Liverpool 1-3 Aston Villa
Liverpool were left stunned after their hopes of challenging for a top-four spot were hit by a loss to Aston Villa.
The home side went behind against the run of play when Christian Benteke arrowed a shot in off the post.
Benteke's backheel set up Andreas Weimann for Villa's second, before the Reds were denied a penalty when Ciaran Clark pulled Daniel Agger's shirt.
Benteke made it three from close range for a resurgent Villa before Steven Gerrard netted a late consolation goal.
It was a second defeat in 12 games for Liverpool and will serve as a reality check to their growing levels of optimism and expectancy that they might be able to launch an assault on the Champions League places.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers had even claimed he was but those comments came back to haunt him after his side were beaten by an improving and youthful Villa, who extended their unbeaten league run to five games to move up to 14th place.
The Midlands side had reached the Capital One Cup semi-finals with a midweek win at Norwich and they translated that form to Anfield, with the finishing prowess of strike duo Benteke and Weimann showing Liverpool what they are missing.
The match had got under way following a minute's applause for former Liverpool captain and manager Phil Taylor, who passed away recently aged 95.
When the action did start, the home side were quickly given a wake-up call when Benteke headed a Barry Bannan free-kick straight at Reds keeper Pepe Reina.
Liverpool took this as the cue to take a grip of the game as they passed and probed for openings, although their lack of a clinical edge in the final third let them down.
This was epitomised when Luis Suarez could have put Gerrard clean through on goal, only for the Uruguayan to put his pass behind his captain's surging run.
Even though the ball was quickly worked back to Gerrard, he sent his 12-yard shot straight at keeper Brad Guzan.
Liverpool again had the Villa goal in sight when Suarez robbed left-back Chris Herd of possession before laying the ball off to Jonjo Shelvey, who had the ball cleared off his toes by a last-ditch Nathan Baker tackle.
Having provided a warning to the Merseysiders when Weimann had earlier broken clear before being shepherded wide and then tackled by Reina, Villa shocked their hosts after 29 minutes.
Brett Holman laid the ball off to Benteke and, afforded time and space, the Belgian fired a low 22-yard shot in off the post.
Weimann put an effort onto the roof of the net as he almost capitalised on Liverpool right-back Glen Johnson's poor back-header, before the Villa striker did extend his side's lead.
Weimann and Benteke beautifully combined and the latter's backheel allowed the former to sweep a shot past Reina.
Rodgers brought on Joe Cole for Shelvey at half-time and, while Liverpool had a decent claim for a penalty turned down for Clark's shirt-pulling of Agger, the home side rarely threatened a comeback.
Instead, Cole gave the ball away and Benteke waltzed through the gaping defence of the Merseysiders before slotting home a close-range shot.
Gerrard did find a way past Villa keeper Guzan with a header from Johnson's shot but it was too little, too late.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers:
"We probably got punished for our decision-making in that first 20 minutes, we were a bit careless.
"We could easily have been 3-0 up in the game and if we do that we can control it much better but we didn't have that final pass and bit of quality at the top end of the field.
"Then we went on to concede some poor goals. We weren't quite at it today with our intensity and pressure in the game and they were a threat on the counter-attack and got the goals."
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert:
"The whole performance was fabulous. The goals were excellent, as was the way we defended.
"I thought we were excellent. The goals were brilliant, the second goal, with the movement and the backheel, especially.
"Benteke has been unbelievable while Andi Weimann knows where the goal is. He's a natural finisher. His enthusiasm and work ethic are second to none."
