EPL: Salah on Target As Liverpool ease past Aston Villa

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Goals from Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Stefan Bajcetic helped Liverpool hold off a comeback from Aston Villa and close the gap on the Champions League places to five points.

Salah finished off a flowing move before he set up Van Dijk following a set piece as the Reds threatened to run away with the contest.

Villa shook off their first-half blues to reduce the deficit as Ollie Watkins headed in just before the hour mark, but Jurgen Klopp’s side resisted the late pressure and made things easier with ten minutes remaining as substitute Bajcetic cooly finished to make it 3-1 just moments after his introduction.

A brilliant combination between Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson saw the right back brilliantly pick out his colleague, who squared first time for Salah to knock in the opener from close range.

That Robertson cross took him clear of Leighton Baines as the most prolific assist provider in Premier League history, moving up to 54.

Villa did respond as Alisson batted away an effort from the offside Watkins, while Leon Bailey butchered one opportunity when excellently placed, shooting well wide off balance from 12 yards out.

A searching cross from John McGinn picked out Watkins, but the striker couldn’t connect properly with a diving header and Alisson easily collected. Joel Matip then had the ball in the back of the net from a Liverpool set piece, but the offside flag chalked off his excellent header.

A minute-period of madness saw the two sides scramble for possession before Darwin Nunez charged forward to volley a sliced Ezri Konsa clearance towards goal, but stand-in goalkeeper Robin Olsen made himself big enough to deal with it.

Liverpool continued to enjoy plenty of the ball and doubled their advantage as Villa failed to clear their lines.

A corner bounced around the six-yard box before Salah picked out Van Dijk, who fired a clean shot on the angle into the bottom corner.

Villa almost halved the deficit early in the second half, though Watkins’ rattled finish into the far corner after some nice interplay was disallowed for offside.

John McGinn was then picked out at the back post but couldn’t decide how to attack the ball, allowing Alisson to gather.

Unai Emery’s side continued to pepper Alisson’s goal with shots, though Salah nearly grabbed his second as he sprinted half of the pitch with the ball but miscued his final effort.

Their attacking intent was finally rewarded as Watkins brought them back into the game. Douglas Luiz whipped in a glorious cross from the right where the England international was waiting to head the ball back across Alisson to make it 2-1.

The home side’s pressure failed to tell and instead it was Liverpool who found the game’s fourth goal, one which sealed all three points.

Nunez raced beyond Villa’s backline and forced Olsen into save which fell straight to Bajcetic, who kept his composure to slip his shot through Mings’ legs and in.

Liverpool remain sixth but reduced the gap on fourth-placed Tottenham, while Villa’s first league loss under Emery sees them down in 12th.

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