Mohamed Salah made the difference as Liverpool earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Aston Villa at Anfield on Saturday.
The build-up to the game centred around Steven Gerrard’s big return to Anfield, albeit as part of the visiting team. And the Aston Villa manager set his team up nicely to keep the hosts at bay in an efficient manner for the most part. While Liverpool had the upper hand in the opening period, Emiliano Martinez did not have much to do in the Villa goal apart from the odd big save.
Alisson Becker was having a howler of a game at the opposite end, getting caught out twice. However, even though Villa carried a major threat on the counter, the Liverpool goalkeeper did not have a single save to make all game. The deadlock was finally broken midway through the second half after Mohamed Salah was brought down inside the box by Tyrone Mings.
The Liverpool talisman took the resulting penalty and made no error in beating Martinez, even though the Aston Villa goalkeeper dived the right way. That was the only goal in the game, as Liverpool spurned a couple of other opportunities to put the result beyond doubt.
Nonetheless, Salah’s game proved to be enough to seal a 1-0 win, with the result enabling Liverpool to keep pace with Manchester City following the Premier League champions’ 1-0 win over Wolves earlier in the day. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Alisson Becker: 5/10
It might be odd to see a goalkeeper who kept a clean sheet get a 5/10 rating. However, Alisson was fortunate to be bailed out by the defenders on as many as three occasions after misjudging those situations by showing a horrendous reading of the game. Nonetheless, there was no harm done, as he kept a clean sheet.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7/10
Alexander-Arnold endured a frustrating outing against Aston Villa. He was in a promising scoring position twice in the game, only for Mohamed Salah to be selfish and take speculative shots instead. However, the Englishman also exasperated with his wastefulness on the ball, losing possession a staggering 29 times.
Joel Matip: 8/10
While Virgil van Dijk was not in his element, Matip took on the mantle of doing the clean-up job at the back. The Cameroonian defender won each of the six aerial duels he contested while completing three clearances, two interceptions and two tackles. He also smartly built up play from the back, losing possession only five times all game.
Virgil van Dijk: 7/10
It is not every day that van Dijk is the worst Liverpool defender in a game. However, on Saturday, the Dutchman faced some nervy moments against Ollie Watkins, even earning a yellow card for a needless challenge. Liverpool’s defensive leader was also solid, though, completing seven clearances while winning each of his five aerial duels.
Andrew Robertson: 8/10
Robertson was one of the two standout performers for Liverpool, as he carried a constant threat down the left flank. While the Scot lost possession several times, he deserved a couple of assists from two inviting crosses that were not converted.
Jordan Henderson: 6/10
Henderson tends to revel in the no. 8 role, but Henderson was wasteful on the ball at times against Aston Villa. The Liverpool captain lost the ball cheaply on a few occasions, and his trademark first-time passes were nowhere to be seen. There will be better days for him.
Back in the starting lineup, Fabinho held the fort well for Liverpool, particularly in the second half, when Aston Villa did not get enough openings behind him. The Brazilian won ten duels while completing all but four of his attempted passes. He also put in the hard yards off the ball, completing four clearances, three tackles, two interceptions and one block.
Thiago Alcantara: 7/10
Thiago was one of the better players for Liverpool, as he pulled the strings smartly and even played a couple of key passes. Defensively, the Spanish international ran the hard yards, winning seven duels while also completing two tackles. It was a decent enough performance in the end.
Mohamed Salah: 7/10
The only reason Salah gets a 7/10 rating is that he was calm and composed when converting his penalty. However, other than that one moment, the Liverpool talisman was off-colour, with some of his decision making leaving a lot to be desired.
Mohamed Salah has 30 G/A in 22 games this season 🤯 pic.twitter.com/N0uJPJZG0A
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 11, 2021
He chose not to pass the ball to Alexander-Arnold on a couple of occasions when the Englishman was in a better position. Then in one instance, when he should have taken a shot, he chose to pass the ball straight to an Aston Villa defender. Nevertheless, he did the job with the conversion of his penalty.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 5/10
With Divock Origi missing out with a sore knee and Diogo Jota not fit enough to start, Oxlade-Chamberlain was deployed in the attacking unit ahead of Takumi Minamino. However, it was odd to see the Englishman reprising the false nine role, which he did not take to seamlessly. The former Arsenal star was unsure of his role and struggled to get into the game, bar one shot which went horribly off target.
Sadio Mane: 6/10
As is usually the case in most games, Mane carried a great threat on the left flank and combined beautifully with Andrew Robertson. However, this time around, the Senegalese forward was utterly wasteful with the ball at his feet, losing possession 18 times, although he created a couple of chances.
Diogo Jota: 6/10
Sent into the game in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jota did not see much of the ball despite spending half an hour on the pitch. However, the Portuguese international did have a couple of glorious chances to find the back of the net, only for him to miss each opportunity.
James Milner: N/A
A late introduction in place of Thiago, Milner helped see the game out without much of a fuss.
Takumi Minamino: N/A
A late introduction, Minamino did not have much time to influence the proceedings.