Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool

Fernando Torres scored an injury-time 50th Premier League goal for

Liverpool to give his side a 1-0 win at Aston Villa on Tuesday

night.

The Spaniard drilled a low shot across Villa keeper Brad

Friedel in the 93rd minute to become the fastest player in Reds

history to score a half century of league goals.

It means Rafael Benitez’s side are only two points behind

Villa and three adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham in the race for

Champions League places.

Liverpool keeper Jose Reina had earlier produced two crucial

saves to deny Villa who were searching for their first home win

over the Reds for nearly 12 years.

The Spaniard somehow kept out a close-range volley from

Stewart Downing in the first half and then denied Villa’s top

scorer Gabriel Agbonlahor after he had broken clear midway through

the second period.

And Liverpool appeared to have strong first half claims for a

penalty after a challenge by Villa central defender Richard Dunne

on Dirk Kuyt.

Villa lacked sharpness and perhaps having a day less than

Liverpool to recover from their opening game of the festive

programme – a 3-0 reversal at Arsenal – may have taken its toll.

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard tried to inspire his side in

conditions that became increasingly difficult underfoot.

But it was Torres who produced the moment of magic after

capitalising on a loose pass from former Liverpool defender Stephen

Warnock.

Villa, 3-1 winners at Anfield in August, made a promising

start in the blizzard-like conditions.

Downing lined up a shot just outside the Reds box but his

fierce drive was blocked by Alberto Aquilani.

Torres failed to make proper contact on an overhead kick from

a deflected Gerrard centre.

Luke Young was out quickly to block a shot on the edge of the

Villa box from Lucas Leiva after Dunne had headed clear a Gerrard

corner.

Reina was called into meaningful action for the first time

after 14 minutes in blocking a header at the far post from Dunne

following another Downing corner.

Gerrard tried his luck with a 30-yard free-kick but his shot

deflected off the Villa wall and out for a corner.

But it needed a fine save from Brad Friedel to deny Liverpool

from taking the lead after 17 minutes.

Torres teed up Gerrard just outside the Villa area and his

curling first time shot was tipped over the bar by the former

Liverpool keeper.

Reina got his body behind a low drive from James Milner.

Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov was off target with a bicycle

kick after Nigel Reo-Coker had played the ball into the Liverpool

area.

But it needed a magnificent reflex save from Reina to prevent

Downing from giving Villa the lead after 31 minutes.

Milner’s corner was met at the far post by Downing and he

could not have struck his volley more cleanly but Reina somehow

managed to fist away his shot from close range.

Dunne became the first player to be booked after 41 minutes

for a challenge on Lucas.

Then Lucas followed the Villa defender into the referee’s

notebook for a foul against Agbonlahor.

Liverpool appealed in vain for a penalty after a challenge by

Dunne on the recalled Kuyt eight minutes before the interval.

Liverpool, unbeaten at Villa Park since February 1998,

enjoyed the majority of possession at the start of the second

period without seriously threatening the home goal.

There was a three minute delay wile Reina was allowed to

change his footwear, much to the annoyance of the Villa fans in the

Holte End.

Gerrard was on the receiving end of a knee high challenge

from Carlos Cuellar just outside the Villa box but Aquilani’s

free-kick dipped over the bar.

Villa suddenly came to life with Reina producing his second

excellent save of the night to deny Agbonlahor after he had shaken

off the challenge of Jamie Carragher.

From Milner’s inswinging centre, John Carew was inches wide

of the far post with a flick header.

But that was effectively the end of the goalmouth incidents

until Torres’ dramatic finale.

Kuyt took control of a poor pass from Warnock on the right

flank.

The ball was collected by Yossi Benayoun in midfield but as

Agbonlahor came back to tackle, the Villa striker only succeeded in

pushing it through to Torres inside the Villa box and he slid a low

shot into the bottom far corner of Friedel’s goal.