lGabriel Agbonlahor’s early goal gave Aston Villa a battling victory at Anfield that moves them up to second place in the Premier League table.
Agbonlahor struck from a corner after nine minutes and, despite dominating possession, Liverpool were unable to break down the visitors’ well-organised defence.
Villa remain unbeaten, with 10 points from their first four games giving them their best start to the season since the 1998-99 campaign, when they went on to finish sixth.
Paul Lambert’s side worked hard, were well organised and were good value for their win but, worryingly for Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, his first attempt at rotating his newly-strengthened squad ended in a frustrating defeat.
At the start of a spell of seven games in 21 days, Rodgers’ selection was partly enforced by Daniel Sturridge’s injury while training with England, but the Reds manager now knows how much his side rely on the striker and fellow England man Raheem Sterling, who started the game on the bench.
Some of Liverpool’s summer signings were meant to provide the initiative in their absence – with six making the starting XI.
But, although Adam Lallana enjoyed an encouraging debut and Lazar Markovic again looked lively, Mario Balotelli was anonymous on his first home start.
The home side also had problems at the back and their failure to deal with Villa’s threat from set-pieces was punished after nine minutes.
Philippe Senderos saw his header blocked from Ashley Westwood’s corner but Javier Manquillo could not stop Agbonlahor from scrambling home the loose ball.
The Reds did not learn their lesson, and Senderos should have done better when he was left unmarked from a Westwood free-kick, sending his header over.
To their credit, Villa chased and harried whenever the Reds had the ball but, with Balotelli being well-marshalled by Senderos, the home side barely threatened despite dominating possession.
Visiting keeper Brad Guzan did not have a serious save to make in the first half and things did not improve for Liverpool when Sterling was finally introduced on the hour mark either.
With Villa still defending resolutely, Rodgers went for a different approach when he sent on two strikers, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini, after 70 minutes, bringing Balotelli’s unsuccessful evening to an early end.
EPL Results Of Matches Played Yesterday
|Arsenal 2-2 Man City|
|Chelsea 4-2 Swansea|
|Crystal Palace 0-0 Burnley|
|Southampton 4-0 Newcastle|
|Stoke 0-1 Leicester|
|Sunderland 2-2 Tottenham|
|West Brom 0-2 Everton|
|Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa|