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Aston Villa remain in the Barclays Premier League bottom three after Liverpool came from behind to claim the three points and keep alive their faint hopes of securing a place in Europe.
Paul Lambert’s team looked on course for a third successive win after leading at the interval through Christian Benteke's 18th goal of the campaign, but Liverpool equalised through Jordan Henderson early in the second period and Steven Gerrard's penalty sealed victory for the visitors.
The home side, who slipped into the relegation zone yesterday for the fifth time this season, are level on 30 points with Wigan Athletic but have an inferior goal difference.
Villa posed plenty of threat to Liverpool in the first half with Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor linking well and Ashley Westwood pulling the strings in midfield. But Liverpool upped their game a gear in the second period as they closed the gap on sixth-placed Everton to three points.
Luis Suarez was a handful throughout the 90 minutes and came close on several occasions to notching his 23rd Barclays Premier League goal of the season. Villa were the first to threaten and a probing pass from Westwood found overlapping left-back Joe Bennett in plenty of space. He delivered a teasing cross to the near post which Benteke just failed to make contact with as it flew across the six yard box.
Andreas Weimann had a volley blocked but Agbonlahor could have put Villa ahead after 17 minutes. Matt Lowton delivered a superb curling cross into the danger area which picked out the run of Agbonlahor. But the forward turned his shot straight at Jose Reina from six yards.
Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan was called into meaningful action for the first time when finger-tipping a shot from Suarez over the bar after good play by Glen Johnson. Then Nathan Baker had to be alert to nick the ball off the feet of Suarez inside the Villa area.
Benteke had scored twice in the 3-1 win at Anfield earlier in the season and after 31 minutes he put Villa ahead. Westwood's cross was turned back by Agbonlahor to Benteke who drilled a fierce shot past Reina who got a hand on the ball but could not keep it out of the net. It was the 13th league goal of the season from the Belgium forward.
Liverpool tried to retaliate and a misdirected pass from Barry Bannan allowed Suarez a free run at goal but Brad Guzan managed to keep out his low drive with his feet. The Villa goalkeeper then fingertipped aside a long-range drive from Gerrard.
Liverpool needed only three minutes of the second half to get back on level terms. Philippe Coutinho's defence-splitting pass was seized on by Henderson who flicked the ball past Guzan into the corner of the net for his fourth goal of the season.
Coutinho could have put Liverpool ahead in the 56th minute after beating the offside trap to run on to a pass from Suarez but he dinked his shot inches wide of the far post. But Liverpool were not to be denied and went ahead three minutes later.
Suarez was brought down in the box by Baker and the resulting spot-kick was converted by Gerrard.
Weimann could have made it 2-2 but scooped his shot over the bar from 10 yards. Then Gerrard headed Benteke's header off the line at full stretch from a Westwood corner. But Liverpool had succeeded in taking much of the string out of Villa's attacking threat and quietening the Holte End.
Suarez had a shot on the turn saved by Guzan after some trickery inside the Villa box. Benteke had the ball in the net in injury time but was a yard offside.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert said: "In the first half we were excellent. We were right in. In the second half there wasn't much in it. But you can't give goals away like we did - it was definitely a penalty.
"Yes, definitely [Villa can avoid relegation]. Anybody who was here today would say the same. We're certainly playing well enough. We don't look like a team down the bottom at the minute. If we going the way we're going, we'll win more games than not."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "Our character was outstanding today. We created chances in the first half, in the second half we upped the tempo. It was a real tough game for us.
"Our quality was there as well, and the rhythm and flow of our passing was good. It was a wonderful pass [by Coutinho], and Jordan's had a touch and his finish was fantastic because he's got a wee bit of time to think about it. I'm really pleased for him and young Philippe has got great, great quality."
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|13 Apr 2013||v Fulham (H)|
|22 Apr 2013||v Man Utd (A)|
|29 Apr 2013||v Sunderland (H)|
|04 May 2013||v Norwich (A)|
|11 May 2013||v Chelsea (H)|