Premier League
Liverpool2Aston Villa2

Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa

Liverpool recovered from two goals down to draw with Aston Villa and maintain their unbeaten start to 2014.

Andreas Weimann stabbed the visitors ahead before Christian Benteke's header deservedly doubled Villa's lead.

Daniel Sturridge pulled a goal back for Liverpool just before half-time as he latched onto Jordan Henderson's flick.

Steven Gerrard's penalty levelled matters after Luis Suarez went down under goalkeeper Brad Guzan's tackle.

The draw leaves Liverpool just two points ahead of fifth-placed Everton and a win for the Toffees at West Brom on Monday would lift them above their local rivals.

A point moves Villa into the top half of the Premier League - albeit just six points above the relegation zone.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers insisted last week that his side "will never give up the fight" for the title but, despite their comeback, he will be left to regret a dismal first-half display that saw them drop two points from what must have looked a winnable home fixture.

Paul Lambert's Villa had won just one of their previous seven Premier League matches but should have been ahead even sooner when Gabriel Agbonlahor raced clear on goal from Benteke's flick-on, only to prod wide.

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Rodgers pleased by Liverpool spirit

Ashley Westwood then struck straight at home goalkeeper Simon Mignolet before Ciaran Clark headed against the post as an under-par Liverpool were dominated by Villa.

And when the visitors took a deserved lead through Weimann, who stabbed home Agbonlahor's low cross from the left, Liverpool fans must have had a sense of deja vu following Villa's 3-1 win at Anfield last season.

The Reds went into the game with three wins out of three in 2014 but, in front of owner John W Henry on a rare Anfield visit, they looked a pale shadow of their usual free-scoring selves.

Suarez, looking to add to his 22 goals for the season, was nullified by the visitors, while starting him with strike partner Sturridge for the first time since November in an attacking line-up was not having the desired effect.

And Villa's control was further emphasised when Benteke doubled his side's lead in front of the Kop, heading into an empty net after Mignolet misjudged Agbonlahor's right-wing cross.

The match changed just before half-time, however, as Sturridge latched onto a brilliant flick from Jordan Henderson and, with his first sight of goal all game, lifted the ball into the net for his 13th strike of the campaign.

The goal was tough on Villa but it did not take Liverpool long to take advantage as Steven Gerrard, pushed further forward after the half-time introduction of Lucas, started to dictate play.

The captain sent Suarez through with a brilliant diagonal pass soon after the restart and the Uruguayan, heading away from goal and with work to do, was sent sprawling by Guzan's rash challenge. Villa were adamant no contact had been made but Gerrard coolly side-footed home the penalty.

Driven forward by Gerrard, even after Joe Allen replaced injured substitute Lucas, Liverpool went close through Suarez and Raheem Sterling but were left frustrated as a battling Villa held on.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers:

"We just couldn't get going in the first half. We changed the system after the first goal. I felt we couldn't get any flow. The second half we showed great spirit and got the equaliser.

"You have to give credit to Aston Villa. Christian Benteke was a real threat and Andreas Weimann was a problem. It wasn't until we changed it around that we got a foothold in the game.

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Lambert critical of penalty decision

"It is a mark of the mentality that we were not at our best but we still dig out a result. We will learn from it and move on.

"It was vital to get that goal before half time. That gave us the spark going into the second half. The response from the players was outstanding."

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert:

"We should have had three or four goals in the first half. We were fantastic, really good. We came here last year and won 3-1 and I thought we played a lot better today. In the first half we were outstanding.

"Their goal gave them a lifeline going into half-time. I am not so sure about the penalty, I think Brad Guzan has pulled his arms away. I don't think it is a penalty. With the magnitude of the game you have to be 100% sure, Brad's arms have been pulled away.

"I don't think we could have done any more except win the game. There were major plus points, Nearly every player was outstanding."

Check out photos from Saturday's Premier League matches at BBC Sport's Facebook page.

