Liverpool came out swinging in its fight against both Aston Villa and recent history and earned a much-needed win as a result.
Liverpool defeated Aston Villa 3-2 in Premier League action Saturday at Anfield. James Milner’s early goal allowed the Reds to cruise through the uneventful opening period with a one-goal lead. The teams then traded blows in an action-packed second half, in which both Daniel Sturridge and Rudy Gestede scored twice. Liverpool was left standing at the final whistle.
The win ended the Reds’ four-game winless run, which stretched back to Aug. 17, and the three points they earned lifted them into the top half of the Premier League standings.
Liverpool has struggled to score all season, but its futility in front of goal eased almost immediately against Aston Villa. Milner controlled Philippe Coutinho’s pass at the top of the penalty area and beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan before many fans and viewers had settled in.
Milner’s goal suggested the Reds might take out their recent frustrations on the struggling Villans and hammer the visitors. Liverpool dominated possession and territory in the first half, but their chances were limited to speculative and misplaced efforts. Guzan comfortably handled those that reached him.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa offered almost nothing in terms of attacking play. Its chances came as a result of miscues Liverpool players committed in their own defensive third.
Sturridge doubled Liverpool’s lead in the 59th minute with a finish that demonstrated his undoubted quality. Sturridge performed his signature goal celebration for the first time this season, but the goal party was starting, instead of the dance party.
Gestede lost Emre Can and tapped home Alan Hutton’s cross in the 66th minute after the Aston Villa fullback’s forward raid produced his team’s first genuine chance of the game.
Sturridge responded two minutes later with another fine goal. Coutinho created the opportunity with a deft back-heel. Sturridge clinically passed the ball past Guzan into the goal.
Gestede dragged Aston Villa back into the game with a headed goal in the 71st minute. Gestede outjumped Mamadou Sakho to thunder Jordan Amavi’s cross into the goal with his head, as he is wont to do.
Liverpool defended its lead through the final whistle by continuing to attack with gusto. Guzan denied a pair of efforts from Coutinho. Sturridge missed out on a hat-trick by shooting just wide with five minutes remaining.
Sturridge’s gradual return to fitness and sharpness paid dividends. He led Liverpool’s line with movement and sharp finishing. Aston Villa paid the price for Sturridge’s prowess, as usual.
Coutinho and Milner also made attacking contributions we don’t normally see from them. Coutinho registered his first two assists of the season. Milner earned his reward by pushing into a central attacking midfielder position.
The Reds created a host of chances for themselves through attacking intent and Aston Villa’s ineptitude. The difference on this day was the accuracy of Liverpool’s shooting.
For the Reds, the result was a respite from recent woes. Liverpool’s players, under-fire manager Brendan Rodgers and frustrated fans can be proud of the club’s first home win over Aston Villa since December 2010.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@PA_Sport_Pics