Liverpool 2-2 Villa report: Weimann/Benteke earn draw
Villa produced arguably their best performance of the season to claim a point from a pulsating contest against high-riding Liverpool at Anfield.
Andi Weimann and Christian Benteke fired Paul Lambert's side into a two-goal lead by the 37th minute - after Ciaran Clark had headed against the post.
And even though the Merseysiders stormed back to draw level through Daniel Sturridge and a Steve Gerrard penalty, the visitors were good value for the draw.
Villa, in fact, might easily have been ahead inside a minute, Benteke climbing to head on a long through ball to release Gabby Agbonlahor into the penalty area.
It was the sort of the chance the striker relishes but with a goal looking certain he fired just wide as Simon Mignolet rushed off his line.
The home side's first threat saw Gerrard's deep free-kick headed away for a corner.
When the flag kick came in from the left, Benteke and Kolo Toure collided awkwardly and both players needed treatment before they could continue.
The visitors were certainly the more aggressive outfit during the opening 20 minutes and following an incisive four-man move, Ashley Westwood unleashed a powerful rising drive which was well held by Mignolet.
Weimann then made a strong run before shooting over, and although Sturridge curled a shot not fat off target for the home side, Villa were desperately unlucky not to score when he met Westwood's right-wing corner with a downward header which struck the inside of a post.
But two minutes later Villa deservedly took the lead with a superbly crafted goal.
The move began when Fabian Delph won possession deep in his own half and played the ball forward to Benteke on the half-way line.
The Belgian quickly sent Agbonlahor racing down the left and he cut inside Toure to deliver a low cross which Weimann converted as he slid into the goalmouth.
The second goal was equally impressive.
This time Karim El Ahmadi provided a perfect pass to Agbonlahor on the right, and his curling cross caused confusion between Mignolet and Martin Skrtel, enabling Benteke to score with a stooping header from six yards.
The home responded with a surging run from Luis Suarez, only for Aly Cissokho to slice well wide, before Clark got in the way of a Philippe Coutinho piledriver.
And in first-half stoppage time, the visitors were back in contention, Sturridge deftly lifting a close-range shot over Guzan after Jordan Henderson's clever flick following a Suarez pass.
Villa were forced into a change four minutes after the break, Agbonlahor limping off to be replaced by Grant Holt.
And four minutes later Liverpool were level, Gerrard sidefooting home from the spot after Guzan was adjudged to have brought down Suarez.
Delph almost restored Villa's advantage on the hour, producing some nifty footwork before curling his 25-yard shot only inches wide.
But Guzan was now far busier, the keeper parrying a Suarez drive before diving to tip away Henderson's low drive.
Suarez was also unlucky to see a 35-yard free-kick dip just past the right-hand upright.
For all that, the visitors were assured and composed in the closing stages to send nearly 2,000 travelling fans home in a happy mood.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Toure, Cissokho: Sterling, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho (Lucas HT, Allen 66); Sturridge, Suarez. Unused subs: Jones, Alberto, Aspas, Moses, Kelly.
Villa: Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Bertrand (Luna 81); El Ahmadi (Sylla 62), Westwood, Delph; Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor (Holt 49) Unused subs: Steer, Helenius, Albrighton, Gardner.