Line-ups

Liverpool

  • 22Mignolet
  • 2Johnson
  • 20Cissokho
  • 8Gerrard
  • 37Skrtel
  • 4K Touré
  • 31SterlingBooked at 90mins
  • 14Henderson
  • 7Suárez
  • 15Sturridge
  • 10CoutinhoSubstituted forLucasat 45'minutesSubstituted forAllenat 66'minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Jones
  • 6Luis Alberto
  • 9Iago Aspas
  • 12Moses
  • 21Lucas
  • 24Allen
  • 34Kelly

Aston Villa

  • 1Guzan
  • 7BacunaBooked at 88mins
  • 23BertrandBooked at 48minsSubstituted forLunaat 81'minutes
  • 15Westwood
  • 4Vlaar
  • 6ClarkBooked at 16mins
  • 8El AhmadiBooked at 21minsSubstituted forSyllaat 62'minutes
  • 16Delph
  • 20Benteke
  • 10Weimann
  • 11AgbonlahorSubstituted forHoltat 49'minutes

Substitutes

  • 9Helenius
  • 12Albrighton
  • 13Steer
  • 14Luna
  • 18Sylla
  • 22Gardner
  • 29Holt
Referee:
Jonathan Moss
Attendance:
44,737

Match Stats

Home TeamLiverpoolAway TeamAston Villa
Possession
Home56%
Away44%
Shots
Home14
Away12
Shots on Target
Home6
Away3
Corners
Home2
Away3
Fouls
Home14
Away18

Live Text

Match ends, Liverpool 2, Aston Villa 2.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Liverpool 2, Aston Villa 2.
Foul by Raheem Sterling (Liverpool).
Antonio Luna (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Booking

Leandro Bacuna (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card.

Substitution

Substitution, Aston Villa. Antonio Luna replaces Ryan Bertrand.
Foul by Joe Allen (Liverpool).
Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Ashley Westwood (Aston Villa) because of an injury.
Joe Allen (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Andreas Weimann (Aston Villa).
Attempt missed. Luis Suárez (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left from a direct free kick.
Luis Suárez (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Yacouba Sylla (Aston Villa).
Foul by Steven Gerrard (Liverpool).
Grant Holt (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Offside, Liverpool. Raheem Sterling tries a through ball, but Luis Suárez is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Grant Holt (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Ashley Westwood with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Jordan Henderson.
Foul by Raheem Sterling (Liverpool).
Fabian Delph (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Aly Cissokho (Liverpool).
Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Christian Benteke (Aston Villa).
Attempt missed. Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Jordan Henderson with a headed pass.
Joe Allen (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Yacouba Sylla (Aston Villa).

Substitution

Substitution, Liverpool. Joe Allen replaces Lucas Leiva because of an injury.
Foul by Luis Suárez (Liverpool).
Andreas Weimann (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Daniel Sturridge.
Attempt saved. Luis Suárez (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Glen Johnson.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Substitution

Substitution, Aston Villa. Yacouba Sylla replaces Karim El Ahmadi.
Delay in match Lucas Leiva (Liverpool) because of an injury.
Glen Johnson (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Christian Benteke (Aston Villa).
Attempt missed. Fabian Delph (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Christian Benteke.
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Leandro Bacuna (Aston Villa).
Foul by Lucas Leiva (Liverpool).
Fabian Delph (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt saved. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Raheem Sterling.
Attempt missed. Fabian Delph (Aston Villa) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Christian Benteke with a headed pass.
Foul by Lucas Leiva (Liverpool).
Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt missed. Luis Suárez (Liverpool) right footed shot from more than 40 yards on the left wing is just a bit too high from a direct free kick.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Andreas Weimann (Aston Villa).

Goal!

Goal! Liverpool 2, Aston Villa 2. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Penalty Liverpool. Luis Suárez draws a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty conceded by Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) after a foul in the penalty area.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Andreas Weimann (Aston Villa).
Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Substitution

Substitution, Aston Villa. Grant Holt replaces Gabriel Agbonlahor because of an injury.
Delay in match Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) because of an injury.

Booking

Ryan Bertrand (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
goal

As It Stood

TeamPWDLGDPts
1Arsenal2216332451
2Man City2216243850
3Chelsea2114432146
4Liverpool2213452543
5Everton2111821541
6Tottenham211245140
7Man Utd2111461137
8Newcastle221138436
9Southampton22877431
10Aston Villa226610-724
11Hull226511-623
12Norwich226511-1723
13Stoke225710-1422
14Swansea215610-421
15West Brom21498-521
16Crystal Palace226214-1720
17Fulham226115-2619
18West Ham224612-1118
19Sunderland224612-1518
20Cardiff224612-2118
View full Premier League table

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