/ Soccer

Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool

Updated: Saturday, 24 Aug 2013 20:12 | Comments

Daniel Sturridge was the hero for Liverpool as they made it two wins in a row
Daniel Sturridge was the hero for Liverpool as they made it two wins in a row

Daniel Sturridge proved Liverpool's match-winner for a second successive weekend as the Merseyside club edged out Aston Villa 1-0 to make their best start to a Premier League season for five years.

The Birmingham-born striker, who started his youth career with Villa, delivered a moment of pure quality midway through the first half, receiving Jose Enrique's left-wing pass before dancing past two defenders, rounding Brad Guzan and transferring his balance to poke home with his left foot.

It came after the England marksman fired the Reds to a 1-0 opening-day win over Stoke, leaving Brendan Rodgers' side with six points from their first two league games for the first time since 2008.

"Our aim was to just to keep our lines tight together and deny them many chances" - Brendan Rodgers

Liverpool finished second to Manchester United that season and, although that appears unlikely this term, Rodgers can only be delighted with the start his side have made without the suspended Luis Suarez.

For Villa, it was their third game in a tough opening eight days of the new season after victory at Arsenal and defeat at Chelsea, and they appeared off the pace in the opening 40 minutes against a sharper Reds side.

A late flurry at the end of the first half set the tone for a second period in which the hosts dominated and could well have taken a share of the spoils.

Liverpool's new goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who saved a late penalty against Stoke, denied the in-form Christian Benteke with a superb one-handed stop.

There was plenty of cause for optimism for a youthful Villa side who have already showed signs of development from the one which struggled against relegation last term, despite failing to keep a Premier League clean sheet for a club-record 25th match.

Villa manager Paul Lambert handed full debuts to summer signings Jores Okore and Leandro Bacuna, while Rodgers kept faith with the starting XI who saw off Stoke.

Both sides looked to feel each other out inside the opening 15 minutes, with the visitors showing the greater incision, although neither goalkeeper was forced into action.

Philippe Coutinho sent an effort high and wide after good work down the left by Enrique as the Reds started to dominate possession.

And it was no surprise when they made the breakthrough after 21 minutes.

Sturridge started the move before losing his marker, Okore, and when Enrique's pass from the left was dummied by Coutinho on the edge on the area, the former Chelsea striker showed great footwork to evade two defenders as well as Guzan and convert.

The goal only further boosted Liverpool's confidence while the hosts were chasing shadows at times.

With the home faithful becoming slightly frustrated, Bacuna sent Villa's first effort harmlessly wide after 32 minutes before Benteke's control let him down at a crucial moment.

And then with half-time approaching, Villa had two decent openings.

Benteke finally forced Mignolet into action, tipping the Belgium international's effort around a post, before Andreas Weimann saw his shot deflected narrowly over the crossbar.

Lambert's side started the second half with more purpose and, roared on by a sell-out Villa Park crowd, Ashley Westwood twice fired over from distance.

Importantly, however, Mignolet was barely troubled by the time Liverpool boss Rodgers handed a debut to new loan signing Aly Cissokho in the 69th minute.

Benteke and Weimann then headed wide before an unmarked Gabriel Agbonlahor volleyed off target from 12 yards having been presented with a great chance to level.

Matt Lowton finally forced Mignolet into action from long distance before Liverpool's summer signing from Sunderland produced a superb 86th-minute stop to keep out Benteke.

Karim El Ahmadi headed on to fellow substitute Nicklas Helenius and he found Benteke, whose powerful drive was brilliantly pushed around a post by Mignolet - ensuring Villa have now beaten the Reds just once in their last 16 Premier League meetings at Villa Park.

"It was a terrific win for us," Rodgers told Sky Sports 1.

"The first half we had good control of the game and scored an excellent goal and in the second half we just needed to defend a bit more deeply today.

"If we open up too much they can really hurt you. Our aim was to just to keep our lines tight together and deny them many chances. It was a good win for us as this is a difficult team to play against.

"We looked calm on the ball in the first half some of our momentum was very good, our positioning was good, our mentality was good.

"In the second half you expect more pressure from them but overall Simon (Mignolet) has made a couple of terrific saves and we got three points."

"It's still very early. What was important was to make a good start"

Rodgers believes the strong start to the season, in contrast to last term when Liverpool only recorded their first league win at the end of September, is much to do with the mentality that has been developing at the club.

He said: "It's still very early. What was important was to make a good start.

"We didn't have a good start at all last year. Since the turn of the year we've been getting better and better.

"What's important now is the mentality of the group is to win and win together. We just have to keep it going."

Part of the improved belief can be put down to the arrival of defender Kolo Toure, who at 32 has helped to replace the experience lost following the retirement of Liverpool stalwart Jamie Carragher.

"He (Toure) has been brilliant," Rodgers said.

"Obviously you know Jamie Carragher well and it was very important to get someone in of a similar ilk.

"We need that experience. He's 32, he's fit and he's got that winning mentality and he's been very influential in the changing room."

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use