Birmingham - Liverpool came from behind to win 2-1 at Aston Villa on Sunday
in an entertaining game that kept Paul Lambert's side entrenched in the English
Premier League relegation zone.
Christian Benteke put Villa ahead with a crisp strike in the first half but
Jordan Henderson equalised early in the second period before Steven Gerrard
claimed Liverpool's winner from the penalty spot.
Defeat left Villa third from bottom in the English top flight, but although
they only trail fourth-bottom Wigan Athletic on goal difference, Roberto
Martinez's side have a game in hand.
Villa had been bidding for a third successive win, but instead their
momentum deserted them ahead of a run of games that includes daunting trips to
Stoke City and leaders Manchester United.
Liverpool, meanwhile, closed to within five points of the European places,
although the three teams immediately above them - Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton
- all have a game in hand.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made four changes to the team beaten 3-1
by Southampton in their previous outing, with Jose Reina, Jamie Carragher,
Lucas Leiva and Henderson coming into the side.
Joe Bennett was the only new face in the Villa line-up, but the left-back
nearly crafted the opening goal in the fourth minute at Villa Park with an
inviting centre that narrowly eluded Benteke.
Another cross from a Villa full-back, this time Matthew Lowton, almost
yielded a goal in the 16th minute, but Reina produced a point-blank save to
thwart Gabriel Agbonlahor.
It was Liverpool, though, who made most of the early running.
Glen Johnson saw a deflected shot gathered by Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan,
while Luis Suarez poked a shot over, dragged an effort wide, and had two
attempts at goal repelled by Guzan.
Villa's opener, in the 31st minute, came against the run of play.
After Ashley Westwood's searching ball towards the Liverpool box was knocked
down by Agbonlahor, Benteke dispatched a meaty strike that brushed Reina's
right glove en route to the bottom-left corner.
Liverpool were quickly back on the attack and Guzan twice came to the hosts'
rescue in the minutes leading up to half-time.
The American blocked a meek shot from Suarez after Barry Bannan had
inadvertently given the Uruguayan a clear run on goal, before pushing away a
swerving strike from Gerrard.
Villa have been dogged by an inability to protect leads in the league this season
and their fragility cost them once again as Liverpool turned the game around
within 15 minutes of kick-off in the second half.
The visitors needed just two minutes to draw level, as Philippe Coutinho
released Henderson with a beautifully judged pass and the former Sunderland
player deftly chipped the advancing Guzan.
Coutinho rolled a shot inches wide from Suarez's pass and Johnson struck the
post before Gerrard levelled on the hour with an inch-perfect penalty after
Nathan Baker slid in on Suarez.
Back came Villa, and after Andreas Weimann ballooned Yacouba Sylla's
cut-back over the bar, Gerrard produced a captain's clearance to head Benteke's
goal-bound header off his own goal-line.
Benteke thought he had snatched an equaliser in injury time, but his
close-range half-volley was correctly ruled out for offside.