Liverpool travelled to Villa Park 7 points off the top four.
Jurgen Klopp said before the game: “We are not the biggest squad at the moment… but we won’t moan about it..”. Klopp needed 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic to seal the victory for Liverpool.
The Reds started brightly. After just 5 minutes Trent Alexander-Arnold found Andy Robertson’s run into the box with an immaculate pass. The Scot squared it to Mohamed Salah with a beautiful first touch, Salah obliged from close range.
It was a record breaking assist for Andy Robertson. His 54th in the Premier League. No defender has ever provided more.
Leon Bailey had had a great chance from a few yards out after 15 minutes, but he scuffed it from close range.
Watkins headed into the ground soon after he broke free from Joel Matip. Alisson saved Watkins header. Villa had their chances. They could have been leading after just a quarter of an hour despite after conceding within 5 minutes.
Joel Matip’s effort was ruled offside on the 20th minute. He had the ball in the back out the net with a looping header from an Andy Robertson free-kick.
Both sides played at a high tempo, we were denied more goals after both sides showed a lack of class in front of goal.
Darwin Nunez’s header on the 25th minute was poor. His looping header was well over the bar after Robertson provided yet another goal scoring chance. Nunez was energetic in the first half but Liverpool will need to see more composure in front of goal if they are to challenge for Champions League places. Before the half an hour mark he had another chance, his first time effort on the edge of the box troubled Olsen after he chased a long ball driven from Liverpool’s defence which was headed towards his own goal by Konsa. It was confidently struck by Nunez.
Villa were at sixes and sevens in the first half.
Digne went down under an Alexander-Arnold challenge in the box on the half hour mark. Paul Tierney wasn’t interested but it was a sloppy challenge from Alexander-Arnold.
Virgil van Dijk put Liverpool 2-0 ahead with a neat finish on his left foot after the ball broke in the box after a corner. Mohamed Salah found Van Dijk, Van Dijk found the side of Olsen’s net.
Mohamed Salah showed his class throughout the half.
Darwin Nunez was busy. Raw at times but he is always a defenders nightmare. Twisting, turning, dropping deep, and running in behind. Not the type of striker you want to play against after your Christmas dinner. Nunez could have scored at least a brace by the end of the half. He missed from point blank range after Trent Alexander bent a free kick across the Villa defence. Olsen saved after it was hit straight at him.
Leon Bailey again scuffed a chance before the hour mark, in truth Bailey should have scored a hat trick. His effort but four yards out never troubled Alisson.
Ollie Watkins got Villa back into the game on the 60th minute after a beautiful header across Alisson’s goal. Douglas Luis’ cross landed perfectly for Watkins. Alisson could only glance at the ball as it went past him. Trent Alexander Arnold could have done better. He showed a lack of desire to challenge Watkins.
Klopp introduced Harvey Elliott and Naby Keita midway through the second half. Thiago and Oxlade-Chamberlain made way. Liverpool needed energy in the middle.
Villa took over and began to dominate as Liverpool retreated.
Despite Leon Bailey’s misses he caused Liverpool problems down the right side.
Nunez did effort right on the 75th minute. He sprinted onto a pass from Salah and he had half the pitch to run through. He cut across Konsa well but couldn’t slot the ball past Olsen. Nunez could and should have scored at least four goals this week. Two minutes later a bursting run from Andy Robertson stopped Leon Bailey from equalising from close range.
Liverpool dealt with Villa’s pressure well and Villa began to run out of ideas.
On the 80th minute Stefan Bajcetic launched into Villa’s box to get on the end of a Darwin Nunez cross. Robin Olsen could only parry it into the youngsters path. Bajcetic’s first ever goal for the club was an important one. After a difficult evening in front of goal Darwin Nunez’s tiresome work produced the winner.
Jurgen Klopp gave Ben Doak his Premier League debut with a few minutes to score. The 17-year-old is highly regarded amongst everyone at Liverpool FC.
With 20 points already dropped this season Liverpool will need a run of wins to challenge at the business end of the Premier League. Next up – Leicester City visit Anfield on the 30th.