A stoppage time goal from Fernando Torres gave Liverpool a dramatic 1-0 victory over Aston Villa on Tuesday evening to boost their hopes of making the top four in the Premier League.
The Reds probably shaded a quiet first half where they came close through a Steven Gerrard chip, although still needed Pepe Reina to produce his best and keep out a Stewart Downing volley.
After the break the visitors again had more of the possession, but it was Villa who had came closest to scoring through Gabriel Agbonlahor and John Carew. However, Torres struck two minutes in stoppage time to hand the Reds a priceless win.
As a result, Liverpool close the gap on Villa to just two points and now trail fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur by four having won their fourth away league game of the campaign.
Aston Villa were forced to make two changes to their side from the defeat to Arsenal, with Ashley Young suspended and Emile Heskey unwell. As a result, Nigel Reo-Coker and John Carew came in.
Liverpool lined up in their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation with Rafael Benitez making just one change from the team that defeated Wolves at Anfield. Dirk Kuyt came back into the side in place of Fabio Aurelio, meaning Yossi Benayoun switched to the left of midfield.
As the snow began to fall at Villa Park, the first chance of the game came for the visitors in the 17th minute. Torres played a neat lay-off to Gerrard at the edge of box and the England midfielder was only denied a spectacular opener when Brad Friedel tipped his chip over the crossbar.
Gerrard was again involved when his attempt from a neat training ground free-kick routine was well blocked by John Carew, before James Milner barely troubled Reina with a left-footed shot from 25-yards at the other end.
On the half hour mark, the Spanish goalkeeper superbly denied Villa an opener. Milner’s corner found Downing completely unmarked at the far post, but Reina was somehow able to divert the winger’s cleanly struck volley out for a corner.
Kuyt had a strong penalty claim turned down after a heavy challenge from Richard Dunne challenge before uncertain home defending was almost punished by Torres, but he headed straight at Friedel.
After a first half that had seen very few clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities, it took until the 64th minute for the first meaningful attempt of the second half when Alberto Aquilani – starting his second game in four days after a frustrating absence from the side – struck a free-kick narrowly over.
With twenty minutes to go, the home side came desperately close to breaking the deadlock on two occasions. Firstly, Gabriel Agbonlahor shrugged off the challenge of Jamie Carragher to retrieve Richard Dunne’s through ball, but the striker couldn’t beat Reina from a tight angle.
From Milner’s resulting corner, Carew’s close-range header fell just inches wide of the far post after he lost Daniel Agger. Moments later, with Villa’s fans enlivened, half-hearted penalty claims for a handball against Emiliano Insua were turned down.
Benitez brought on Ryan Babel for Aquilani with just over ten minutes remaining and the Dutchman had a chance to make his mark almost immediately, but failed to connect with Insua’s cross.
Neither side looked likely to make the breakthrough, but the goal finally arrived two minutes into stoppage time. Stephen Warnock failed to clear and the ball fortuitously fell into the path of Torres, who raced clear and clinically found the far corner to seal victory.No tags for this post.