Mohamed Salah made the difference for Liverpool in Steven Gerrard’s return when Aston Villa were beaten 1-0 at Anfield.
Salah won and converted the penalty midway through the second half to secure three points and keep the pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Gerrard, who was making his comeback as opposition manager for the first time, set his team up to frustrate and did it for over an hour, but walked away with only good wishes for comfort.
Liverpool Alisson (6), Alexander-Arnold (7), Van Dijk (7), Matip (6), Robertson (7), Fabinho (7), Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Henderson (7), Thiago (7), Mane (6), Salah (8).
Subtitles: Jota (6), Milner (n / a), Minamino (n / a).
Aston Villa: Martinez (7), Cash (7), Konsa (7), Mings (7), Targett (7), Nakamba (6), McGinn (7), Luiz (6), Ramsey (7), Young (6), Watkins (7).
Subtitles: Sanson (6), Buendìa (6), Ings (6).
Man of the match: Mohamed Salah
How Liverpool won
It was an emotionally charged atmosphere at kick-off, with cheers for Ray Kennedy, a three-time European Cup winner at Liverpool, who died last month at the age of 70.
Thoughts were with Gerrard before and after, greeting the Kop with a shy wave of greeting upon exiting the tunnel and then hearing his name chant aloud in the eighth minute.
But Liverpool fans have turned their attention to current players ever since with Gerrard in the role of visiting manager sent to frustrate them. This is what Villa has done.
Andy Robertson’s header was awkwardly deflected and well saved by Emiliano Martinez. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, from an advanced position, shoots slightly to the side.
But Liverpool were limited to half chances during a hard-fought first half in which three players were booked and many tougher challenges faced.
Jurgen Klopp made a change to his Liverpool with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in to replace Diogo Jota who, after taking a beating against Wolves, was on the bench.
Steven Gerrard made a change to the Aston Villa team that had beaten Aston Villa, Emiliano Buendia fell on the bench with Matt Targett back in the starting lineup.
Villa were tenacious but, with Ollie Watkins up front, there is pace on the counterattack too, even though it was Ashley Young who touched on intervention when Alisson slipped.
The interval was balanced, with whistles greeting the referees during the interval, a sign that Gerrard’s side were managing to complicate their lives.
The pressure increased as Liverpool attacked Kop in the second half, with a Virgil van Dijk header that was overturned by Martinez before Salah curled just wide.
Klopp sent out Diogo Jota after an hour and soon caused trouble, his shot was blocked by Tyrone Mings who was doing everything to push Liverpool back.
Even the captain of the Villa could not cope with Salah. A fall of the shoulder pushed him away and induced the phallus. The Egyptian beat Martinez from the spot and Anfield burst into the noise.
Jota was still hungry and nearly doubled up after intercepting a back pass to Martinez. Salah should have finished him when the selfless Sadio Mane pierced him.
There was almost a twist when late replacement Danny Ings came close to capitalizing on the indecision between Alisson and Joel Matip, but was unable to catch the loose ball.
Instead, Villa’s impressive defensive effort resulted in no rewards. And Gerrard’s return became just another Premier League match at Anfield where Salah stole the show.
Liverpool will host Newcastle on Thursday at 8pm, while Aston Villa will go to Norwich at 7.45pm on Tuesday. Watch free highlights of both games shortly after full time on Sky Sports.com, the Sky Sports app and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel.