Trent Alexander-Arnold scored a last-gasp winner against Aston Villa to end Liverpool’s four-month wait for a Premier League victory at Anfield and keep the Reds’ top-four hopes alive.
The right-back collected the ball on the edge of the area and lashed beyond an outstretched Emi Martinez in the 91st minute to complete a comeback victory for the champions.
Liverpool fell behind to Ollie Watkins’ strike late in the first half as Villa punished their hosts for wasting their flurry of early chances.
Roberto Firmino thought he had found the equaliser moments later, but a lengthy VAR check found Diogo Jota was offside by a minute margin in the build-up.
Mohamed Salah allayed fears Liverpool would suffer a seventh consecutive home defeat by heading in just before the hour mark after good work by Andy Robertson.
The Egyptian’s goal ended the Reds’ dire run of 12 hours and 44 minutes without a goal from open play at home in the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp introduced Sadio Mane for the final 15 minutes as Liverpool pushed for a winner and Alexander-Arnold came up with the goods with seconds remaining.
The result lifts the Reds into the top four and gives them renewed hope of Champions League qualification, as well as pulling off another European comeback against Real Madrid next week.
Here are five talking points from Anfield.
1. Reds squander early dominance
Visiting teams have had no problem keeping Liverpool at bay at Anfield in 2021.
The champions have looked devoid of attacking inspiration, knocking the ball from side to side with no purpose or cutting edge.
As a result, the Reds managed a truly dismal tally of just one goal in seven Premier League games prior to the visit of Aston Villa.
But Liverpool were much improved against Dean Smith’s side in the opening half-hour – which was their best at home for many months.
Liverpool registered six shots in the opening 20 minutes and Mohamed Salah should have punished a Tyrone Mings error to put them ahead early on, but could only prod wide of Emi Martinez’s far post when through one-on-one.
Roberto Firmino – recalled after he was benched against Real Madrid – also lashed wide, while Diogo Jota was a threat from the left wing as Sadio Mane dropped out of the line-up.
But Liverpool failed to capitalise on their dominance. They may have created chances for a change, but the Reds were unable to convert.
Their visitors, who grew into the first half as it wore on, made no such mistake.
2. Watkins on target for improving Villa
One shot, one goal.
Ollie Watkins didn’t see much of the ball in the first half – but he made it count when a shooting opportunity finally presented itself.
The England striker worked the ball onto his left foot and sent Ozan Kabak scrambling as he unleashed a powerful effort, although Alisson will no doubt be disappointed to have let the shot slip under his right arm.
While Liverpool’s early dominance faded, Villa worked their way into the game, with Ezri Konsa and Matty Cash forcing saves from Alisson as their side saw more of the ball and pressed higher up the pitch.
It came as no surprise to see the visitors take the lead in the 43rd minute, and Watkins – who also netted a hat-trick in the 7-2 drubbing of Liverpool earlier this season – appears to be going from strength to strength during his first Premier League campaign.
With goals in back-to-back fixtures, the 25-year-old has a serious chance of retaining his spot in the England squad for the summer’s Euros.
3. More offside controversy
Not for the first time this season, Liverpool will feel aggrieved over a VAR intervention.
Roberto Firmino thought he had hauled his side back on level terms with a close-range strike just before half-time – which would have marked a timely return to form for the Brazilian.
But a lengthy check saw the Reds’ equaliser chalked off, with Diogo Jota deemed offside as Trent Alexander-Arnold played a delightful diagonal pass to create the chance.
Not only was the offside margin incredibly slight, VAR also decided Matty Cash did not touch the ball as he reached to make an interception.
If the Aston Villa right-back had made deliberate contact, Jota could not have been penalised for being offside and the goal would have stood.
In a season of anguish, it was another moment which left Jurgen Klopp pleading with the fourth official to no avail.
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4. Salah on target yet again
One bright spark in a torrid Liverpool season has been Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian’s equaliser was his 28th goal of the season, putting him a whole 16 goals clear of the next player in the Reds’ scoring charts, Sadio Mane.
Salah was guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance in the first half but made amends by popping up at the right place, at the right time to nod in after Emi Martinez initially made a fine save.
His 57th-minute goal gave Liverpool plenty of time to press for the winner, and the champions needed almost every remaining second before Trent Alexander-Arnold scored one of his side’s most important goals this season.
5. Reds keep top-four hopes alive
The relief at the full-time whistle was palpable for Liverpool’s players and staff.
The club avoided a seventh consecutive Premier League defeat at home and leapfrogged their way to fourth in the Premier League to keep their hopes of Champions League qualification alive.
Of course, West Ham and Chelsea have games in hand on the Reds, but this was an emphatic message by the champions, reaffirming their ‘never give up’ attitude which has been missing in recent months.
The result also gives Liverpool hope they can overturn a 3-1 deficit as Real Madrid come calling for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final next week.
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