Two late goals from Andy Robertson and Sadio Mane kept Liverpool’s six point lead at the top of the Premier League table intact with a 2-1 win away to Aston Villa.
The table toppers had trailed to a Trezeguet goal, but once again rescued the deserved three points late on in a display of patience and resolute character.
From the outside, it was clear that the hosts would attempt to attack their illustrious guests and they had a chance almost straight from kick off.
After only 30 seconds. Anwar El Ghazi spurned a good opening. The winger skipped too easily past Georginio Wijnaldum just inside the box. His shot was weak and straight at Alisson, though, and Liverpool survived unscathed.
The Reds, after a nondescript first 15 minutes, began to turn the screw and should have opened the scoring through Sadio Mané. The Senegalese was picked out by a wonderful Jordan Henderson cross, but, from near the penalty spot, steered his header wide.
Soon after the visitors went close again. Virgil van Dijk’s lifted pass found Mohamed Salah and the Egyptian’s volley from an acute angle was parried away by Tom Heaton.
The Villains own Egyptian, Trezeguet, made Liverpool pay a few minutes after. John McGinn’s free kick found the winger, who VAR confirmed was narrowly offside, at the back post and he steered past Alisson for 1-0. For once, the well oiled Liverpool offside line had been breached at a set piece.
More VAR controversy soon occurred when Roberto Firmino’s goal was ruled out. Mané’s left footed cross was tapped in by the Brazilian, but, after consultation, the onfield call of offside stood.
On second inspection, the goal was just as onside as Trezeguet’s and the Reds can justifiably feel aggrieved.
The European Champions continued to probe and almost manufactured an equaliser close to half time. Andy Robertson’s decoy run down the left bought space for Mané and his cross found Salah in the centre of the box. The forward, continuing his under par half, fired wildly over, however, and the score was 1-0 at the interval.
The first chance of the second half was for Jürgen Klopp’s team. Once again, Mané was the teams creative hub but Firmino skied his cross over the bar. Liverpool continued to turn the screw and both Mané and Wijnaldum worked Heaton in the hosts goal.
Another chance as a fortuitous slip allowed Henderson in behind Villa’s defence. With a simple ball on to Salah, the captain fluffed his lines and his underhit pass was easily cleared by Tyrone Mings.
The overworked Heaton was called into action again near the hour mark. Once again, Mané was in the thick of it with the former Burnley stopper saving the wingers header after a brilliant Alexander-Arnold cross.
The double change of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain for Salah and Divock Origi for Wijnaldum continued the Reds’ dominance, but the leveller wasn’t forthcoming. Mané wastefully shot wide and Adam Lallana badly skewed wide from a Firmino cross.
Villa, who had barely left their own half in the second period, almost killed the contest in the 77th minute. Benefitting from an Alexander-Arnold slip, Trezeguet ran in behind and picked out Conor Hourihane, but Van Dijk, reading the situation well, intervened and cleared.
The pressure continued to mount from the Reds, but the goal still wouldn’t come. Cutting in his left foot, Alexander-Arnold fizzed a shot narrowly wide.
The Villains did finally come unstuck soon after, however, with three minutes remaining. Mané, now stationed on the right, delivered a sumptuous left footed cross to the back post. Andy Robertson, marauding through space like a freight train walloped a header past Heaton.
One soon became two with Mané once again integral. From an Alexander-Arnold corner deep in stoppage time, the number 10 flicked a near post header into the bottom left corner to win the three points.
It was late, but it was a deserved three points for ah incredibly resolute team.
Liverpool team: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Lallana, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané.
Substitutions: Origi for Wijnaldum, Oxlade Chamberlain for Salah, Keita for Lallana.
Subs not used: Adrian, Gomez, Milner, Fabinho.