Benteke buries Liverpool
Christian Benteke (AFP Photo)
Liverpool - Christian Benteke scored twice and made another goal as Aston Villa checked Liverpool's recent resurgence with a 3-1 win at Anfield in the Premier League on Saturday.
Liverpool were bidding for a fourth consecutive win in all competitions but failed to convert a string of first-half chances and were punished when goals from Benteke and Andreas Weimann put Villa 2-0 up at half-time.
Benteke struck again early in the second half and although Steven Gerrard pulled one back, it was too late to prevent Paul Lambert's side -- the youngest Villa team ever to start a Premier League game -- from extending their unbeaten run to five league games.
Victory eased Villa's relegation fears by carrying them up to 14th place, four days after they beat Norwich City 4-1 to reach the League Cup semi-finals, while Liverpool slipped two places to 12th.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had talked up his side's chances of a top-four finish in the build-up to the match and they certainly began the game with ambition.
Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan had to be alert after visiting defender Eric Lichaj diverted Stewart Downing's low cross towards his own goal, while Gerrard could only shoot straight at Guzan from just inside the penalty area.
Downing and Joe Allen fired narrowly wide for the hosts, before Nathan Baker had to produce a last-ditch challenge to thwart Jonjo Shelvey.
Luis Suarez returned to the Liverpool line-up after suspension and he spurned a fine chance in the 27th minute, placing a tame half-volley within Guzan's reach from Shelvey's lay-off.
The hosts were punished for their wastefulness two minutes later, when Benteke gathered possession in the inside-left channel before arrowing a low drive into the bottom-left corner from 25 yards.
It was almost 2-0 shortly afterwards, Weiman lobbing onto the roof of the net following a miscued header from Glen Johnson, but five minutes before the interval, the Austrian made no mistake.
A sweeping move culminated in Weimann rolling a pass into the box for Benteke, whose cute back-heel found Weimann rushing in to dispatch a crisp shot across Pepe Reina.
Rodgers introduced Joe Cole at half-time but he was to play an unwitting role in Villa's third goal in the 51st minute.
After the former England man was robbed in midfield, Benteke collected possession and the Belgian striker was allowed to advance deep into the Liverpool box before prodding the ball past Reina.
Johnson had a penalty appeal turned down when his header seemed to strike Baker's arm, before Gerrard stooped to head home Johnson's left-foot shot to give the hosts an 87th-minute consolation.