Aston Villa pulled off a surprise demolition job at Anfield, going 3-0 up against Liverpool in the first 50 minutes before cruising to a 3-1 win and three vital points. Reds manager Brendan Rodgers had claimed that his goal was for his side to contend for the top two, but a home loss -- especially one of this magnitute -- to a side that's spent most of the season hanging around the relegation zone puts the lie to such delusions of grandeur.
Liverpool were pressing hard from the beginning, laying siege to Brad Guzan's goal and preventing the visitors from getting like a hold on the game. Villa were clearly missing Ron Vlaar in their back line, and their collective inexperience showed as they were carved apart repeatedly. But what they lacked in positioning they made up in tenacity along with a healthy dose of luck -- poor passing and poor finishing meant that despite the pressure the hosts couldn't turn their early dominance into goals.
And when Villa finally managed to put together a counterattack, they did so in some style. The visitors gave Liverpool a warming when Wiemann went one-on-one against Pepe Reina only to be forced wide to safety, but the next time Paul Lambert's side went forward they found the net. Joe Allen was lured out of position by Brett Holman, who played a simple pass to Benteke near the top of the box.
The Belgian international was in acres of space, and had enough time to set himself up for an inch-perfect finish off Reina's right-hand post and into the back of the net. And so, despite Liverpool having enough chances for four or five goals in the first half hour, they found themselves 1-0 down.
It got worse shortly thereafter. In the 33rd minute, a poor back header from Glen Johnson saw Wiemann in on Reina's goal again, but the Austrian international's delicate chip landed on the roof of the net rather than inside it. That wasn't the end of Villa's attacking game, and an absolutely superb move brought them to 2-0 just before halftime. Wiemann played the ball into space for Benteke to tear onto and then charged into the penalty area for the return.
Benteke's only option was to find his strike partner with a blind backheel, and he somehow played it to perfection, leaving Wiemann with an easy finish:
Liverpool continued to hold the possession, but their attempts to walk the ball into Brad Guzan's goal were looking increasingly futile. They also were suffering from a surfeit of luck -- Daniel Agger had a decent penalty shout turned down after Ciaran Clark attempted to disrobe him in the box, and whenever the hosts did get a shot on target it ended up flying right at Guzan's midriff.
And then Benteke struck again. There was no element of the spectacular about this one, unless you could the way Liverpool's defence and midfield melted into nothing on the face of the striker's charge up the pitch. Holman's clever run wrong-footed last man Martin Skrtel, and Benteke was able to simply stroll towards the penalty spot and lift the ball over Reina to make it 3-0.
The Reds continued to mill about at the edge of Brad Guzan's area, but they had nothing to show for near contant pressure until the 87th minute when Steven Gerrard deflected Johnson's effort in to pull the score back to 3-1. But it was far too little, far too late, and Villa held on relatively comfortably for the victory. The win sees the visitors up into 14th place; Liverpool remain 12th.