Liverpool made a winning return to Premier League action as they restarted their bid to force their way into the top four with an entertaining victory over Aston Villa.
Goals from Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Stefan Bajcetic ensured the Reds recorded a third successive league win for the first time this season and reduced the gap to the Champions League places to five points
While Liverpool’s first fixture after the World Cup break resulted in a Carabao Cup fourth round defeat by Manchester City on Thursday, Salah’s fifth-minute opener – created by a couple of sublime passes from full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson – gave them the perfect start on their league return.
Darwin Nunez’s wastefulness prevented the visitors from extending their lead but they were able to add a second before half-time when Van Dijk’s shot deflected in off Ezri Konsa following a corner.
Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey had both squandered a couple of fine opportunities for Villa in a hugely entertaining first half but Unai Emery’s side were rewarded for their persistence after the restart when Watkins headed in Douglas Luiz’s cross.
However, Spanish teenager Bajcetic’s first senior Liverpool goal nine minutes from time, which followed great work by Nunez to recover the ball at the byeline, ended home hopes of a dramatic fight back at Villa Park.