Aston Villa 1-3 Liverpool: Player ratings as Salah strikes in Reds win

Jude Summerfield
Liverpool eventually saw off VIlla
Liverpool eventually saw off VIlla / Mark Thompson/GettyImages
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Goals from Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Stefan Bajcetic helped Liverpool hold off a comeback from Aston Villa and close the gap on the Champions League places to five points.

Salah finished off a flowing move before he set up Van Dijk following a set piece as the Reds threatened to run away with the contest.

Villa shook off their first-half blues to reduce the deficit as Ollie Watkins headed in just before the hour mark, but Jurgen Klopp's side resisted the late pressure and made things easier with ten minutes remaining as substitute Bajcetic cooly finished to make it 3-1 just moments after his introduction.

A brilliant combination between Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson saw the right back brilliantly pick out his colleague, who squared first time for Salah to knock in the opener from close range.

That Robertson cross took him clear of Leighton Baines as the most prolific assist provider in Premier League history, moving up to 54.

Villa did respond as Alisson batted away an effort from the offside Watkins, while Leon Bailey butchered one opportunity when excellently placed, shooting well wide off balance from 12 yards out.

A searching cross from John McGinn picked out Watkins, but the striker couldn't connect properly with a diving header and Alisson easily collected. Joel Matip then had the ball in the back of the net from a Liverpool set piece, but the offside flag chalked off his excellent header.

A minute-period of madness saw the two sides scramble for possession before Darwin Nunez charged forward to volley a sliced Ezri Konsa clearance towards goal, but stand-in goalkeeper Robin Olsen made himself big enough to deal with it.

Liverpool continued to enjoy plenty of the ball and doubled their advantage as Villa failed to clear their lines. A corner bounced around the six-yard box before Salah picked out Van Dijk, who fired a clean shot on the angle into the bottom corner.

Villa almost halved the deficit early in the second half, though Watkins' rattled finish into the far corner after some nice interplay was disallowed for offside. John McGinn was then picked out at the back post but couldn't decide how to attack the ball, allowing Alisson to gather.

Unai Emery's side continued to pepper Alisson's goal with shots, though Salah nearly grabbed his second as he sprinted half of the pitch with the ball but miscued his final effort.

Their attacking intent was finally rewarded as Watkins brought them back into the game. Douglas Luiz whipped in a glorious cross from the right where the England international was waiting to head the ball back across Alisson to make it 2-1.

The home side's pressure failed to tell and instead it was Liverpool who found the game's fourth goal, one which sealed all three points. Nunez raced beyond Villa's backline and forced Olsen into save which fell straight to Bajcetic, who kept his composure to slip his shot through Mings' legs and in.

Liverpool remain sixth but reduced the gap on fourth-placed Tottenham, while Villa's first league loss under Emery sees them down in 12th.


Aston Villa player ratings (4-4-2)

Ollie Watkins
Watkins got Villa back in the game / Mark Thompson/GettyImages

GK: Robin Olsen - 6/10 - In for absent Argentine Emiliano Martinez. Avoided any major scares and denied Liverpool on a number of occasions.

RB: Ashley Young - 6/10 - Struggled with Robertson's rampaging runs but showed some attacking nous in the second half.

CB: Ezri Konsa - 4/10 - Looked pretty scared of Liverpool's pace alongside Mings. Set up a Nunez chance with a huge sliced clearance that went towards his own goal.

CB: Tyrone Mings - 2/10 - The ball bounced off him before Van Dijk scored. Later got nutmegged by Bajcetic for Liverpool's third. A really tough afternoon.

LB: Lucas Digne - 6/10 - Liverpool's first goal came down Villa's left, though Digne hadn't recovered from the corner and Robertson was left free to cross. Showed creativity when he got forward, especially in the second half.

RM: John McGinn - 5/10 - Decent in defence but seemed to kill the momentum of a lot of Villa attacks.

CM: Boubacar Kamara - 5/10 - Did improve in the second half but largely overwhelmed.

CM: Douglas Luiz - 6/10 - Wonderful cross set up Watkins to get Villa back into the game. Improved second half but was too sluggish beforehand.

LM: Emiliano Buendia - 5/10 - Threatened to open up Liverpool\s defence on occasion, but the end product rarely came.

ST: Leon Bailey - 5/10 - Good opportunity to draw level but got his shot all wrong 12 yards out. Drifted out wide on occasion.

ST: Ollie Watkins - 7/10 - Scuffed a couple of very promising chances. Eventually took his chance, having also seen a crisp finish disallowed for offside.


Substitutes

Philippe Coutinho (86' for Kamara) - N/A - Introduced far too late to make any kind of impact.

Danny Ings (86' for Bailey) - N/A

Leander Dendoncker (86' for Buendia) - N/A


Manager

Unai Emery - 4/10 - Waited until Liverpool had scored their third to make any substitutions. Inspired an improved second-half performance but won't have been happy with their start.


Liverpool player ratings (4-3-3)

GK: Alisson - 7/10 - Alert and confident in dealing with Villa's attacking forays.

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold - 7/10 - Picked out Robertson wonderfully for the opener. Constantly kick-started Liverpool attacks during the first half. Looked more suspect when Villa turned up the pressure.

CB: Joel Matip - 7/10 - Constantly broke up play with a number of tackles. Withstood Villa's second-half attacks with a series of clearances and interventions.

CB: Virgil van Dijk - 8/10 - Lovely swing of the leg to put in Liverpool's second via a slight Konza deflection. Led from the back alongside Matip.

LB: Andy Robertson - 8/10 - Lovely touch gave Salah one of his easier goals. Given some difficulty in defence but responded well.

CM: Jordan Henderson - 7/10 - Exploited space nicely on the right of Liverpool's midfield.

CM: Fabinho - 6/10 - Couldn't help Liverpool stop the tide of Villa attacks in the second half

CM: Thiago - 6/10 - Caught the eye with a couple of forward forays but got through more defensive work.

RW: Mohamed Salah - 9/10 - Simple task of knocking in Robertson's cross to finish off a flowing Liverpool move. Teed up Van Dijk for the second. May have scored more on another day but still decided the contest with his output.

ST: Darwin Nunez - 4/10 - Charged around hilariously up front, sparking chaos and confusion in Villa's defence. Definitely should have done better with his many, many, many chances in front of goal.

LW: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - 5/10 - A first league start of the season. Drifted out of the game and was pretty wasteful in possession.


Substitutes

Naby Keita (67' for Thiago) - 6/10 - Sent one potshot sailing over but helped Liverpool over the line.

Harvey Elliott (67' for Oxlade-Chamberlain) - 6/10 - Showed a little more bit than Oxlade-Chamberlain but wasn't overly involved on the ball.

Joe Gomez (79' for Alexander-Arnold) - 6/10 - A more defensive introduction to see the game out.

Stefan Bajcetic (79' for Henderson) - 7/10 - Waltzed through Villa's box to convert on the follow up having just entered the field of play.

Ben Doak (88' for Nunez) - N/A - On for his Premier League debut.


Manager

Jurgen Klopp - 7/10 - Liverpool conceded a fair amount of chances which would have frustrated Klopp, but their attacking play is just as vibrant as it was before the World Cup.

Player of the Match - Mohamed Salah

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