Liverpool made a winning return to the Premier League as they reignited their bid to fight their way into the top four with an entertaining victory over Aston Villa.
Goals from Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Stefan Bajcetic secured the Reds a third straight league win for the first time this season and narrowed the gap to the Champions League places to five points.
While Liverpool’s first game after the World Cup break ended in a Defeat in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup By Manchester City on Thursday, Salah’s fifth-minute opener – created by some sublime assists from full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson – gave them the perfect start to their league return.
Wasteful Darwin Nunez prevented the visitors from extending their lead, but they were able to add a second before half-time when Van Dijk’s shot deflected past Ezri Konsa after a corner.
Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey had both squandered some great opportunities for Villa in a hugely entertaining first half, but Unai Emery’s side were rewarded for their persistence after the restart when Watkins headed in the middle of Douglas Luiz.
However, Spanish teenager Bajcetic’s first senior Liverpool goal nine minutes from time, which followed Nunez’s excellent work to win the ball from the touchline, ended hopes of a spectacular fightback at Villa Park.
Liverpool operational in top 4 offers
While Jurgen Klopp said he was delighted his sixth-placed side were resuming their campaign “within striking distance” of the Premier League’s top four, he added before kick-off that he felt it was a ” long arm again” after their early season struggles.
But, with one game less against fourth-placed Tottenham, the Liverpool boss must now feel confident of achieving his target in the second half of the campaign.
The Reds’ cause had received an early boost when Spurs drew with Brentford earlier in the day and their first-half brace put them in position to take full advantage.
Robertson’s crucial role in the opener – setting up Salah with a ball for the first time in the six-yard box after Alexander-Arnold’s superb outside-foot pass – saw him overtake Leighton Baines as the defender with the most assists in the history of the competition (54).
Although they looked comfortable at half-time, it certainly wasn’t done for Liverpool against determined opposition and they were relieved to add a late third after withstanding periods of intense pressure. de Villa after Watkins’ lifeline.
Klopp’s side have dropped 20 points in their opening 14 matches – two less than the total number of points they let slip last campaign – but there are now signs of momentum for them. finalists from last season.
- Our coverage of your Premier League club is bigger and better than ever – here’s all you need to know to make sure you never miss a moment