Aston Villa lost 2-1 to Premier League champions, Liverpool, at Anfield thanks to a last-minute goal from Trent Alexander-Arnold.
A victory would have seen Villa move to within two points of Liverpool with a game in hand but it just wasn’t to be as Dean Smith’s men struggled to replicate their 7-2 victory from earlier in the season.
Villa have scored eight goals this season against Liverpool, which is a new Premier League record for the number of goals Liverpool have conceded against a single side during a single season.
Dean Smith made two changes as Marvelous Nakamba replaced Morgan Sanson while Trezeguet replaced Anwar El Ghazi. Villa were still without their talisman, Jack Grealish.
It isn’t something we have said too much this season but Villa were very poor and sloppy in possession. Despite this, Villa were still able to cause Liverpool problems on the counter.
Tyrone Mings was lucky that Mo Salah was not able to jump on a second mistake in as many games when his misplaced pass allowed the Egyptian through but he was unable to capitalise as his effort when wide of the post.
Both Firmino and Diego Jota also came close but again they struggled to find the target.
Villa came close through Ezri Konsa as his headed effort went straight into the arms of Alisson from a Matt Targett free-kick.
As with Liverpool all season, their weakness was their defence and despite their early dominance, it was the visitors who found themselves in the lead just before half time.
Douglas Luiz found John McGinn who in turn played Ollie Watkins through who was able to fire his shot under the Liverpool keeper.
The home side came close to making it level but VAR denied them through offside. Firmino thought he scored when he fired their effort into the roof of the net but after a long delay, the goal was chalked off.
It is hard to disagree with offside goals because offside is offside but I know for a fact that I am not the only football fan who is getting fed up with VAR. It worked in our favour on this occasion but too many times it has gone against us. It wasn’t a clear and obvious mistake so get on with it!
Champions take their chances
Liverpool looked even sharper after the break and although Villa had improved it wasn’t going to be their day.
Once again, Villa had their chances on the break when Watkins broke but was unable to find Bertrand Traore as he lost the ball on the edge of the box.
The hosts were level after 57 minutes courtesy of Salah. Martinez was able to deny Andy Robertson but the ball popped up nicely for Salah to make it level.
A few minutes later, Villa probably should have regained the lead but were desperately unlucky. Once again, Watkins got behind the Liverpool backline before playing the ball back to Trezeguet. The Egyptian’s first-time effort with the outside of his boot hit the inside of the far post before flying back across the face of the goal.
Villa seemed to lose something when they made their substitutes and paid for it very late on. In the first minute of stoppage time, the ball fell to Alexander-Arnold who fired through a host of players into the bottom corner.
A lot was made out of this defeat on social media but I couldn’t help but think it was a little harsh and uncalled for. On another day, it could have been Villa who took all three points despite not being at their best.
They were sloppy in possession with just a 68% pass completion but this is an area as a team we need to look at as we have only averaged 78% this season (14th best in the league).
The better side won, without a doubt but I didn’t feel as frustrated as I have done in previous games of late. I feel that with us safe from relegation and not quite ready to challenge for a European spot, it could be the perfect opportunity to blood some of the talented academy players we keep hearing about into the first team, ready for next season.
It doesn’t get much easier for Villa with Manchester City up next at Villa Park.