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Premier League

  • 18 December 2011
  • • 14:05
  • • Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Referee: P. Walton
  • • Attendance: 37460

Aston Villa 0-2 Liverpool: Craig Bellamy & Martin Skrtel strike in first half as Reds coast back into top six

Aston Villa 0-2 Liverpool: Craig Bellamy & Martin Skrtel strike in first half as Reds coast back into top six

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Two early goals from corners were just reward for the Merseyside club who dominated throughout but, despite Luis Suarez hitting the woodwork twice, could not score again

Liverpool recorded a comfortable 2-0 victory against Aston Villa after first-half goals from Craig Bellamy and Martin Skrtel.

Both players scored from early corners as the Reds ran riot against a Villa side lacking top scorers Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor up front.

The result means the Reds have lost just once in their last 14 matches and can now boast the same record at Villa Park as they kept the pressure on the sides above them.

It was a dominant performance from the visitors who should have scored far more than their two goals but poor finishing again robbed them of a more comfortable victory with Luis Suarez hitting the woodwork twice and other players failing to hit the back of the net.

Villa failed to create many clear-cut chances with Nathan Delfouneso heading over and a series of long-range shots failing to trouble Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal.

Both sides made some surprising team choices for the match with Alex McLeish having to replace the suspended Agbonlahor whilst Bent and Chris Herd missed out through thigh and ankle injuries. In came former Liverpool player Emile Heskey as well as Nathan Delfouneso and Fabian Delph.

Kenny Dalglish made two changes to his starting line-up with Jonjo Shelvey, fresh from his successful loan spell at Blackpool, and Bellamy coming in for Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt.

In a slow start to the match Charlie Adam was lucky to escape a booking for a crude challenge on Delfouneso, but Stiliyan Petrov’s free-kick was a routine save for Reina.

Stewart Downing was roundly booed by the home fans on his return to Villa Park despite being the club’s Player of the Season last year.

And, after having one routine shot easily saved, it was his corner from the right which saw Liverpool take the lead.

Shelvey’s flick was met by Suarez who tried to copy the midfielder only to miss the ball. However, after Guzan had saved, the ball fell to Bellamy to bundle home from close range and give his side an early advantage.

Bellamy was in inspired form, causing the Villa back-line all sorts of problems and, after his run earned another corner, he delivered the cross from the left which saw Skrtel beat Richard Dunne and Alan Hutton to the ball before heading home his side’s second goal after just 15 minutes.

Only Tottenham have scored more than one goal against Liverpool in the league this season but the home side responded with Charles N’Zogbia firing narrowly over from around 25 yards out before finding the side netting after a quick break and a pass from Delfouneso.

The visitors looked dangerous every time they got the ball on the flanks but Villa continued to press and probably should have pulled a goal back when Delfouneso headed over from around six yards out.

At the other end, the unusually quiet Suarez nut-megged Petrov and slipped in Shelvey but his shot on the slide was tipped wide by Guzan. Heskey then flicked a header over the bar from a corner in the last chance of the half.

Christmas cheer | Adam helps celebrate Bellamy's early opener

Liverpool started the second-half like the first and should have had the game wrapped up in the opening minutes. First, Bellamy scampered down the left and crossed to the back post where Daniel Agger – who had started the move by winning the ball off Dunne – headed over.

Then, moments later, the Welshman dispossessed Hutton and played in Suarez who subsequently lost the ball to Dunne. However, the Uruguayan quickly won it back, side-stepped Collins, then managed to hit the underside of the bar when he looked certain to score.

Villa were contributing to their own demise and Warnock was next to give the ball away just outside his own area and Guzan had to make an excellent save diving to his left to deny Johnson.

McLeish responded by bringing on Barry Bannan for Heskey but after a couple of decent shots on goal from range by N’Zogbia and Delph it was the away side who continued to create excellent chances.

First Suarez hit the post from a delightful chip and then Adam was allowed to run in on goal but, with Shelvey waiting for the pass, he opted to shoot from the edge of the box and his effort deflected off Collins and went wide.

Shelvey then had a chance to shoot after being teed up by Suarez but he could only blaze over.

As in the first-half, the game quietened down towards the end with Liverpool happy to frustrate Villa's attackers. Dalglish felt able to take off Suarez and brought on Andy Carroll as his side eased to a comfortable victory.

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