Aston Villa manager Dean Smith revealed he was sent off during his team's 2-0 Premier League defeat at Manchester City for suggesting the officials were clowns.

Villa put bodies on the line to frustrate City at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday until Bernardo Silva opened the scoring with a contentious goal 11 minutes from time.

Rodri came back from an offside position behind Tyrone Mings to dispossess the Villa defender and set up Silva, who finished clinically with his left foot from the edge of the penalty area.

Smith was then shown a red card by referee Jon Moss for telling fourth official David Coote he thought the officials must have been given juggling balls for Christmas.

Ilkay Gundogan rubbed salt into the wounds by scoring from the spot after Matty Cash was penalised for handball, and Villa boss Smith made his feelings clear after his team were beaten in what was their first top-flight game for 19 days due to a coronavirus outbreak.

"I still don't understand the rule if I’m honest," said Smith.

"I don't think anyone can tell me why a goal has been given. He [Rodri] has taken advantage of an offside position. He comes back and tackles Tyrone Mings from behind.

"What was Tyrone supposed to do, just let it go through? He was 10 metres offside. Do you just stand there all the time now?

"I thought they'd at least go over to the screen as it looked clear offside. I looked at the screen myself and it looked like a clear offside.

"When I realised they weren't even going to take a look I told the fourth official I thought they had got juggling balls for Christmas.

"If that's the law then definitely [it should be changed]. He's standing offside and taking an unfair advantage from that. Nobody in this stadium thinks that goal should have stood, so you can't tell me it should have stood and that tells you there is a fault with the law."

He added: "I don't think anyone can tell me why it's been given. What is Tyrone meant to do? Can you stand 10 yards offside now?

"Nobody in the stadium feels that should have counted so you can't tell me that should have counted."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes Kevin De Bruyne may have suffered a muscular injury in the 2-0 win over Aston Villa, though he is waiting on further updates.

De Bruyne hobbled off in the second half as City beat Villa on Wednesday to move top of the Premier League table.

City star De Bruyne was replaced approaching the hour mark before Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan scored during the final 11 minutes at home to Villa, the former in controversial circumstances.

Kyle Walker also succumbed to injury after just 28 minutes, and Guardiola was asked about the pair.

"First, I didn't speak to the doctor," he said.

"Kyle asked to be out because something happened – hopefully it was just a kick.

"Kevin put his hand on his leg. Maybe it will be something muscular. But what do you expect? It's normal, sometimes these things happen with these kind of games."

City are now unbeaten in 16 games across all competitions after defeating a Villa side whose previous top-flight outing was a 2-1 loss to Manchester United 19 days earlier, having suffered a coronavirus outbreak.  

Silva broke the deadlock in the 79th minute amid strong claims for offside against Rodri as Villa boss Dean Smith was sent off for his protests, while Gundogan's late penalty sealed the win.

"I didn't watch the image on TV, I know they complained on the touchline," Guardiola said when discussing Silva's contentious goal.

"And VAR is there. So there are many challenges, with long balls when the player is offside, and you go backwards, the central defenders, you clear the ball, central defender for themselves, the counter attack.

"But VAR was there. If it was offside, the goal would have been disallowed, but honestly I didn't watch it, and I understand they complained about this action. In general, the game we played was outstanding."

City have kept 10 clean sheets in their 18 Premier League games this season – only in 1976-77 (17 games) have they reached that figure in fewer fixtures in their league history.

After a difficult start to the season, his side are firmly back in the mix, and Guardiola added: "There are many, many teams, but if you ask me for my opinion, still have one game left to finish the first round, so the rise in the table is good because we are there.

"When we lost against Tottenham, we were 12th in the table, but then we lost just two games and the most important thing, is the fact that we are back since Newcastle game, playing the game we have to play to be contenders. Everyone wants to win, wants to be champions but you have to show why you are champions.

"Today, I had the feeling that we controlled many aspects, we had the right tempo of the game, we concede few, create a lot. We have to be more clinical in the final third, especially in the eight yard box and penalty spot but we'll improve."

Bernardo Silva was relieved to end his Premier League goal drought as Manchester City earned a late 2-0 win over Aston Villa to go top.

The Portugal international superbly scored a disputed first Premier League goal of the season 11 minutes from time.

