Moving level on points with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table, Liverpool edged over the line in a tense affair at Villa Park against Aston Villa, in which they were ultimately deserving winners.
Despite enjoying bright spells at the start of both halves, Aston Villa could not sustain such intensity and remained adrift of the top 10 as they sought to secure a top-half finish for the first time in over a decade.
Victory may not have been achieved in their typical style. However, Liverpool is still in contention for the title and has given rest to several integral players before Saturday’s FA Cup final.
ASTON VILLA (4-3-1-2): Emiliano Martinez; Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings, Lucas Digne; Douglas Luiz, Marvelous Nakamba, John McGinn; Philippe Coutinho; Danny Ings, Ollie Watkins.
SUBS: Robin Olsen, Ben Chrisene, Calum Chambers, Ashley Young, Emiliano Buendia, Bertrand Traore, Morgan Sanson, Carney Chukwuemeka, Tim Iroegbunam.
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Kostas Tsimikas; Curtis Jones, Fabinho, Naby Keita; Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Sadio Mane.
SUBS: Caoimhin Kelleher, Ibrahima Konate, Joe Gomez, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Thiago, James Milner, Divock Origi, Jordan Henderson.
VILLA LEAD! After Digne drifts a cross from the left towards the penalty spot, Douglas Luiz rises highest to plant a header straight at Alisson in a central position. The ball rebounds back into the Brazilian’s path, and he proceeds to thump the ball into an unguarded net! Liverpool’s title hopes take another blow as Villa go 1-0 ahead!
LIVERPOOL STRIKE BACK! Mings and Nakamba both make a hash of clearing a free-kick into the Villa box, and after the ball bobbles around dangerously, Jota pokes the ball into the path of Van Dijk. The Dutch defender’s shot is part-blocked by Martinez, but Matip is on hand to prod it home from close range. Liverpool are back on level terms already: 1-1!
LIVERPOOL LEAD! Coolly steering the ball into the bottom-right corner from near the penalty spot, Mane puts the visitors in front with a glanced header, following Diaz’s cross from the left. However, the title contenders have fought back – it’s 2-1 to Liverpool!
So, what’s next?
While the Reds roll on to Wembley, where they meet familiar foes Chelsea, the penultimate fixture in Villa’s campaign comes at home to fellow mid-table outfit Crystal Palace on Sunday.
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