It was a strange game at Anfield on Saturday afternoon. Liverpool scored one minute into the match and appeared to be in control throughout. But Aston Villa kept playing and kept fighting and even scored two goals in a crazy 15-minute stretch in the second half that saw the teams trade goals twice.
Eventually, the ending result was a familiar one for Villa: another one-goal loss in the Premier League -- the team's fifth in its last six league games -- as the claret and blues fell 3-2 at Anfield and dropped into the relegation zone.
Here are the Aston Villa player ratings, based on a scale of 1 to 10, along with stats and analysis for Saturday's encounter against Liverpool at Anfield:
GK: Brad Guzan, Rating: 6
Villa's American goalkeeper was a busy man on Saturday, making nine saves and conceding three goals as Liverpool constantly attacked the Villa goal. Guzan showed his shot-stopping ability with a wonderful save from a Coutinho free kick and also thwarted Liverpool's Brazilian two other times, confidently holding some well-struck shots by the Reds. He had no chance on any of the Liverpool trio of goals. It's been a rare occurrence this season, but I'm happy to praise Guzan for his performance in this match.
RB: Alan Hutton, Rating: 4
Hutton played very well offensively, recording an assist with a combination of great effort and some quality to set Gestede up with a sitter. The Scottish right back also created two other decent chances and was a willing runner down the wing when Villa did attack. However, defensively Hutton was weak on too many occasions, allowing Liverpool players to ghost past him with dribbles and one-touch passing. All three Liverpool goals came from passing moves originating in that left attacking channel. Hutton switched off defensively a few too many times Saturday.
CB: Micah Richards, Rating: 5
Richards wasn't necessarily bad in this match and he didn't have any horrible moments, but when you're the captain and a central defender for a team that conceded three goals and could've allowed more, some of the blame falls on you. Richards mopped up quite a few of his teammates' mistakes with his athleticism, making 11 clearances, but he still seems to be missing the composure and positional awareness preventing him from being a top-class defender at the moment. Also, he should've done better with a late header from a Veretout set piece.
CB: Joleon Lescott, Rating: 3
Unlike Richards, there were several moments where Lescott made Villa fans wince on Saturday. Starting from the very first minute, it took Lescott far, far too long to recognize the danger of James Milner at the top of the box; when the veteran defender finally did close down Milner and make a challenge, it was already too late. Poor distribution and unsure defending plagued Lescott throughout this match, and he hasn't exactly made the left center back role his since joining Villa.
LB: Jordan Amavi, Rating: 6
That cross by Amavi that created Villa's second goal was the best moment of the match by any player wearing the away yellow of Villa. The young Frenchman held his own against the width provided by Liverpool right wing back Nathaniel Clyne on Saturday, making three tackles and three interceptions as the Reds had little joy attacking down the right. Amavi wasn't overly impressive going forward for much of the match, but when he did get a chance to whip in a clean cross, boy did he make it count.
CM: Carlos Sanchez, Rating: 3
I usually list Sanchez as a CDM, or central defensive midfielder, in these match ratings. But Saturday's display from Sanchez confused me about what his role actually was. I don't know whether Tim Sherwood set up the Villa midfielders to play a flat three, but that ended up being the case far too many times. And Liverpool made the most of that completely unnecessary space created in between the Villa midfield and defense. Regardless of who was at fault for the lack of flexibility to the Villa midfield trio, Sanchez didn't have a good game anyways. He was a very poor 2-for-9 on tackles in this match, and I don't think it was a coincidence that Villa improved significantly after the Colombian was substituted.
CM: Ashley Westwood, Rating: 5
Really hard to give Westwood a rating in a match where Villa had so little of the ball. But with 88-percent passing against the Liverpool high press and, more importantly, five blocks defensively covering for his teammates' errors and/or lack of positional awareness, Westwood certainly put in a shift at Anfield.
CM: Idrissa Gana Gueye, Rating: 4
Another tough player to rate in this match. Gueye was good when he was good...and dreadful in some rare moments. For the most part, Gueye played well, completing 89-percent of his passes with two take-ons, two tackles and three interceptions. But unfortunately, he really made his misplaced passes count in the wrong way, setting up a handful of dangerous Liverpool counter attacks with sloppy play. Clean that up, and Villa have a really good player.
LW: Jack Grealish, Rating: 4
Grealish started brightly and was on the ball getting Villa forward quite a bit in the opening 15 minutes. But after that, he seemed to disappear. This wasn't really a match made for Grealish due to Sherwood's defend deep tactics, which eliminated the offensive support and overlapping runs that Grealish needs in order to really thrive and make a difference going forward.
RW: Scott Sinclair, Rating: 3
Yes, in case you didn't notice him, Sinclair started this match and played the entire 90 minutes. He completed 10 passes in the game, none of which were forward passes. Sinclair had two half-chances at goal that didn't threaten Liverpool and didn't make the most of his other opportunities on the ball, going 0-for-4 on take-on attempts. Disappointing display from the winger.
ST: Rudy Gestede, Rating: 8
Say what you will about Gestede's ability as a technical footballer, but the lad has shown in the past week that he definitely knows where the net is. Not many visiting players score two goals at Anfield, but that's what the Villa striker did on Saturday. Stayed switched on when Hutton appeared to run out of space and was rewarded with a tap-in goal out of nothing that made it 2-1. Then scored a ridiculously wonderful and powerful header from Amavi's cross to bring the score to 3-2. Gestede also had a few other decent chances, showing Villa always have a goal in them when the big man plays.
CM: Jordan Vertout, Rating: 5
Came on as a sub for Sanchez and had one good moment and one sloppy moment. Gave away possession far too easily to spring a Liverpool attack. But also showed his ability to deliver a set piece better than anyone else on the Villa roster, putting a pacy free kick right on the head of Richards late.
RW: Adama Traore, Rating: 5
It was clear that Lucas Leiva was prepared for the threat of Traore, or else the exciting winger would've enjoyed his return cameo much more. The Liverpool anchor broke up several attempted runs by Traore as the Villa sub nearly created something on a few occasions. Traore finished 4-of-8 on take-ons in his 20 minutes and again showed what a specimen Villa have in the direct Spanish youngster.