A last gasp Fernando Torres strike handed Liverpool a vital victory in the race for fourth tonight at Villa Park.
The snow was relentless as both sides fought to keep in contention of the league’s fourth spot currently held by Tottenham.
The home side got off to the better start, winning the first corner just after the first minute after some confusion in the Liverpool box. But the visitors soon began to dominate with the better ball retention in the middle of the park. The players knocked the ball around the centre patiently, but cracking down Villa’s backline proved elusive until two minutes into injury time when Fernando Torres latched onto his only opportunity of the game for a dramatic smash and grab.
Villa were pushed back for much of the opening half despite their home advantage, as Liverpool were denied a clear cut penalty when Richard Dunne charged rashly through Dirk Kuyt in the box which was met with a blank expression from referee Lee Probert.
Brad Friedel was called into action for the first time when Gerrard whipped the ball goal-wards in trademark fashion. Fortunately for the American the ball spun centrally and he was able to palm it over the bar for a corner.
Aston Villa’s best opportunity of the game fell to the unmarked Stewart Downing at the far post of a Villa corner. The cross eluded everyone before Downing met it with a sweet strike that was denied incredibly by Pepe Reina. Downing was about to wheel away in celebration, but the strike was denied magnificently by the reactive ‘keeper.
Villa were denied again by Reina twenty minutes into the second half which so far went without a sign of a goal. A long ball forward put Agbonlahor into a foot race with Jamie Carragher, who slipped, but Gabby’s left footed strike was saved comfortably by the Spaniard who had just spent three minutes getting his own left boot replaced.
The home side threatened again, again from a corner. The ball found John Carew open on the edge of the six-yard box who headed low towards the far post, only to see it spin agonizingly wide of the unmarked post. Villa had a penalty shout of their own a moment later when Emiliano Insua misjudged a header and nodded the ball onto his own arm, a decision that would have been incredibly harsh against the player.
Another of a number of set pieces were fluffed by Villa late on which led to the winning goal. Stephen Warnock slipped at the wrong time at left back, giving Kuyt the chance to play the ball into Benayoun just outside the box. Steve Sidwell slid in to cut it out, but the ball deflected back off the Israeli and into the path of Torres, who kept his composure and slotted the ball into the far corner past Brad Friedel, scoring his 50th Premier League goal for Liverpool, becoming the fastest player at the club to do so.
Aston Villa: Friedel, L Young, Cuellar, Dunne, Warnock, Reo-Coker (Albrighton), Milner, Petrov, Downing (Sidwell), Agbonlahor, Carew
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson (Skrtel), Carragher, Agger, Insua, Lucas, Benayoun (Aurelio), Gerrard, Aquilani (Babel), Kuyt, Torres.
Bookings: Dunne, 41; Lucas, 43