Player ratings as Mane header keeps Reds’ title hopes alive – XenBet

Liverpool kept up the pressure on Manchester City with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa that saw them move level on points with Pep Guardiola’s men ahead of their trip to Wolves on Wednesday.

A frantic first half featured early goals from Douglas Luiz and Joel Matip, but Liverpool gradually took control of the game and had Sadio Mane to thank as the winger headed home a winner midway through the second half.

It took Villa just four minutes to open the scoring. An offside Ollie Watkins found himself through on goal but saw his effort saved by Alisson, but Villa recycled possession and got a cross in towards Luiz, who bundled home the rebound after Alisson’s unconvincing save.

Two minutes and 39 seconds later, Matip prodded home an equaliser after Villa passed up more than one chance to clear a free-kick, with the centre-back sliding in from close range to get things back level.

It was a frantic first half, with both sides creating plenty of nice chances. Danny Ings came close to making it 2-1 midway through the first 45 with a header that should’ve found the back of the net but ended up sailing harmlessly over the bar.

Liverpool did get the ball in the back of the net through Mane’s tap-in, but the offside flag was quickly raised as Luis Diaz had wandered in the build-up.

Almost immediately after, Liverpool should have had a goal through Naby Keita, who was in an acre of space following a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross but got his feet all wrong when it looked easier to score.

Despite those good chances, the score remained level at the break, with Liverpool marginally on top on the stats sheet but Villa by far the happier side.

Alexander-Arnold hit the side-netting with a free-kick just minutes into the second 45, before Watkins caused panic down the other end as Kostas Tsimikas was called on to make a last-ditch challenge.

The end-to-end nature of the game gradually faded as the half progressed, with Liverpool taking control of proceedings and enjoying lengthy spells in possession, and it was no surprise when Mane headed his side in front.

Diaz fizzed in a low cross and the Senegal international did very well to get his head onto the ball and arrow his effort into the bottom corner.

Villa did have a good chance to tie things up straight away when Ings found himself through on goal, but the former Liverpool man was well denied by Alisson.

With the clock winding down, Keita nearly offered up the highlight of the game as he fired in a half-volley from all of 30 yards which only narrowly curled wide of Emiliano Martinez’s left post.

Down the other end, Ings thumped in a ferocious strike of his own, but the linesman correctly chalked it off for offside again, handing Liverpool the win in this thoroughly entertaining game.

The result leaves Liverpool second in the Premier League table, tied with City on points but having played a game more, with Guardiola’s men also three goals better off in the goal difference column.

Douglas Luiz, Philippe Coutinho

Luiz put Villa ahead / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

GK: Emiliano Martinez – 6/10 – A few decent saves and looked relatively comfortable with the ball at his feet.

RB: Matty Cash – 8/10 – Kept Jota quiet out left and was a real presence going forwards as well. A top performance.

CB: Ezri Konsa – 6/10 – A little shaky but that’s hardly surprising up against Liverpool. Did a pretty decent job.

CB: Tyrone Mings – 2/10 – Should’ve done better with Matip’s goal and was caught wildly out of position when Keita should have made it 2-1. Bottled it up against Diaz for the second goal too. Lost concentration far too often.

LB: Lucas Digne – 7/10 – Impressed at both ends of the field. One of Villa’s biggest threats going forwards.

CM: John McGinn – 5/10 – Some nice passes early on but lost control of the game pretty quickly.

CM: Marvelous Nakamba – 6/10 – A few awkward moments during his hour on the pitch but looked to be growing in confidence before he was taken off.

CM: Douglas Luiz – 8/10 – A real monster. Did well for his goal and put Villa’s midfield on his back. Did his best to do his former employers a favour.

AM: Philippe Coutinho – 6/10 – Enjoyed his battle with Alexander-Arnold. Flashed some great skills but not often enough.

ST: Ollie Watkins – 7/10 – Was a massive problem for Liverpool early on and continued to cause issues throughout. Picked up a late knock.

ST: Danny Ings – 6/10 – Should’ve done better with a header. Put himself about well.

SUB: Carney Chukwuemeka (61′ for Nakamba) – 6/10 – Some really nice moments on the ball. Good control and strength.

SUB: Emiliano Buendia (70′ for Coutinho) – 6/10 – Had plenty of nice moments in his brief time on the pitch.

SUB: Bertrand Traore (82′ for Watkins) – N/A

Joel Matip

Matip tied things up / Alex Livesey – Danehouse/GettyImages

GK: Alisson – 5/10 – Didn’t cover himself in glory with Luiz’s opener. Had a real scare in the first half with a stinking pass that he nearly didn’t get away with. Redeemed himself slightly with a nice stop on Ings.

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6/10 – A nice threat going forwards but struggled up against Coutinho.

CB: Joel Matip – 6/10 – Celebrated his goal by complaining about Villa’s goal. Didn’t have an easy time up against Watkins.

CB: Virgil van Dijk – 5/10 – Couldn’t keep up with Watkins in the build-up to Villa’s opener. Caught out of position a few more times after that. Made some decent recovery challenges but well below his usual standard.

LB: Kostas Tsimikas – 5/10 – Found it tough to get involved going forwards and saw Watkins try get in behind him a lot.

DM: Fabinho – 3/10 – Had an absolute stinker before limping off with a hamstring injury. Some really poor touches but now has bigger problems to deal with.

CM: Naby Keita – 5/10 – Missed a sitter and looked completely lost before Henderson came on to calm things down.

CM: Curtis Jones – 5/10 – Had the occasional nice moment but didn’t flash his quality often enough. Looked off the pace.

RW: Luis Diaz – 7/10 – Not his usual self out on the right wing but still looked like Liverpool’s most dangerous forward. Switched out to the left and got the assist for Mane.

ST: Sadio Mane – 6/10 – Looked uncomfortable as a central striker but flashed some unreal quality to get his header on goal.

LW: Diogo Jota – 4/10 – Got no love from Cash at all. Found it really hard to get involved.

SUB: Jordan Henderson (30′ for Fabinho) – 7/10 – Probably didn’t play like a 7/10 but it was his introduction that calmed things down and saw Liverpool regain control.

SUB: Thiago (62′ for Jones) – 7/10 – Stepped things up to another level after his arrival.

SUB: Mohamed Salah (71′ for Diaz) – 6/10 – A regular threat immediately after coming on.

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Author: Heidi Porter