Villa boss Dean Smith was sent off for his protests after he felt Silva's strike should have been ruled out for offside against Rodri, who won the ball back from Tyrone Mings in the build-up.

The Spain international was in a clear offside position when Mings received possession but the officials allowed the goal to stand because, under the current interpretation of the law, a new phase of play began after the Villa centre-back touched the ball.

Ilkay Gundogan's last-minute penalty sealed the points to extend City's winning run to nine matches.

Rivals Manchester United can replace them at the summit if they are victorious when they face Fulham later on Wednesday.

For Silva, it was his first league strike since the 5-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion in July.

And it was his first Premier League goal at the Etihad Stadium in 20 appearances, since scoring a hat-trick against Watford in September 2019.

"It has been a long time since I have scored," Silva said to BT Sport.

"I'm happy to score. It doesn't matter who scores the goals but I'm happy to score.

"Most important we are leaders for now. There is still a long way to go but still, very happy. We are doing very well, very solid at the back. We are happy with the last two games and our momentum."

The breakthrough arrived just as it looked like Villa would halt City's fine run of form.

Silva's opener was the 36th effort at goal in a dramatic match, and City's 25th of the contest.

Asked about Villa's complaints over his goal, Silva added: "I haven't checked it yet. 

"Our player was offside but when their defender touched it, he stops being offside, I think. But I haven't checked it.

"It was a very important win, a tough game for us. Just three more points and on to the next one.

"It felt like an important win because we got to the 75th minute without scoring, so to get those two goals, we are very happy."

City have now won 15 of their past 16 Premier League home games against Villa, including an on-going streak of 11 in a row.

And their forthcomig fixtures appear favourable as they look to extend their winning run.

After an FA Cup match with League Two Cheltenham Town, City face struggling trio West Brom, Sheffield United and Burnley prior to their crunch clash with champions Liverpool at Anfield on February 6.

Bernardo Silva scored a controversial first Premier League goal of the season as Manchester City beat Aston Villa 2-0 to go top of the table.

City dominated much of an entertaining encounter on a miserable evening but looked set to miss out on the chance to take over at the summit until Silva struck 11 minutes from time, albeit in contentious circumstances.

Villa boss Dean Smith was sent off for his protests after he felt Silva's goal should have been ruled out for offside against Rodri, who had won the ball back from Tyrone Mings.

Ilkay Gundogan's penalty sealed all three points to extend City's winning run to nine matches and put them top, although Manchester United can replace them when they face Fulham later on Wednesday.

City lost Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker to injury but they are now unbeaten in 16 games in all competitions.

Former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson would like to see Jack Grealish make a move to Old Trafford.

Aston Villa star Grealish has been linked with the Red Devils in the past 18 months but there has yet to be a concerted effort to sign him.

However, with the future of Paul Pogba unclear beyond this season, talk has again emerged that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could look to Grealish as a possible replacement for the France star.

The England international has created a competition-high 55 goalscoring chances in the Premier League in 2020-21 from only 15 appearances.

The 25-year-old has become integral to Villa's improved performances this term, making 11 per cent of all of their passes and drawing 73 fouls, the most of any player in the division.

Former skipper Robson, twice a league champion with United, thinks Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be making a smart move if he added Grealish to his squad.

"It was a good decision giving [Jack Grealish] the [Aston Villa] captaincy," he told Stats Perform. "I think it's made him a bit more mature.

"He's a powerful player. He's quite a strong boy and he's quick and the way he can sort of go either way past people, he's always going to be a danger and that's why he gets so many free-kicks. Him and Villa have been terrific this season.

"He's been linked with us but those decisions, thank goodness, are with Ole and the board of directors. I wouldn't mind seeing Jack Grealish in a Manchester United shirt. I don't know whether the staff at Old Trafford fancy him, much as you'd like to see him play for your club."

United face Fulham on Wednesday looking for a win that would take them back to the top of the Premier League.

Grealish and Villa are in action away to in-form Manchester City.

Manchester City and Aston Villa would have faced each other on the opening weekend of this Premier League campaign had Pep Guardiola's side not reached the final stages of the Champions League in Lisbon and earned an extra week to recuperate.

