There may still have been remnants of Liverpool taking their foot of the gas since getting over the line and ending a 30-year wait to become Premier League Champions, but Jurgen Klopp’s side ensured they dually responded with a 2-0 win against Aston Villa.
A turgid first-half performance looked to give Dean Smith’s side a great opportunity to end Liverpool’s long-standing unbeaten run at Anfield and take a monumental step towards safety, but a string of second-half substitutions proved enough to set the wheels in motion for the Reds.
The introduction of Jordan Henderson in particular raised the tempo of the match, while Roberto Firmino’s movement off the ball sparked an immediate improvement from those around him, with Divock Origi again struggling to make an impact.
While the Brazilian’s wait for a league goal at Anfield this season rumbles on, it was a performance that underlined his importance to the team’s attacking system, posing further questions as to whether Liverpool need fresh recruits this summer to bolster their ranks as they look to defend their crown.
Indeed, such movement played a hand in Sadio Mane’s opener, with Firmino occupying two Villa defenders with a quick dart, leaving Mane to notch his 50th goal for the club at Anfield after a largely uneventful opening 70 minutes. The Senegal international was the beneficiary of Naby Keita’s cut back after bright play in the centre of midfield from Trent Alexander-Arnold.
24 hours on from signing a new long-term contract at his boyhood club, Curtis Jones would round off the afternoon to ensure a 24thconsecutive home win in the top-flight.
Speaking after the match, Jurgen Klopp spoke very highly of the 19-year-old, who clearly has a bright future at the club.
First Premier League goal for Jones thoroughly deserved, says Klopp
Jones has had a stellar campaign this season, scoring the winning penalty against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup back in October before a terrific solo effort against Everton in the FA Cup. His new five-year contract on Saturday night is testament to the high regard he is held in at the club, and a bright cameo performance emphasised exactly why.
Coming on with purpose and positivity, not shying away from possession and driving at the Villa defence, it took just five minutes for him to slot home his first Premier League goal in front of an empty Kop.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Klopp was full of praise for the No.48.
“He comes on, the first situation was a dribble and a shot, which I like—no lack of confidence!” the manager said.
“Then it was a cross, then Mo made it happen that it was inside again, and he was in the six-yard box.
“That is his strength. He wants to be there; he wants to be decisive. He deserves the goal, the game, the appearances, so I’m really happy for him.”
The Liverpool manager hinted at the promising future ahead of Jones in his post-match press conference, saying that his cameo was “Curtis in a nutshell! He signed a new contract yesterday which is good for him and good for us. We’ll have a lot of fun with him!”
Klopp refuses to be draw on record talk, with full focus on Brighton
Throughout the course of a scintillating campaign, Klopp has remained clear on his message about records, instead focusing on taking each game as it comes rather than getting caught up in the history books. True to form, he dismissed discussions on the prospect of going an entire season without a home draw or defeat in the league, with the Reds chasing a record points tally in the English top-flight.
“I’m not too interested in records, but you don’t have a chance to get a record if you constantly think about it,” he said.
“When it’s 0-0, I don’t think that we have to win because of the record, I want the points.
“We need to get eight points still to have only the points tally from last year. We don’t think about these things.
“Brighton are waiting, fighting for the league, in a good position now. If they do something against us, they can probably make sure they stay in the league.
“It was not a brilliant performance [today], but it was a good performance which earned us three points.”