2019-20 English Premier League
  • Sadio Mané (71')
  • Curtis Jones (89')

A quiet return to Anfield as champions Liverpool beat Aston Villa 2-0

Liverpool's first game back at Anfield after becoming Premier League champions was a quiet affair as they saw off the challenge of Aston Villa 2-0.

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Sadio Mane and Curtis Jones both found the net for Liverpool in the latter stages of the second half to secure the win.

Liverpool have failed to find their form since winning the title and the first half passed without either side putting together any dangerous chances.

The result means Aston Villa remain rooted in the relegation zone while Liverpool go 23 points clear of Manchester City.

The Reds dominated possession in the first half, securing 72% of the ball, but managed just one attempt on target. Aston Villa were largely happy to let Liverpool pass the ball around before launching into a counterattack.

There were calls for a penalty from Aston Villa on the edge of half-time. Douglas Luiz went down after a challenge from Naby Keita but VAR replays showed there was little to it and play continued.

The pace improved in the second half but Aston Villa came out the brighter of the two sides.

After running off an injury sustained in the first half, Jack Grealish was pivotal to several big chances for Aston Villa.

On 51 minutes the England international had a powerful shot parred away by Allison and he led another attack moments later that saw Anwar El Ghazi's low shot causing the Liverpool defence trouble.

Jurgen Klopp made a triple substitution on the hour mark with Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino sent on in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho and Divock Origi.

The triple substitution proved to be the fire Liverpool needed and it took just over 10 minutes for Mane to score the game's first goal.

Keita struck a low ball across the box and Mane hammered it in from 10 yards.

Firmino nearly made it 2-0 on 76 minutes but former Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina was ready for the curling shot and pushed it wide.

Substitute Jones made it 2-0 on 89 minutes with a left-footed shot following a cross into the box from Robertson which was headed into Jones' path by Mohamed Salah.

Liverpool's next game is on Wednesday against Brighton while Villa will meet Manchester United on Thursday.

Klopp said after the game that it was a "very difficult match" for a variety of reasons.

"Villa are obviously organised and made it tricky for us. The wind made it tricky for both but it was really hard to play normal football," he said.

"We had to stay on track and do the right things and in the second half we had more of the good moments. You could see we needed time to get used to it. Two situations could have been penalties, we were unlucky but I'm fine -- we are where we are because we win difficult games."

Liverpool are on course to beat Manchester City's mark of 100 points in a Premier League campaign but the champions are not focused on breaking records, Klopp insisted.

"We didn't come here and have the numbers we have because we thought about breaking records. We were always focused 100% on the game and that will not change," said Klopp, whose side made it 17 wins out of 17 games at Anfield this season.

"If we want to have record points pretty much we have to win all the games, it's not complicated. The boys know it and it's not necessary to mention it to this group."

Liverpool need 12 points from their final five games to beat City's tally from the 2017-18 season.

English Premier League Standings

1 Manchester City 26 +36 62
2 Manchester United 26 +21 50
3 Leicester City 26 +15 49
4 West Ham United 26 +9 45
5 Chelsea 26 +16 44
6 Liverpool 26 +13 43
7 Everton 25 +5 43
8 Tottenham Hotspur 25 +14 39
9 Aston Villa 24 +12 39
10 Arsenal 26 +7 37
11 Leeds United 26 -1 35
12 Wolverhampton Wanderers 26 -6 34
13 Crystal Palace 26 -14 33
14 Southampton 26 -13 30
15 Burnley 26 -16 28
16 Brighton & Hove Albion 26 -7 26
17 Newcastle United 26 -17 26
18 Fulham 26 -11 23
19 West Bromwich Albion 26 -35 17
20 Sheffield United 26 -28 11