Gerrard to Reds' rescue from dynamic Aston Villa
Liverpool 2 Aston Villa 2
Liverpool dropped a couple of home points against a surprisingly dynamic Aston Villa, though at least the club's American owners saw a few goals and an entertaining game.
The home side came back from two goals down to share the points on an evening that put some of the recent title talk around Anfield into perspective. It is true, as Brendan Rodgers keeps saying, that Liverpool still have to play most of the leading contenders at home, though evidently it is also the case that they cannot take results against sides lower down the table for granted.
Not realising that his side were about to sweep into a wholly unexpected two-goal lead, Paul Lambert had his head in his hands just 45 seconds into the game when Villa missed a great chance to open the scoring, Gabriel Agbonlahor latching on to Christian Benteke's flick but poking wide in front of the Kop with only Simon Mignolet to beat. Villa's away kit is every bit as hideous as purple and white quarters suggests, though the visitors did not come to Anfield as shrinking violets.
They took the game to Liverpool in the early stages, getting forward in numbers and took a deserved lead with a well-executed counterattack when Benteke and Agbonlahor again combined to get behind the home defence. Benteke sent Agbonlahor galloping beyond Toure into space on the left, and Andreas Weimann sprinted 80 yards to supply the far post tap-in when the cross came along the goal line.
Brad Guzan made a save from Raheem Sterling as Liverpool attempted to get back on terms, and Bacuna was fortunate to get away with leading with his elbow in a challenge on Luis Suarez, but Villa's attacking adventure gained further reward when Mignolet and Skrtel got in each other's way and failed to deal with a routine Agbonlahor cross to gift Benteke a straightforward header.
Fortunately for Liverpool Daniel Sturridge knows how to find the net too, and, when a neat touch from Jordan Henderson turned a Suarez pass into something dangerous in stoppage-time, the striker beat Guzan with an angled shot to reduce the arrears.
Rodgers sensibly decided that this was not the game to leave Lucas Leiva on the bench and introduced the defensive midfielder at the expense of Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian only lasted 20 minutes before he too made way for Joe Allen. By then Liverpool had levelled the scores from the penalty spot. Suarez touched the ball past Guzan from Steven Gerrard's inspired pass and the goalkeeper brought him down. Contact appeared to be minimal but Gerrard calmly stroked the ball into the bottom corner regardless.
Suarez and Henderson had shots saved as Liverpool pressed for a winner. Neither side could produce enough urgency in the final half hour to deserve all three points.