Liverpool marked their first home game since becoming Premier League champions with victory, scoring twice in the second half to see off a stubborn Aston Villa.
The Reds, who were beaten by Manchester City 4-0 on Thursday, were far from their best with the opening goal coming from just their second shot on target, Sadio Mane lashing Naby Keita’s cross in via the underside of the crossbar.
Until then Villa had looked like earning a precious and unexpected point and had even had chances to go ahead themselves, with Alisson parrying away Anwar El Ghazi’s fierce shot early in the second half.
Mane’s strike clearly deflated the visitors and they fell further behind just before full-time when Curtis Jones celebrated signing a new long-term deal by volleying home his first Premier League goal.
The victory means Liverpool have now won all 17 Premier League games at Anfield this season and extends their winning run at home to 24 league games, stretching back to a 1-1 draw with Leicester in January 2019.
Defeat for Villa means they remain in the relegation zone in 18th, one point adrift of safety and still searching for their first win since the Premier League was restarted.
Liverpool now have 89 points from 33 games and can still break Manchester City’s top-flight record of 100 points in a season with five matches remaining and 15 points available.
Reds not at their best, but get the job done
This was a welcome return to winning ways for Liverpool in their first Anfield game since a first league title win in 30 years was confirmed.
After the thrashing at Etihad Stadium, boss Jurgen Klopp said that his side had not lost any focus after achieving their main objective, but they were distinctly below par in a scrappy opening half against Villa.
After being given a guard of honour by the visitors before kick-off, Liverpool struggled to get into any sort of rhythm and did not register a first shot on target until shortly before half-time when Mane’s snapshot was comfortably saved by former Reds keeper Pepe Reina.
That was only their second attempt on goal – the first time in almost two years that the Reds had managed just two shots in the first half of a Premier League game.
Roberto Firmino, left on the bench as Klopp rotated his squad, came on just after the hour and only then did the hosts really start to look like their old selves.
In the end Liverpool, as champions do, got the job done.
It was not an encounter that will live long in the memory but it keeps Klopp’s side on course to add a couple more records to an already incredible season – the most points in a top-flight campaign and matching Sunderland’s 128-year-old record of winning every home game in a season.
Villa show fight, but need the points
It has been a tough return to Premier League action for Aston Villa as they look to avoid dropping straight back into the Championship.
Dean Smith’s side have now lost three of their five games since the restart, drawing the other two, but while they have arguably got what they deserved in some of the previous fixtures, they can count themselves unfortunate not to have secured what would have been a hard-fought point at Anfield.
For well over an hour Villa went toe-to-toe with the champions. They were strong and disciplined in defence and looked lively in attack, particularly on the counter.
But, as is so often the case in recent games, Villa were unable to make the most of the few opportunities that came their way and once Liverpool went ahead, a 10th game without a win looked a formality.
Villa’s performance should give them heart but time is rapidly running out for them to pick up the points they need to survive.
They are only a win away from climbing out of the bottom three but with tough fixtures against in-form Manchester United and Arsenal to come, they need to find a way to make the most of the few chances that come their way.
Man of the match – Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Mane the man again – the stats
- Liverpool have now won their past 34 Premier League matches when scoring the first goal of the game, since a 1-1 draw with West Ham United in February 2019
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their past 57 Premier League home games (W47 D10)
- Aston Villa have failed to keep a clean sheet in their past 24 Premier League away games, since a 0-0 draw with West Brom in January 2016. It’s their longest such run in the top flight since September 1989 (38 games)
- Aston Villa are without a victory in nine Premier League games (D2 L7), the longest current winless run in the competition
- Liverpool’s Sadio Mane has been directly involved in eight goals in his past five Premier League appearances against Aston Villa (six goals, two assists).
- Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah registered his 100th Premier League goal involvement in his 116th appearance (73 goals, 27 assists) – only Alan Shearer (100 appearances) took fewer games to reach this milestone in the competition (Eric Cantona also 116 games).
Liverpool travel to Brighton on Wednesday (20:15 BST) while Aston Villa host Manchester United on Thursday (20:15)