Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool: Rating the Liverpool Players
Qualifying for the Champions League remains an outside prospect with the gap to Chelsea, in fourth, now eight points.
Here's how the Liverpool players rated.
Reina was one of four changes made by Brendan Rodgers following their defeat to Southampton.
The Spaniard will never fully convince when dealing with crosses, but, as a shot-stopper, he remains an excellent barrier.
His point-blank block to deny Gabby Agbonlahor was vital. Although he won't like the fact that Christian Benteke's shot beat him at his near post, the sheer power of it mitigates that slightly.
He back-peddled well to tip over a long-distance effort from Matt Lowton, too.
The Back Four
The England right-back was a lot busier in the first half than the second.
The whole back line was caught cold by a long ball from Ashley Westwood that saw Christian Benteke put Villa ahead.
But from then on things got steadier.
Johnson enjoyed the room afforded to him in the second period. He was a frequent presence around the Villa penalty area and produced some typically penetrative passes.
Also, he might have got among the goals when his deflected effort beat Brad Guzan only to cannon off the post.
The Dane has been a calming and reliable man at the heart of the Reds' defence this season. Once he got to grips with the demands of keeping his eyes on Villa's fluid front three, he coped well.
Benteke and Andreas Weimann got away from him a couple of times and might have punished Liverpool more than they did.
But overall he turned in a solid display.
The 35-year-old is enjoying something of an Indian summer in his final season before retiring.
He may have lost his pace (not that he had much to begin with), but, positionally, he uses all his vast experience to compensate.
He struggled in the first half with the movement of Benteke and was fortunate not to get booked after a couple of cumbersome challenges.
Villa's lack of penetration and threat after half time meant he had a much quieter time.
He had to bide his time for a regular starting place under Brendan Rodgers, but the Spanish left-back does his best to emulate Glen Johnson's impact down the left-hand side.
Like his fellow defenders, he found the second half more to his liking and made a number of characteristic forays forward.
Another quietly effective display from Liverpool's Brazilian vacuum cleaner who performs such a vital role sucking up trouble just in front of his back four.
Liverpool won just three of the 11 matches Lucas missed with a serious knee injury at the start of the season.
The improvement in results since he returned to the side in December is no coincidence and illustrates what a key role he performs.
Is the big-money signing from Sunderland finding his feet at last?
He was more advanced in the first half when he scored a peach of a goal—a delightful chip over Brad Guzan to bring Liverpool level.
It was his third of 2013.
He swapped with Steven Gerrard after the break and assumed a deeper role, which he did well.
Liverpool's captain justified his man-of-the-match award.
Although deployed in a deeper role in the first half, Steven Gerrard still managed to be the Reds' only persistent threat.
But it was when he was shifted further up field that his influence really began to take effect.
There was the usual peppering of quality passes, and robust blocking and tackling, as he turned in another typical performance as Liverpool's heartbeat.
He also produced a match-winning header that cleared Christian Benteke's header off the line, ensuring victory
His decisive penalty on the hour was unsavable: a laser-guided effort into the bottom corner.
The Brazilian seems to be getting to grips with life in the Premier League. He just keeps getting better and better.
Coutinho's game was studded with subtle touches and deliciously weighted passes.
His ball to set up Jordan Henderson for Liverpool's first goal was a beauty.
He should have celebrated a goal himself, but he hit the post after being put clean through by Luis Suarez.
Inevitably booed by the fans who used to cheer him to the rafters, the former Villa winger was another quietly effective performer.
He was a threat cutting in on his stronger left foot from his position on the right flank. He also put in a number of telling crosses that kept the Villa defence on their toes.
No goal for Liverpool's finishing sensation, but he was a massive force in their win.
His elusive movement in and out of possession was a constant menace to Villa, and he was always in their faces.
He teed-up Philippe Coutinho in the second half beautifully, and cleverly exposed Nathan Baker's naivety to win the penalty that won the game.
A penalty that was beyond any doubt this time.
He might have got a goal himself with a lovely slalom through a clutch of Villa defenders in the last five minutes, but his weak chip was easily gobbled up by Brad Guzan.
His form is holding up splendidly.
Raheem Sterling (Substitute)
The young winger has been withdrawn from the firing line by Brendan Rodgers following a dip in form after his electric start to the season.
He only had 13 minutes after replacing Coutinho and made a couple of purposeful runs forward, but nothing more.
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