Liverpool: Aston Villa brought Liverpool's recent resurgence in the English Premier League to a crashing end by winning 3-1 at Anfield on Saturday, with Christian Benteke capping a powerful display with goals in each half. The strapping Belgium international, who is starting to make a name for himself following his summer move from Genk, also set up fellow striker Andreas Weimann with an outrageous backheel for the other goal that made it 2-0 at halftime.
Steven Gerrard grabbed a late consolation for Liverpool but the result made a mockery of manager Brendan Rodgers' pre-match assertion that his team could challenge for a top-two finish this season. "It's a disappointing result and performance from us," Rodgers said. "I don't know where that came from as it's not been like us. We were careless with our final ball and didn't end up taking our chances."
Liverpool, who have been looking for a third straight win for the first time in two seasons, dropped back into the bottom half of the table - four points above Villa - and showed it is still a work in progress under Rodgers. With Luis Suarez back from a one-match ban, Liverpool was expected to have too much for Villa but Benteke had other ideas. The forward put Villa in front by shooting low past goalkeeper Pepe Reina from outside the area in the 29th minute, before showing his deft side by playing an impudent return ball to Weimann, who swept home a finish into the corner in the 40th.
Worse was to come for Liverpool six minutes after halftime when substitute Joe Cole was dispossessed and Benteke picked up the loose ball, charged goalward from 40 yards out and held Joe Allen's weak challenge to curl home a fine finish. "I thought we were excellent," Villa manager Paul Lambert said. "The goals were brilliant - the second goal, with the movement and the backheel, especially. "Benteke has been unbelievable."
Villa is unbeaten in six games over the past month and moved into the semi-finals of the League Cup on Tuesday by winning 4-1 at Norwich, which hasn't lost in the league in its past 10 matches. The win over Liverpool moved up Villa three places to 14th.