A below-par Liverpool were made to work for a win on their return to Anfield as Premier League champions on Sunday.
The Reds produced a far from vintage performance against relegation battlers Aston Villa, who at times looked the more likely to emerge with three points.
It took until the 71st minute for Jurgen Klopp’s side to break the deadlock, when Sadio Mane hammered an effort in off the underside of the crossbar.
Trent Alexander-Arnold had cut in from the right before picking out Naby Keita on the opposite side of the box, whose pass back inside teed up Mane for an emphatic finish.
Substitute Curtis Jones then celebrated his new contract with a late goal, firing a deflected effort past Pepe Reina following Mohamed Salah’s knock down.
Here are Andy Dunn’s player ratings from Anfield…
Not overly busy but solid and a fine late save to deny Grealish
Was not the only one to find his trademark accuracy deserting him
More comfortable than he was at the Etihad but not foot-perfect
Van Dijk 6
Playing on autopilot and even miscued a couple of those raking passes
Booked. Still not shaken off the celebration effects and nowhere near his best
A couple of crucial interventions and one of the more influential player
Grafted hard enough and came up with the decisive assist.
Struggled to get on the ball and generally a peripheral figure
Looked the likeliest to make something happen but often double-marked
Very few sights at goal and never posed any serious danger
Short of service but stepped up to the mark just when he was needed
Subs: Firmino (Origi 60) 6, Wijnaldum (Oxlade-Chamberlain 60) 6, Henderson (Fabinho 60) 6, Jones (Keita 84), Williams (Robertson 92)
No chance with goal and previously not as busy as was anticipated
Ventured forward now and again but final ball not consistent enough
Dominant aerially and took very few chances with his distribution
Stepped out of defence to good effect on a couple of occasions
Had a decent battle with Salah but failed to track Mane for goal
Booked. Occasionally close the wrong option but a lively all-round contribution
Douglas Luiz 6
Tried to pull the strings and was a steadying midfield influence
Took an early knock and never really got into his elegant stride
A willing runner and kept Liverpool’s back line on its toes
El Ghazi 5
Had a great second half sight of goal and should have done better
Made himself a good target and caused a few problems through the middle
Subs: Samatta (Davis 74) 6, Jota (El Ghazi 74) 6, Vassilev (Trezeguet 84)
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