LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 18: Luis Suarez of Liverpool takes the ball away from Ron Vlaar of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Aston Villa at Anfield on January 18, 2014 in Liverpool, England.

Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa: Reds stage comeback, but Villa leave Anfield with a draw (video)

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Aston Villa grabbed two goals before 40 minutes had passed, but Liverpool came back to score on either side of the break. Paul Lambert has plenty to be pleased about regarding his side’s performance, while Brendan Rodgers will likely spend a few days pondering how best to keep his side in the race for the Champions League positions.

The first half was full of surprises, with Villa threatening a repeat of last season’s 3-1 victory at Anfield. It may have been because Liverpool were overconfident, perhaps it was due to a change in tactics, but Liverpool looked rather lackluster for the first thirty minutes. The Villa took advantage, first with Ashley Westwood placing his shot straight at Simon Mignolet after a fine counterattack, then with Ciaran Clark hitting the post.

Just a minute after the post denied the visitors, another great counter allowed Villa to take the lead. Gabby Agbonlahor shot up the left flank, easily outstripping the Reds with his pace. A little bit of fancy footwork got him past Kolo Toure, giving Agbonlahor the chance to slide the ball across the face of goal. Andi Weimann was waiting in the middle, and needed just a touch to put his side ahead.

Liverpool failed to learn from their mistakes, and ten minutes later, there was Agbonlahor again, this time tearing down the right. Both Mignolet and Glen Johnson did their best to stop the resulting cross, but wound up catching only air. Christian Benteke came flying in behind Johnson, sending his diving header into the back of the net.

The hosts did manage to cut the Villa lead in half before the whistle blew for halftime. This time it was the claret and blue defense that were caught napping, foolishly giving Luis Suárez way too much space. The Uruguayan passed off to Jordan Henderson, who impressed with a nifty little backheel into the run of Daniel Sturridge. The resulting shot hit the roof of the net before falling behind Brad Guzan.

Both managers made changes early in the second half. Brendan Rodgers brought on Lucas to replace Coutinho, adding some steel in the Liverpool midfield. Five minutes into the second half, Villa were forced into a change, with Agbonlahor coming off injured, replaced by new loan signing Grant Holt.

But it was Suárez, of course, that brought Liverpool up to level terms. He got on the end of a ball from Steven Gerrard, going one on one with Guzan. The Villa keeper came out to stop him, got a touch on his leg and Suárez went down. The referee barely hesitated before pointing to the spot. It was Gerrard who took it, but it was the intelligent play of Suárez that created the goal.

With fifteen minutes left to play, Suárez very nearly scored one of his own. Yacuba Sylla, on for Karim El Ahmadi, fouled the Uruguayan, giving Liverpool a free kick from about 25 yards out. He took it himself, sending the ball flying over the wall, but could only hit the side netting. Suárez tried again in injury time, but Guzan pushed away to ensure Villa stayed level.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Cissokho, Skrtel, Toure, Gerrard, Henderson, Sterling, Coutinho (Lucas 45, Allen 66), Sturridge, Suárez

Goals: Sturridge (45+2); Gerrard (53)

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Bertrand (Luna 81), El Ahmadi (Sylla 62), Westwood, Delph, Agbonlahor (Holt 49), Weimann, Benteke

Goals: Weimann (25); Benteke (36)

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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