Extra special Sadio Mane comes to Liverpool's rescue against Aston Villa

Jurgen Klopp's side have now taken 31 points from a possible 33 in their opening 11 matches

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It was a champions’ response, late but lasting.

Staring at a first defeat of the season, a first in 28 matches dating back to the last, Liverpool vanquished Aston Villa right at the death.

One-nil down at Villa Park with three minutes to play, the Premier League leaders rallied to triumph 2-1. Sadio Mane assisted one, a beautiful back-post pick out of Andy Robertson, then struck deep into injury-time. Liverpool’s initial lifeline did not merely rescue a point, but proved the platform for a last-gasp win.

Villa were valiant, but in the end not gallant enough. They led from the 21st minute, yet succumbed eventually in the final throes. Ultimately, the visitors' pressure paid off. Victory snatched from defeat, Liverpool protected their six-point advantage over Manchester City ahead of next week’s top-two clash at Anfield. They were gutsy and, in the end, grateful.

"Today was not our best performance, but we deserved the three points,” Mane said afterwards. “Aston Villa have been the team that pushed us hardest so far. That’s why this is the best league in the world – every single game can be like this one."

That said, for the opener Liverpool were uncharacteristically lackadaisical. John McGinn’s curled free-kick found Trezeguet unmarked at the back post, leaving the Egyptian to volley through Alisson’s legs.

The obligatory Video Assistant Referee (VAR) check took its customary age, but it transpired that Trezeguet was the deepest of three teammates, so the goal stood. Villa Park erupted for a second time in quick succession.

Not long after, the home fans were celebrating again. This time, VAR helped disallow a Liverpool goal. Mane's whipped cross had been converted by Roberto Firmino, although the assistant flagged immediately. Upon review, the Brazilian was deemed to be millimetres beyond Tyrone Mings when the pass was made. In what is surely a first for the league, the official verdict confirmed Firmino’s armpit had infringed.

To make matters worse for Liverpool, Mane was soon booked for exaggerating contact in the Villa penalty area.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02: Andy Robertson of Liverpool celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool FC at Villa Park on November 02, 2019 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Andy Robertson scored Liverpool's first goal. Getty Images

From then on, however, it felt like Liverpool were camped there. Tom Heaton saved well from Mane, Mohamed Salah spurned two chances before being hauled off, Mane slipped upon shooting and substitute Divock Origi blazed over from a tight angle.

Yet Adam Lallana was the worst culprit. With the goal at his mercy and completely unmarked, he skewed wide Firmino’s pullback. Villa did threaten sporadically on the break, but substitute Conor Hourihane chose the wrong option when played in.

Then Liverpool stole it. To their surprise, a chief creator turned fated finisher. On Trent Alexander-Arnold’s 100th appearance for the club, fellow full-back Robertson made his mark. With three minutes remaining, the Scot was let run unimpeded by Anwar El Ghazi, meeting Mane’s deep centre to power his header past Heaton.

Scenting blood, Liverpool moved in for the kill. In the 94th minute, Alexander-Arnold’s corner was glanced just inside the hosts’ post by Mane.

"It was a perfect delivery from the corner and in the end I was even a bit lucky the ball went in," he said, far from apologetically.

The Senegalese's sixth league goal of the season secured Liverpool a sixth consecutive league win at Villa Park. It felt the most important of that stretch.

Another victory meant their opening 11 matches have yielded 31 points from a possible 33 – the joint-highest in Premier League history. Since the beginning of last season, Jurgen Klopp's side have been clutch and clinical, scoring 23 times in the final 10 minutes of matches. No other team has as many.

Chasing a first title in 30 years, once more Liverpool displayed a champions’ resolve. They rally and respond. Even this early in the season, it is a priceless property to possess.

"We have showed our resilience over the last 18 months and this season we have kept on going,” Robertson said. "Today we knew we had some great chances and there’s nothing better than a last-minute winner. We know we need to be at our best every single game."