Liverpool left it late to secure a first Premier League win at home in 2021, with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s superb stoppage-time strike downing Aston Villa 2-1 at Anfield.
The Reds rallied from a goal down to secure three crucial points in terms of the top-four battle, while the result is also a timely boost with a Champions League second leg against Real Madrid coming up in midweek.
Ollie Watkins – who scored a hat-trick in a stunning 7-2 win for his side when Liverpool visited Villa Park early in the season – gave the visitors a half-time advantage on Merseyside, his left-footed shot squeezing underneath Alisson.
Roberto Firmino had a potential equaliser ruled out by the video assistant referee before the interval, but Mohamed Salah scored the Reds’ first home goal from open play in the league in 765 minutes to level early in the second half.
Liverpool had a let-off when Trezeguet hit the post but, with England boss Gareth Southgate watching on, Alexander-Arnold collected a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area and curled in a late winner.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 10, 2021
Jurgen Klopp may have feared it to be a case of deja vu when Watkins’ goal put Villa on course for a first league double over Liverpool since the inaugural Premier League campaign in 1992-93.
Salah had failed to punish a Tyrone Mings error when poking wide in the first half to extend the goal drought, yet he could hardly miss when Emiliano Martinez’s save from an Andy Robertson shot broke kindly for the Egyptian, allowing him to head in his 19th goal in the competition to move level with Harry Kane in the Golden Boot race.
Still, it appeared enough for only a point for Liverpool – who had lost their previous six at home in the league – until Alexander-Arnold provided a dramatic conclusion to proceedings.
While Martinez produced an outstanding save to keep out a volley from Thiago Alcantara, Liverpool’s right-back collected the loose ball before taking aim, his attempt finding the right corner and giving Villa’s goalkeeper no chance.
What does it mean? Home comforts at last for Klopp
Liverpool’s solitary triumph in a home fixture since the turn of the year had actually come in Budapest, as they had to play both legs of their last-16 Champions League tie with RB Leipzig overseas.
A 3-0 win at Arsenal after the international break had suggested Klopp’s squad were primed for a strong run-in. However, bad habits resurfaced in a 3-1 defeat to Madrid, leaving them facing a tall order to overturn the deficit in the return fixture and progress in Europe.
The domestic route to the Champions League still remains open, though, as an all-too familiar story of wasteful finishing – Liverpool had 23 attempts in total – against Villa eventually had a happy ending.
Door closed with Southgate?
Left out by Southgate for England’s World Cup qualifiers in March, Alexander-Arnold was at fault for a Madrid goal on Tuesday. His winner against Villa will not silence the doubters, yet a first Premier League goal of the campaign offered a demonstration of what he can produce in attack.
Ollie wobbles Reds again
Alexander-Arnold was not the only England international to make an impact on proceedings. Watkins is the first to score home and away for Villa against Liverpool in the same season since Christian Benteke in 2012-13, while no player has put four past the Reds in a single campaign since Andrey Arshavin for Arsenal 12 years ago.
Liverpool welcome Madrid on Wednesday, followed by a trip Leeds United next in the league. Villa, meanwhile, host champions-elect Manchester City, though that fixture is not until April 21.
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