Mohamed Salah scored his 21st goal of the season as Liverpool beat Aston Villa 1-0 on the day Steven Gerrard returned to Anfield.
Villa boss Gerrard was given a great reception by fans who worshipped him during an outstanding playing career that saw the former captain establish himself as a Liverpool legend.
Gerrard was unable to prevent Liverpool from extending their winning run to seven matches, Salah tucking home a 67th-minute penalty after he was brought down by Tyrone Mings.
Jurgen Klopp’s in-form side dominated Villa, although Danny Ings may have been unfortunate not to be awarded a late penalty, and second-placed Liverpool remain a point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.
15 – Mohamed Salah has scored each of his last 15 Premier League penalties, just the second player to score as many consecutively in the competition, after Matthew Le Tissier (23 in a row between January 1994 and April 2000). Guarantee.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 11, 2021
Sadio Mane thought he had been pulled back by Matty Cash in the penalty area early on, and Emiliano Martinez showed sharp reactions to keep out Andy Robertson’s header as the Reds applied pressure from the start.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s dipping long-range drive was just over the crossbar before the dangerous Robertson went down under a challenge from Marvelous Nakamba, but both referee Stuart Attwell and the VAR again saw nothing untoward.
The agile Martinez stuck out his left hand to superbly deny Salah at his near post after the prolific forward had cut in from the right, with Villa standing firm to weather the storm in the rain.
Martinez palmed the unmarked Virgil van Dijk’s powerful header into the Kop and Diogo Jota replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain 12 minutes into the second half.
There was huge relief for the majority of a packed crowd when Salah made the breakthrough midway through the second half, firing into the bottom-right corner after Mings upended the Egypt international with a clumsy challenge.
Alisson might have been lucky not to concede a penalty when Ings went down late on after a mix-up between the Liverpool goalkeeper and Joel Matip, as Villa were unable to force a late equaliser.
What does it mean? Relentless Reds march on
Salah was Liverpool’s match-winner yet again as he earned and converted the decisive penalty to end battling Villa’s resistance.
The Merseyside club have only conceded twice in seven matches and stay just behind City, who beat Wolves 1-0 earlier in the day, while third-placed Chelsea needed a last-gasp Jorginho penalty to see off Leeds United 3-2.
This was a second defeat of his Villa tenure for Gerrard, who made 710 appearances for Liverpool, and they did not pose a threat until late in the game.
Salah has now found the back of the net with his last 15 penalties in the Premier League. Only Southampton great Matthew Le Tissier (23 in a row between January 1994 and April 2000) has scored many consecutive spot-kicks in the competition.
Former Chelsea and Roma man Salah had six goal attempts here, hitting the target with two.
Marauding Robertson a massive threat
Robertson was a standout performer for the Reds and gave a Cash a tough afternoon. The Scotland left-back provided three key passes and made the most passes by a Liverpool player in the Villa half with 50. He also came close to an opening goal in the first half.
Key Opta Facts
– Liverpool have won consecutive Premier League games 1-0 for the first time since December 2015, while this was their 100th victory by that scoreline in the competition.
– Villa failed to register a shot on target in a league match for the first time since December 2019 (v Sheffield United).
– Salah has either scored or assisted a goal in 14 consecutive Premier League appearances, just one off Jamie Vardy’s record of 15 between August and December 2015.
– Liverpool have won their last four Premier League home games against Villa, their longest such run against them since another run of four between January 2004 and October 2006.
Liverpool face struggling Newcastle United at Anfield on Thursday, two days after Villa are reunited with their former boss Dean Smith when they travel to tackle Norwich City.