Mohamed Salah was on target as Liverpool bolstered their top-four hopes with a convincing 3-1 win at Aston Villa in their first Premier League match since the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds took the lead on five minutes when Salah tucked home his 16th goal of the season after brilliant play from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
Villa had their moments in a gloriously open first 45 minutes, but Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey failed to take advantage.
Liverpool then took control eight minutes before the interval when Virgil van Dijk steered home after Villa failed to deal with a right-wing corner.
Unai Emery’s side provided a strong response after the restart and Watkins reduced the arrears with a fine header just shy of the hour.
Darwin Nunez missed a series of gilt-edged openings in the first period for the away team and then dragged another big chance wide 12 minutes from the end. However, the Uruguayan’s persistence paid off soon after when his cross-shot was parried into the path of substitute Stefan Bajcetic, who side-stepped Robin Olsen before slotting home.
The result means sixth-placed Liverpool have won three top-flight matches on the spin for the first time this season and are now five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand. Villa stay 12th.
Next up, Liverpool host Leicester City on Friday while Villa travel to Tottenham on New Year’s Day.