Sadio Mane and Curtis Jones kept up below-par Liverpool’s perfect home record within their 2-0 conquer struggling Aston Villa.
In their first home game since being crowned Premier League champions 10 days ago, Liverpool were fortunate to edge past their relegation-threatened visitors, who had the higher of the few chances at Anfield.
However, Mane, so frequently Liverpool’s saviour in times of need, was selected by Naby Keita’s precision pass within the box 19 minutes from time to rifle an effort in off the crossbar and beat former Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
And when substitute Jones, who signed a brand new long-term deal at Anfield earlier this week, doubled the lead with a placed finish late on, that confirmed Liverpool would move within two matches of becoming the very first team to win every home game in a Premier League season.
Villa may have led by the time Mane struck the opener with chances falling for Anwar El Ghazi and Douglas Luiz in either half but did not sufficiently test Alisson, since the visitors remained a point adrift of safety inside the relegation.
Liverpool show mark of champions to grind out win
Aston Villa’s guard of honour to welcome Liverpool onto the pitch at Anfield will be a good reminder for Jurgen Klopp’s team of the summer season they have enjoyed after a difficult defeat at Manchester City on Thursday night.
But any hope of a response from their humbling at the Etihad was premature, as became rapidly evident within a dour opening period where Villa – coming into the overall game on a run of only two points from their previous eight matches – shaded the game.
Douglas Luiz stung the palms of Alisson with a well-struck volley in the only moment of note before the interval, as Liverpool floundered against an increasingly resolute Villa defence, with their ample possession wasted by an insufficient intensity with the ball.
Surely the champions would see an improvement following the break. Not immediately. Jack Grealish fed El Ghazi to fire at Alisson’s near post from a tight angle, but with an hour gone and Jurgen Klopp clearly unimpressed with what he previously witnessed, a triple change re-invigorated the hosts.
With that in mind, you can feel the tide turning by the time Keita looked up inside the Villa box to choose Mane on the right, and after escaping the clutches of Neil Taylor that he fired home the opener via the woodwork.
And with the hosts now looking more assured, youngster Jones wrapped up victory with a smart eight-yard finish from Mohamed Salah’s knockdown.
Grealish may have given Villa the goal their performance deserved in injury time but was denied by a superb Alisson save yourself, leaving the champions’ copybook unblemished while they kept up their assault on Manchester City’s 100-point record tally from 2018, which four wins from their final five games will be enough to beat.
Liverpool’s visit to Brighton on Wednesday is live on Sky Sports Premier League from 8pm; kick-off at 8.15pm.
Aston Villa welcome in-form Manchester United to Villa Park on Thursday, also live on Sky Sports Premier League from 8pm; kick-off at 8.15pm.