Liverpool came back to win 2-1 at Aston Villa yesterday to deepen its opponent’s relegation concerns in English soccer’s Premier League.
Christian Benteke gave the home team the lead in the 31st minute at Villa Park. Liverpool rallied with goals by Jordan Henderson, two minutes into the second half, and a 60th-minute penalty kick by Steven Gerrard after Luis Suarez was fouled.
The result keeps Villa in the bottom-three relegation positions. It’s 18th in the 20-team league on 30 points, ahead of Queens Park Rangers and Reading, both on 23. Liverpool has 48 points and stays seventh as it seeks qualification for European soccer next season.
“In the first half, we played reasonably well, but got punished with a long ball and it ended up a good finish from Benteke,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. “Second half I thought the players were outstanding with the mentality and the quality in their game.”
Villa, seeking a third straight win yesterday, needed a victory to avoid losing ground on fellow strugglers Wigan and Southampton, who won the day before.
Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor should have opened the scoring after 16 minutes, only to see his short-range effort from Matt Lowton’s cross blocked by goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
In the 31st minute Benteke opened the scoring with a right- foot strike from the edge of the penalty area after Agbonlahor laid the ball off. It was the 14th league goal of the season for Villa’s top scorer.
A mistake by Barry Bannan gave Suarez the chance to level the scores but Brad Guzan’s save foiled the Uruguayan. Guzan then saved a long-range shot from Gerrard.
Two minutes into the second half, Henderson leveled the scores, dinking the ball past Guzan from a defense-splitting pass by Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho then looked certain to make in 2-1, shooting wide with only the goalkeeper to beat, and Glen Johnson’s shot hit a post as the Reds turned up the pressure.
Liverpool took the lead with a penalty kick by Gerrard after Nathan Baker brought down Suarez in a clumsy challenge. Minutes later Gerrard dived to head off his own line and deny Benteke from a corner. Benteke had the ball in Liverpool’s net in injury time but the effort was disallowed for offside.
“For 45 minutes we were excellent, we competed brilliantly, we looked a threat every time we went forward against a really good side,” Villa manager Paul Lambert said. “The goal two minutes after the restart was disappointing to lose. But we are playing well enough to win games.”
Just above the relegation zone, Wigan has 30 points with a better goal difference than Villa, which has played one more game. Sunderland has 31 points.
Manchester United, with 77 points, keeps a 15-point lead at the top after a 1-0 win two days ago at Sunderland, which later fired manager Martin O’Neill and replaced him with Paolo di Canio on a 2 1/2-year contract.
Defending champion Manchester City is on 62 points after a 4-0 win over Newcastle. Tottenham moved up to third after a 2-1 victory at Swansea, while Chelsea went down 2-1 at Southampton. Arsenal defeated Reading 4-1, Stoke lost 1-0 at Everton, West Ham beat West Brom 3-1 and Norwich lost 1-0 at Wigan.
Tottenham has 57 points, followed by Chelsea (55), Arsenal (53), Everton (51) and Liverpool.
Fulham hosts QPR tonight in the league. Earlier, Chelsea plays Manchester United in an F.A. Cup quarterfinal replay.
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