Liverpool labours to win in first match at Anfield as champion

A 17th straight home victory for Liverpool this season was secured by goals from Sadio Mane in the 71st minute and substitute Curtis Jones in the 89th.

Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool after the Premier League match against Aston Villa at Anfield on Sunday.   -  Getty Images

Liverpool kept alive its bid to finish the Premier League season with a perfect home record after labouring to a 2-0 win against relegation-threatened Aston Villa on Sunday in its first match at Anfield since winning the title.

A 17th straight home victory this season - and surely the most underwhelming - was secured by goals from Sadio Mane in the 71st minute and substitute Curtis Jones in the 89th.

Three days after Liverpool lost 4-0 at Manchester City in its first match as champion, Jurgen Klopp’s team again lacked the intensity, snap and precision that brought it the title in such devastating fashion this season.

Indeed, Liverpool had managed just two shots on target against Villa before Mane met a low cross into the area from midfielder Naby Keita with a first-time shot that struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced down over the line.

Premier League: Mane, Jones strikes give Liverpool 2-0 win over Villa

Jones tucked away a shot after a nod-down at the far post by Mohamed Salah to double the lead with the last chance of a dull game.

It was enough to earn the Reds one of the five wins they need to beat the record season points total in the Premier League of 100, set by Manchester City in 2017-18.

Wins over Burnley and Chelsea at Anfield over the next two weeks will see Liverpool complete the season with 19 victories out of 19, for a 100% home record that has never been achieved in the Premier League.

READ | Newcastle bounces back to draw 2-2 with West Ham; Sheffield, Burnley share the spoils

The match was more important for Villa, given its perilous position in the relegation zone. The visitor gave Liverpool a guard of honor before the match - like Man City did on Thursday - but didn’t pay the champion much respect on the field at an empty Anfield that was bedecked in club banners.

Indeed, with Liverpool often looking lethargic, Villa carried a threat on the counterattack, although Dean Smith’s team wasn’t helped by a foot injury that seemed to hamper captain and playmaker Jack Grealish most of the game.

Villa stayed in third-to-last place, one point adrift of safety with five games left.

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