GET IN: Sturridge (right) celebrates with Liverpool team mate Jordan Henderson
LIVERPOOL HAVE continued their businesslike start to the season and deflated early optimism at Aston Villa with a gritty 1-0 at Villa Park.
In a carbon copy of their opening day result against Stoke, a first half strike by Daniel Sturridge proved to be the difference. It was the England striker’s eighth goal in seven games.
And goalkeeper Simon Mingolet - having denied Stoke a point with a late penalty save last week – once again reminded everyone why Brendan Rodgers was content to bid farewell to Pepe Reina – by coming out on top in the battle of the Belgians.
Once in each half the former Sunderland stopper was called on to make fingertip saves to deny his compatriot, the in-form Christian Benteke and ensure the Merseysiders took all three points.
And while Steven Gerrard remains an integral part of the Liverpool team going forward, in the second half he put in a tremendously determined display sitting in front of the back four as Villa pressed to find a way back into the game.
Villa supporters had come to their side’s first home game buoyed by an encouraging victory at away ay Arsenal and a strong showing in defeat against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
But some habits are hard to break. At the back end of last season, Paul Lambert’s team conceded a goal in each of their last 11 Premier League matches and clean sheets remain at a premium.
Although the new centre back pairing of Ron Vlaar and Jores Okoro looked solid, Villa’s marauding full-backs – particularly Antonio Luna on the left - presented gaps one of which Sturridge was able to capitalize on.
He latched on to a low cross drilled along the edge of the box and was able to side step Vlaar and Luna to fire home past Brad Guzan.
Villa manager Paul Lambert rung the changes midway through the second half and felt that his side had the better of it, but despite dominating the scoring chances, the spark which created such early season optimism was lacking.
Villa rely on a counter attacking game which puts them in good stead to pick up points away from home, but at Villa Park there is still work to be done to take the game to visiting teams.
Rodgers was able to unpick Villa’s tactics and after the game praised his side for being disciplined and seeing through the game plan.
“We just needed to defend a bit deeper today, Aston Villa are brilliant on the counter and we had to deny them chances.
“It’s a great win for us because they are such a difficult team to play against. We were calm on the ball in the first half, our movement was fluent and very good and we knew we couldn’t open up too much because they would hurt us on the counter.”
While Liverpool may look optimisticly towards a top four finish, Villa - although showing clear improvement on last year's campaign - remain in need of a playmaker to open up opposition defences.