- 25 Reina
- 02 Johnson
- 05 Agger
- 37 Skrtel
- 08 Gerrard
- 19 Downing
- 21 Lucas (Henderson - 60' )
- 24 Allen
- 31 Sterling
- 33 Shelvey (Cole - 46' )
- 07 Suarez Booked
- 01 Jones
- 16 Coates
- 23 Carragher
- 47 Wisdom
- 10 Cole
- 14 Henderson
- 30 Suso
- 22 Guzan
- 06 Clark
- 30 Lichaj
- 32 Baker
- 34 Lowton Booked
- 15 Westwood
- 25 Bannan (El Ahmadi - 85' )
- 31 Herd
- 14 Holman (Delph - 69' )
- 20 Benteke Booked
- 26 Weimann (N'Zogbia - 90' )
- 01 Given
- 27 Bennett
- 08 El Ahmadi
- 10 N'Zogbia
- 12 Albrighton
- 16 Delph
- 21 Bowery
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The match has reached full-time.90:00 +1:22 Substitution
Substitution Andreas Weimann leaves the field to be replaced by Charles N'Zogbia.90:00 +1:18
Handball decision goes against Joe Cole. Bradley Guzan takes the indirect free kick.89:30 Booking
Booking Booking for Luis Suarez for dissent.88:25
Joe Allen takes a shot. Ciaran Clark gets a block in.87:36
Glen Johnson takes the direct free kick.87:36 Booking
Booking Christian Benteke receives a caution.87:15
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Glen Johnson by Christian Benteke.86:27
Assist on the goal came from Glen Johnson.86:27 Goal scored
Goal! - Steven Gerrard - Liverpool 1 - 3 A Villa Steven Gerrard finds the net with a headed goal from inside the penalty area. Liverpool 1-3 Aston Villa.86:26
Glen Johnson takes a shot.84:54 Substitution
Substitution Karim El Ahmadi comes on in place of Barry Bannan.83:39
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Luis Suarez played to the near post, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Joe Cole misses to the left of the goal.81:31
Effort from inside the area by Daniel Agger misses to the left of the target.80:18
Matthew Lowton is penalised for handball and concedes a free kick. Free kick crossed left-footed by Stewart Downing, Eric Lichaj makes a clearance.79:38
Headed effort from inside the area by Andreas Weimann misses to the left of the target.78:26
The ball is delivered by Joe Cole.76:24
Joe Allen gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Matthew Lowton. Barry Bannan takes the free kick.74:35
Foul by Fabian Delph on Raheem Sterling, free kick awarded. Direct strike on goal from the free kick comes in from Luis Suarez.74:24
Centre by Stewart Downing, Chris Herd makes a clearance.
Jordan Henderson takes a shot. Blocked by Nathan Baker.73:55
Outswinging corner taken by Stewart Downing from the left by-line.71:40
Raheem Sterling takes a shot. Comfortable save by Bradley Guzan.70:09
Stewart Downing is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Indirect free kick taken by Bradley Guzan.68:48 Substitution
Substitution Fabian Delph is brought on as a substitute for Brett Holman.68:38
Glen Johnson has a shot on goal from outside the box which misses right.66:48
Glen Johnson produces a left-footed shot from just outside the area that goes harmlessly over the bar.66:16
Unfair challenge on Joe Cole by Barry Bannan results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Glen Johnson.65:46
Daniel Agger takes a shot. Save made by Bradley Guzan.64:21
Luis Suarez shoots direct from the free kick, save by Bradley Guzan.64:21 Booking
Booking Matthew Lowton is shown a yellow card.64:04
Foul by Matthew Lowton on Raheem Sterling, free kick awarded.63:14
Outswinging corner taken by Steven Gerrard from the right by-line, Glen Johnson takes a shot. Blocked by Nathan Baker.61:06
Steven Gerrard takes the inswinging corner, Header from close in by Martin Skrtel misses to the right of the target.59:50 Substitution
Substitution Jordan Henderson joins the action as a substitute, replacing Leiva Lucas.59:38
Joe Cole produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the net.59:08
Joe Cole delivers the ball, Chris Herd manages to make a clearance.59:00
Luis Suarez takes a shot. Blocked by Nathan Baker.58:16
Luis Suarez produces a cross, save made by Bradley Guzan.56:49
Glen Johnson crosses the ball, save by Bradley Guzan.55:45
Barry Bannan takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.54:05
Andreas Weimann takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.53:50
The ball is swung over by Joe Cole, clearance made by Eric Lichaj.52:24
Barry Bannan takes the inswinging corner, Martin Skrtel manages to make a clearance.51:39
