ANFIELD ONLINE MATCH REPORT
Liverpool secured their first away Premiership win of the season after Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso struck twice in the last five minutes to increase the pressure on Villa manager David O'Leary. Gerrard stroked home an 85th-minute penalty and Alonso wrapped up the points with a low 20-yard drive three minutes later. Now Liverpool will be hoping this success can kick-start their Premiership campaign into life although they have to learn to win more regularly after playing in Europe.
This was just the third time they have triumphed in the game immediately after a European tie in the last 20 outings but on this occasion they deserved to return to Anfield with maximum honours.
Villa were indebted to two fine saves from Thomas Sorensen and a dreadful miss by Peter Crouch for keeping them in the hunt until Gerrard's late decider.
Villa had more than their fair share of possession but they struggled to break down a Liverpool rearguard in which Jamie Carragher was outstanding.
The home side may feel hard done by on this occasion but the facts show they have won only one of their last 13 league matches which is relegation form by anyone's standards.
With a new consortium poised to take over, O'Leary may be looking over his shoulder as regards his own future unless Villa start to find a winning formula.
O'Leary opted for a different midfield formation with James Milner switching from the right to the left flank and Steven Davis reverting to the right-wing to leave Eirik Bakke and Gavin McCann in the centre.
Liverpool were the first to threaten when a shot on the turn from Luis Garcia was only a yard wide after Gerrard's first time flick created the opening following a bout on neat one-touch passing.
The visitors, without an away win in the Premiership this season, enjoyed the bulk of the possession in the early stages as they looked to transform their form in Europe into the domestic game.
Gareth Barry became the first player to be yellow-carded after 12 minutes for pulling back Gerrard after he had seized onto a 50-yard pass from Jamie Carragher.
Former Liverpool player Milan Baros threatened for the first time when he ran onto James Milner's pass but Jamie Carragher produced an excellent tackle to halt the Czech international on the edge of the area.
McCann became the second Villa player to be booked for a foul on John Arne Riise and Momo Sissoko followed him into the note-book for hauling down Baros in full flight.
Villa striker Kevin Phillips almost made the breakthrough after 27 minutes when his glancing header flew just past the post from a Milner free-kick.
Gerrard was finding plenty of space despite again employed on the right flank for the majority of the time and he created a golden chance for Cisse after 32 minutes.
Villa were caught out by the ball over the top from the England midfielder which left Cisse with a free run at goal. But Sorensen stood up to the striker and the shot cannoned off the 'keeper for a corner.
Gerrard had the ball in the net after 43 minutes but had strayed marginally off-side while a snapshot from McCann was only just off target.
It was fortunate for the home side that Cisse was not exploiting the space behind Milner down the right flank and his close control let him down on more than one occasion.
A short ball from Milner's corner picked out McCann at the near post in the early stages of the second half but he failed to connect fully and hooked his attempt into the Holte End.
Rafael Benitez opted to make his first switch after 56 minutes with Garcia limping out of the action to be replaced by Boudewijn Zenden.
Sorensen went down to cling onto a low effort from Fernando Morientes after he had initially failed to make a clean punch in dealing with a Riise free-kick.
Former Villa striker Crouch entered the action with 20 minutes to go and was quickly in the thick of the action, setting up a chance for Gerrard whose low drive was turned around the post by Sorensen.
But the England player should have grabbed his first goal for the club when he found himself completely unmarked but headed Zenden's cross straight at Sorensen from eight yards out.
Gerrard broke the deadlock from the penalty spot after 85 minutes after Liam Ridgewell was adjudged to have wrestled Crouch to the ground.
Then with two minutes left Alonso made no mistake with a rasping 20-yard drive to wrap up the points for the Reds.
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|Match Report filed: 5 November 2005|