Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury time winner ended Liverpool’s record run of home defeats to beat Aston Villa 2-1 and move up to fourth in the Premier League on Saturday. The English champions had lost their previous six games at Anfield and fell behind again when Alisson Becker failed to keep out Ollie Watkins’s first-half strike. Liverpool were then controversially denied an equaliser as a dubious VAR review judged out Roberto Firmino’s reply.
But Mohamed Salah leveled just before the hour mark before Alexander-Arnold responded in style to the criticism he has received of late.
The right-back was dropped from England manager Gareth Southgate’s squad last month and was at fault for Real Madrid’s second goal as Liverpool lost the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against the Spanish giants 3-1 on Tuesday.
Alexander-Arnold’s attacking output has been a prominent part of Liverpool’s success in the last three seasons under Jurgen Klopp and the 22-year-old showed what he can do with a brilliant finish to curl the ball into the far corner.
Victory takes Liverpool back into pole position for a place in next season’s Champions league as they leapfrog West Ham, Chelsea and Tottenham.
– Alisson at fault –
The first cracks in a difficult season for Liverpool emerged when Villa won their first meeting of the season 7–2 at Villa Park in October.
That was prior to the Reds losing Virgil van Dijk to a season-ending injury that has destabilized their entire campaign.
Villa have also suffered losing their talismanic talent in Jack Grealish over the past two months.
Dean Smith’s men have now won only twice in eight games without the England international to see their hopes of a top-four finish come up short.
After back-to-back league wins for the first time in 2021, Liverpool started brightly in an attempt to put their Anfield hoodoo behind them.
Salah came closest to opening the scoring for Klopp’s men before the break when he prodded just wide after pouncing on a slack passback by Tryone Mings.
Alisson was also at fault in Madrid in midweek as he let Vinicius Junior’s effort through his grasp for Real’s vital third goal.
The Brazilian made the same mistake as Watkins’s strike was straight down the middle of the goal, but had too much power for Alisson’s weak hand two minutes before half-time.
Liverpool still thought they had leveled before the break when Firmino turned home a loose ball at the back post.
However, the goal was judged out after a lengthy VAR review for offside against Diogo Jota in the build-up despite inconclusive evidence.
To their credit, that disappointment did not knock the stuffing out of the hosts as they started the second period on the front foot.
Liverpool got their reward on 57 minutes when Salah headed home his 28th goal of the season after Emiliano Martinez could only parry Andy Robertson’s powerful strike.
Another Egyptian international was inches away from restoring Villa’s lead at the other end moments later as Trezeguet’s shot came back off the inside of the post.
Klopp introduced Thiago Alcantara, Sadio Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri off the bench in a bid for a winner and the changes made the desired impact.
Martinez produced another stunning save to deny Thiago turning home Shaqiri’s cross, but the loose ball came to Alexander-Arnold, who with Southgate in attendance, fired a timely reminder of the quality he possesses.
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