English Premiership

Liverpool crash to Villa defeat

2014-09-13 20:59
Brendan Rodgers (AFP)

Liverpool - Gabriel Agbonlahor's early goal gave Aston Villa an unexpected 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday that continued their recent impressive record at Anfield.

Villa have not lost at the ground since December 2010 and despite being camped in their own half for long periods, they were arguably deserved winners.

Agbonlahor scrambled home the decisive goal in the ninth minute of the game and although Liverpool dominated the remainder of the match, they only once forced Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan to make a save.

Liverpool handed a full debut to midfielder Adam Lallana, while Mario Balotelli made his first appearance at Anfield with fellow striker Daniel Sturridge ruled out by a thigh injury.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had spoken before the match about the need to "protect" Raheem Sterling from burn out. The in-form youngster was left on the bench, with Lazar Markovic and Philippe Coutinho expected to carry the hosts' creative threat.

Aston Villa were without captain Ron Vlaar, who had failed to recover from a calf injury, so Nathan Baker partnered Philippe Senderos in defence, while on-loan Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley made his debut.

Liverpool began purposefully and created the first opening in the seventh minute when Javier Manquillo crossed from the right flank for the unmarked Markovic, who weakly headed wide from a good position.

However, it was the visitors who took the lead from an Ashley Westwood corner shortly afterwards as Villa punished some sloppy Liverpool defending.

Westwood's cross was met by the head of Senderos and the ball dropped for Agbonlahor, who reacted quickest to bundle home from close range.

Midfielder Westwood posed a threat with his delivery from set-pieces and Villa should have added a second goal when Senderos got on the end of his free-kick, only to head over.

Liverpool dominated possession in the remainder of the first half, but despite their neat passing, they struggled to penetrate a disciplined Villa back-line.

Lallana seized on a knockdown from Jordan Henderson on the half-hour mark, but Senderos made a vital block from just inside the penalty area.

The former Southampton playmaker went close again when he arrowed a long-range effort just past the post, while Alberto Moreno was sent clear on the stroke of half-time, only to see his low cross cut out.

Villa packed men behind the ball in the second half and Rodgers reacted with the introduction of Sterling for Lallana just after the hour.

The England international was quickly into the action and Villa right-back Alan Hutton was fortunate to only escape with a yellow card when he scythed the youngster down.

Despite Sterling's extra zest and energy, Rodgers added further firepower with the introduction of Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini for Balotelli and Markovic.

Villa were content to sit on what they had and look to hit Liverpool on the counter-attack, and the hosts grew increasingly frustrated as the clock ticked down.

Coutinho seized on an opening with eight minutes to go and saw a low drive bounce back off the post with Guzan beaten, but Villa held on to secure a win that sent them up to second place behind leaders Chelsea.

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