Aston Villa overcame Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield on Saturday evening, with a ninth-minute goal from Gabriel Agbonlahor enough to give the visitors all three points.
The result was a shock given how well the Reds had performed prior to the international break, defeating Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 at White Hart Lane. But Paul Lambert’s side were good value for their victory and they can take great pride from their achievements as they continue to impress this season.
But as for Liverpool, here are five things we learned from Saturday’s defeat:
Sturridge is vital to this team
Daniel Sturridge’s absence through injury was always going to be a blow for Brendan Rodgers but the importance of the England international was clear to see in his absence. Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert may have both got minutes on the pitch, the latter ultimately replacing the Italian, but just one shot on target in the entire game tells its own story.
Resting Sterling was a mistake
With one half of the new SAS out injured, putting the other half on the bench was a strange call from Rodgers.
Sterling did arrive shortly after the hour-mark but by then the damage was done and the young winger could not turn this game around. Had he started, however, Villa would have had something else to worry about and, so early in the season, resting the teenager proved the wrong call.
Quality takes time
Rodgers bemoaned the lack of quality in Liverpool’s forward-play, but that will take time with so many new arrivals. Balotelli, Lazar Markovic, Javier Manquillo, Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren and debutant Adam Lallana are all new to the club, and it will be a while before this new-look side is playing at its best.
The defence offers hope
With three of Liverpool’s back-four against Villa recent additions, the fact that they conceded just one goal and looked relatively sturdy should be cause for optimism.
Lovren revealed his disappointment after the match at conceding so early but his arrival has been great for a side that leaked far too many goals last season. In time, this back-four will be very good indeed and only Jon Flanagan has a realistic chance of breaking up the quartet Rodgers picked on Saturday.
Markovic is getting used to his surroundings
The £20million summer signing from Benfica again looked lively for Liverpool and he is beginning to find his feet at his new club. By the end of last season in Portugal, the young winger was one of the Primeira Liga champions’ most important players, and there is no reason he cannot replicate that at Anfield.
Just as with Sterling before him, patience is key, but his showing against Villa was encouraging for both Rodgers and Reds fans.