Tom Cleverley fired over after Ashley Westwood’s pass. It was a rare chance and the hosts were fortunate not to be further behind five minutes into the second half.
They relied on Guzan as the keeper turned Skrtel’s header onto the post before he parried Henderson’s fierce drive.
Carles Gil was handed his debut after signing from Valencia on the hour with Villa struggling for ideas and they almost levelled a minute later when Mignolet parried Benteke’s 10-yard volley.
Borini blasted over two minutes later but Liverpool were being pinned back by a revitalised Villa as Baker headed over and then produced an air shot from just six yards.
But the hosts were left to rue the misses when Rickie Lambert sealed Liverpool‘s victory with 11 minutes left.
Sterling received the ball on the edge of the box and he found his team-mate, whose fine touch took him away from Carlos Sanchez before he drilled into the corner.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno (Enrique 71), Lucas, Henderson, Markovic, Coutinho, Sterling (Ibe 84), Borini (Lambert).
Subs not used: Ward, Manquillo, Lallana, Williams.
Aston Villa starting XI Guzan, Hutton, Okore, Baker, Cissokho, Sanchez, Westwood (Gil 59), Delph, Cleverley (Weimann 59), Agbonlahor, Benteke.
Subs not used: Given, Bacuna, Richardson, N’Zogbia, Lowton.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg