Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa: Agbonlahor’s early score leads Villa past listless Liverpool (video)

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Gabriel Agbonlahor picked up a scrappy goal early and Aston Villa held firm as Liverpool had nothing to offer its home fans at Anfield and blew a chance at jumping into the top four of the Premier League table.

Aston Villa hasn’t lost at Anfield since 2010, and their odd streak continues thanks to a solid defensive shape and physical style of play.

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The first chance of the game fell to Lazar Markovic in the sixth minute, who latched onto a cross to head towards the far post, but it went a few feet wide.

It was Villa, though, who started the better side, and they cashed in.  Their first corner flew into the box just inside 10 minutes, and defender Philippe Senderos was able to get a head to the ball and send it towards the goal. It hit Gabriel Agbonlahor on the way in, but the Villa striker was able to collect, turn, and touch home from point blank range.

The visitors continued to be dangerous at Anfield, where Villa manager Paul Lambert has never lost, and they came close to a second on 12 minutes. Senderos again proved dangerous on set pieces, as a free kick from dead center of the attacking half came in and Senderos latched on, but sent it over the bar as Simon Mignolet barked at his Reds defense.

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Senderos also found himself a bit lucky after 23 minutes, as he stuck a boot out and kicked Mario Balotelli with the play nowhere near him, but the referee missed it completely.  Likely had the referee seen the play, it would have deserved a straight red card.

Villa stifled the Reds attack, clogging their lanes well and then hitting back on the break.  Liverpool found their first real opening in the 26th minute when Philippe Coutinho dinked a long ball into the box.  It found the head of Jordan Henderson and he touched back for Adam Lallana in space, but his shot was blocked by Senderos.

Villa continued to play hack-a-Mario on the Italian striker, scything him down on every opportunity, whether the ball was at his feet or not.  Senderos was not the only guilty party, as Alan Hutton also ripped him down on the touchline on the half-hour mark.

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Senderos continued to be a menace on set pieces, as another corner on 37 minutes found his feet but he blasted over.

After the break, Liverpool looked more like themselves with an attacking hunger and using pace to their advantage, but they couldn’t capitalize. Rodgers removed Lallana in favor of Raheem Sterling with a half hour to go, and then removed Mario Balotelli for Ricky Lambert 10 minutes later to try and get fresh legs in the attack.

Their first real chance since early in the match came on 79 minutes, when Philippe Coutinho scrambled to take a corner and it found the head of Dejan Lovern but he just missed the bullseye in the far corner.  Then Coutinho just two minutes later crashed the post with a shot but again failed to test Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan with a shot.

Liverpool pushed hard for a goal as it creeped towards stoppage time, but Villa put numbers behind the ball and showed no signs of even coming close to conceding, as every ball pumped into the box was regurgitated back out.

Villa held on for the road win, and their three points push Lambert’s club up to 10 points, good enough for second place in the Premier League meaning Aston Villa and Swansea hold the second and third place spots in the table.  Meanwhile, Liverpool blow their chance to make the top four, and instead sit on six points and have two losses to couple with two wins.

Also, the clean sheet gives Brad Guzan three on the season, the only Premier League goalkeeper with that number.

LINEUPS:

Liverpool: Mignolet; Manquillo, Moreno, Lovren, Sakho; Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho, Markovic (Borini 71′), Lallana (Sterling 61′); Balotelli (Lambert 71′).

Aston Villa: Guzan; Hutton, Baker, Senderos, Cissokho, Westwood, Delph, Cleverley, Richardson, Agbonlahor, Weimann.

Goals: Agbonlahor 9′