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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 October 2006, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Liverpool 3-1 Aston Villa
By John Sinnott

Dirk Kuyt and Luis Garcia
Kuyt and Garcia scored Liverpool's first and third goals
Liverpool produced their best display of the season to hand Aston Villa their first league defeat of the campaign.

The home side were 3-0 up at half-time, Dirk Kuyt volleying Liverpool in front, before Peter Crouch added the second with another first-time effort.

Steven Gerrard, Kuyt and Crouch then linked to set up Luis Garcia, who slipped the ball under Thomas Sorensen.

Early in the second half Gerrard hit the post before Gabriel Agbonlahor's incisive finish reduced the deficit.

The frustration for Villa was that until that mini second-half revival they were unable to show the form that had brought them to Anfield unbeaten in their previous nine Premiership games.


But they can have few complaints at the half-time scoreline after failing to establish any sort of connection with their forwards Juan Pablo Angel and former Liverpool striker Milan Baros.

Liverpool proved much more adept at finding their forwards Kuyt and Crouch.

Kuyt had missed an early chance after Garcia had crossed, while Crouch went close with a downward header.

John Arne Riise then tried his luck with a couple of powerful shots.

Liverpool finally found the solution to turning possession into goals on 31 minutes.

Kuyt's goal came from an unusual source - Liverpool's central defensive partnership of Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia.

Carragher's flighted pass was headed on by Hyypia to Kuyt, who after controlling the ball on his chest, arrowed a volley past Sorensen.

Steve Finnan picked up the attacking baton from his fellow defenders to help create Liverpool's second.

Liverpool had kept possession well before Garcia played the ball out to Finnan, who swung in a cross from the right.

As the ball came into the box Crouch extended his right leg to guide a volley down and past Sorensen.

If Liverpool's opening two goals had owed much to the attacking play of their defenders, the home side's third saw their forwards combine in a flowing move.

Gerrard, Kuyt and Crouch swiftly exchanged passes on the edge of the Villa box to set up the marauding Garcia, who sidefooted home.

Soon after the break Gerrard came close when he rattled the post after Villa failed to clear the ball.

But Agbonlahor's goal gave Liverpool a real jolt.

Agbonlahor broke clear of the Liverpool defence to collect a pass from Chris Sutton, who was one of two substitutions made by Martin O'Neill at the start of the second half after Villa's lacklustre performance in the opening period.

Sutton came desperately close to scoring his first goal for Villa when his flicked header was superbly tipped away by Jose Reina.

The former Celtic striker then tried to turn a Steve Davis shot past Reina.

Garcia might have had a second goal after he collected a pass from Gerrard, but the Spaniard put the ball the wrong side of the post.

In stoppage time substitute Robbie Fowler came close to scoring on his 350th appearance for Liverpool.

  • Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:

  • "The first half was as good as anything we have produced this season, apart maybe for the first 30 minutes against Galatasaray.

    "We started with a high tempo and maintained it. And the players were able to give the fans what they wanted.

    "The players were able to enjoy their skills and they came in at half-time knowing they had played well."

  • Villa manager Martin O'Neill:

  • "The players are downbeat and so they should be.

    "We've been well beaten by a very good side and we have to learn from it. Now we need to go on another unbeaten run.

    "But I have to credit my players for how they've played in these last 10 league games and it's important we shouldn't overlook that."

    Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Gerrard (Fowler 81), Alonso, Sissoko, Luis Garcia (Zenden 77), Kuyt, Crouch (Pennant 75).
    Subs Not Used: Martin, Agger.

    Goals: Kuyt 31, Crouch 38, Luis Garcia 44.

    Aston Villa: Sorensen, Hughes, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Bouma, Agbonlahor, Petrov, Osbourne (Davis 74), Barry, Angel (Sutton 46), Baros (Agathe 46).
    Subs Not Used: Taylor, Laursen.

    Booked: Mellberg.

    Goals: Agbonlahor 56.

    Att: 44,117.

    Ref: S Bennett (Kent).

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