BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — Liverpool extended its winning streak in the Premier League by beating Aston Villa 3-1 on Monday to close the gap on the top four.
Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk struck in the first half at Villa Park before Stefan Bajcetic scored near the end of the second. Liverpool’s third straight victory moved the club five points adrift of the Champions League spots, with Juergen Klopp’s side remaining sixth.
Liverpool rode its luck against midtable Villa, which put up a fight but missed chances and lacked the quality when it mattered most.
Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez dummied Andy Robertson’s cross, leading to Villa ’keeper Robin Olsen and Tyrone Mings colliding and the defender needing treatment. If the stoppage unsettled Villa, it failed to deter the visitors who took the lead once play resumed on five minutes.
Robertson’s corner was only cleared to Trent Alexander-Arnold 40 yards (meters) out, he bent a brilliant pass to Robertson who nipped in ahead of John McGinn and rolled a perfect ball for Salah who could not miss.
Nunez’s movement was causing Villa serious issues and Olsen — who didn’t look convincing deputizing for World Cup winner Emi Martinez — turned his low effort wide.
The hosts failed to clear a corner in the 37th and Salah teed up Van Dijk to rifle in, via a small deflection off Ezri Konsa.
Nunez should have added a third before the break, instead steering at Olsen from close range, but a two-goal cushion gave the Reds a perfect second-half platform.
Ollie Watkins pulled a goal back after 59 minutes, nodding in Douglas Luiz’s cross.
Liverpool took the sting out of Villa and eventually ended its hopes with nine minutes left when Bajcetic showed impressive composure in his first senior goal for Liverpool. He rounded Olsen and squeezed a shot through Mings’ legs after Nunez’s cross.