Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool: Mane ensures Reds live to fight another day in title tussle


Liverpool bounced back from their draw with Tottenham by beating Aston Villa to keep their Premier League title hopes alive.
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Sadio Mane's second-half winner secured Liverpool a vital 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on Tuesday to keep the pressure on Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

After the 1-1 draw with Tottenham on Saturday, Liverpool's championship hopes looked bleak while they were being held to the same scoreline at Villa Park, but the Reds' superior quality ultimately came up trumps.

Much of the pre-match attention focused on how Liverpool legend and Villa manager Steven Gerrard could be the one to further derail his former side's quadruple bid, and Douglas Luiz's early opener suggested a shock could be on the cards.

But Joel Matip swiftly equalised, and from that point Liverpool were generally the greater threat, eventually completing the turnaround just past the hour thanks to Mane.

Liverpool's underwhelming start culminated in a defensive mix-up between Kostas Tsimikas and Matip allowing Douglas Luiz to test Alisson and then smash home the rebound.

But the Reds quickly levelled through Matip in the sixth minute, prodding into the empty net after Virgil van Dijk beat Emiliano Martinez to a loose ball in the Villa box.

While Liverpool struggled to establish any real control in a feisty first half, the better chances continued to go their way as Mane headed just wide and Naby Keita comically mishit an attempt from 10 yards with the goal at his mercy.

It was a tighter affair in the second half, though Liverpool's next clear-cut opportunity proved decisive.

Luis Diaz did well to pick out Mane from the left, and the Senegal forward brilliantly twisted his body to meet the cross with a header into the bottom-right corner, with Villa failing to hit back as Danny Ings had a goal disallowed for offside.

What does it mean? Reds just about still alive

This was by no means vintage. A trip to a Villa side managed by Gerrard always had the potential to be tricky, with 'the narrative' looming large.

Villa certainly posed a threat and made Liverpool uncomfortable at times, but the visitors did what they needed to, and that is surely all Jurgen Klopp will care about.

The result puts Liverpool level on 86 points with City at the summit, though Pep Guardiola's men play their game in hand against Wolves on Wednesday.

Tsimikas responsible for difficult start

It was a case of bizarre decision-making. Tsimikas appeared to push Douglas Luiz instead of trying to challenge him for the ball in the lead up to the opening goal – the result of that was he and Matip ended up in a heap while the Brazilian scored. If he had just tried to actually defend, Liverpool may not have had to come from behind.

Cometh the hour, cometh the Mane

Granted, he actually scored five minutes after the hour, but Mane's impact was no less necessary. His excellent header proved to be the difference, though he was dangerous throughout as he roamed across the front, managing four shots in all – twice as many as any other player.

What's next?

Liverpool turn their attentions to the FA Cup final next as they face Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday, before then going to Southampton three days later in the league. Villa host Crystal Palace on Sunday.