Glen Johnson concedes a free kick for a foul on Eric Lichaj. Bradley Guzan restarts play with the free kick.50:20
Assist by Brett Holman.50:20 Goal scored
Goal! - Christian Benteke - Liverpool 0 - 3 A Villa Christian Benteke finds the back of the net with a goal from inside the area to the top right corner of the goal. Liverpool 0-3 Aston Villa.48:48
Martin Skrtel gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Christian Benteke. Barry Bannan delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from left wing, clearance made by Martin Skrtel.48:33
Stewart Downing takes a shot. Save made by Bradley Guzan.47:53
Glen Johnson fouled by Christian Benteke, the ref awards a free kick. Leiva Lucas restarts play with the free kick.47:34
Luis Suarez takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan.46:42
Andreas Weimann challenges Daniel Agger unfairly and gives away a free kick. Jose Reina restarts play with the free kick.46:18
Corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard, save made by Bradley Guzan.45:01
The referee blows his whistle to start the second half.45:01 Substitution
Substitution Joe Cole on for Jonjo Shelvey.45:00 +1:06 Half time
Half Time The players leave the pitch at half time.43:55
Raheem Sterling takes a shot. Save made by Bradley Guzan.43:07
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Raheem Sterling by Eric Lichaj. Jonjo Shelvey crosses the ball in from the free kick, Chris Herd manages to make a clearance.42:44
Jonjo Shelvey takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan.41:45
Jonjo Shelvey takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan.41:16
Eric Lichaj concedes a free kick for a foul on Raheem Sterling. Steven Gerrard takes the free kick.40:38
Centre by Steven Gerrard.39:29
Assist on the goal came from Christian Benteke.39:29 Goal scored
Goal! - Andreas Weimann - Liverpool 0 - 2 A Villa Goal scored by Andreas Weimann from inside the box low into the middle of the goal. Liverpool 0-2 Aston Villa.37:28
Glen Johnson sends in a cross, Nathan Baker makes a clearance.35:09
Glen Johnson delivers the ball.34:07
The offside flag is raised against Jonjo Shelvey. Indirect free kick taken by Bradley Guzan.32:21
Effort on goal by Andreas Weimann from just inside the penalty box goes harmlessly over the target.31:46
Effort on goal by Luis Suarez from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the goal.30:10
Christian Benteke challenges Daniel Agger unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Stewart Downing.28:16
Assist by Brett Holman.28:16 Goal scored
Goal! - Christian Benteke - Liverpool 0 - 1 A Villa Goal scored by Christian Benteke from outside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa.27:15
Pass corner from left by-line crossed in by Steven Gerrard, clearance made by Ciaran Clark.26:34
The offside flag is raised against Jonjo Shelvey. Indirect free kick taken by Bradley Guzan.26:11
Luis Suarez takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan.22:44
Foul by Christian Benteke on Martin Skrtel, free kick awarded. Martin Skrtel takes the direct free kick.19:51
Raheem Sterling delivers the ball.18:17
Raheem Sterling sends in a cross, Bradley Guzan makes a save.16:08
Outswinging corner taken by Barry Bannan from the left by-line, Chris Herd produces a right-footed shot from inside the area that clears the crossbar.15:37
A cross is delivered by Raheem Sterling, Bradley Guzan makes a save.13:18
Glen Johnson sends in a cross, save made by Bradley Guzan.13:05
The ball is delivered by Raheem Sterling.10:38
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard.8:56
Joe Allen has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the left-hand upright.8:05
Long range shot from Stewart Downing misses to the left of the target.5:03
Steven Gerrard takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan.4:22
The ball is swung over by Stewart Downing, save by Bradley Guzan.1:59
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jonjo Shelvey by Chris Herd. Free kick crossed right-footed by Steven Gerrard.0:33
Martin Skrtel challenges Andreas Weimann unfairly and gives away a free kick. Centre by Barry Bannan, Christian Benteke takes a shot. Jose Reina makes a save.0:00
The ref blows the whistle to start the match.
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