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 againLiverpool recorded a comfortable 2-0 Premier League 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 home side lacking top scorers Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor up front.
It was a dominant performance from the visitors who should have scored more than their two goals but poor finishing again robbed them of a more comfortable victory, with Luis Suarez hitting the woodwork twice.
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.
Stewart Downing was roundly booed by the home fans on his return to Villa Park despite being the club’s Player of the Season but after having one routine shot easily saved, it was his corner from the right which saw Liverpool take the lead.
Jonjo Shelvey’s flick was met by Suarez who tried to copy the midfielder only to miss the ball. However, after Guzan had saved the chance fell to Bellamy to bundle home from close range and give his side an early advantage.
Bellamy was on inspired form and 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 flicking 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.
At the other end, the 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.
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, played in Suarez who lost the ball to Dunne. However, the Uruguayan 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.
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 shot deflected off Collins and went wide.
As in the first-half, the game quietened down towards the end with Liverpool happy to frustrate Villa's attacks. Dalglish felt able to take off Suarez and brought on Andy Carroll as his side eased to a comfortable victory.