Plenty of what's happened since then - for both of these clubs and throughout the division - would have been impossible to predict, with a strange season springing surprises at every turn.

However, had City and Villa played one another in September, most observers would have confidently looked towards Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish to supply the creative inspiration for their respective teams.

It is safe to say each star midfielder has lived up to his billing over the first half of the campaign.

Mutual respect

Grealish earned a long-awaited England debut earlier this season and was a bright spark when England suffered a 2-0 Nations League defeat in Belgium.

Before the match, the 25-year-old revealed he spent his final preparations casting an admiring eye over a certain member of the opposition.

"For the past 24 hours, I've been watching little clips of my favourite players like I do before every game," he told Sky Sports.

"I watch loads of clips. I watch clips of De Bruyne, I watch clips of [Philippe] Coutinho, just players that are in my position, really.

"That's what I've done since I was a little kid and I still do it to this day - I have no shame in saying that and that's what gets me going for football matches."

After the match, De Bruyne conceded Grealish had also captured his attention.

"I rate him very highly," he said. "He's somebody I mentioned before, talking to the team-mates at City, in a random conversation.

"In England they talked about creative problems in midfield, but he brings that to a team. He deserves a shot."

Those warm words from De Bruyne seemed to carry a little more weight when a move for Grealish was rumoured to be one of the topics of discussion during Guardiola's successful contract extension negotiations in November.

Given the City boss already must try to accommodate the playmaking talents of Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva around De Bruyne, it is questionable whether he needs such a reinforcement in his creative department.

However, Opta data from this season shows Grealish is doing plenty to match the reigning PFA Players' Player of the Year.

King creators

Both De Bruyne and Grealish have started 15 Premier League games apiece this season, with the latter playing one more minute overall.

In that time, the Villa man has created 55 chances to De Bruyne's 51, although City's number 17 has 10 assists to Grealish's seven following an outrageous outside-of-the-boot cross for John Stones to open the scoring in Sunday's 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace.

Overall, they are second and third in the Premier League's assists table, Harry Kane's fruitful relationship with Son Heung-min helping the England captain to amass 11 for Tottenham.

Manchester United talisman Bruno Fernandes separates them at the top when it comes to chances created, having crafted 54 for his Old Trafford colleagues.

Those numbers continue to look incredibly strong when projected across Europe's top five leagues.

Hakan Calhanoglu has created 59 chances for Serie A leaders Milan, although only six of those have been converted, while the continental top five is rounded out by Lyon's Memphis Depay being level with De Bruyne on 51.

In terms of assists, Kane and De Bruyne are again one and two from Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller (nine) and Roma's Henrikh Mkhitaryan (eight).

Goals, guile and grubby work

De Bruyne has fired off 57 shots this season (17 on target) to Grealish's 40 (14 on target).

However, City's designated penalty taker has only scored three, with his first Premier League goal from open play this season coming earlier in January at Chelsea.

Grealish has weighed in with five for Dean Smith's men, including a double in their logic-defying 7-2 evisceration of champions Liverpool.

Grealish has 81.2 per cent accuracy for passes ending in the final third, outstripping De Bruyne's 73.5 per cent, although the City favourite attempting 105 crosses and corners to the younger man's 51 goes some way to explaining this discrepancy.

In terms of dribble success rate, they are neck and neck again, with Grealish returning 63.8 per cent and De Bruyne 63.

Grealish has attempted 69 dribbles to his idol's 46, which does a little to explain the frequency with which he draws free-kicks.

His 73 fouls won is comfortably the highest in the division, with Palace's Wilfred Zaha (51), Liverpool's Sadio Mane (43) and Kane (40) up next.

A key reason for this could be how integral Grealish is to so much of Villa's attacking play. As per Opta, he is responsible for 11 per cent of his team's passes. By contrast, Zaha and Kane make five per cent and Mane four.

As players who cherish the ball so much, De Bruyne and his counterpart do plenty to get it back.

The UEFA midfielder of the year has made 74 recoveries, 27 tackles and seven interceptions in the Premier League this season, compared to 79 recoveries, 23 tackles and eight interceptions for Grealish.

It seems implausible that these two midfield maestros will stray too far from the thick of the action at the Etihad Stadium, which should make for a very watchable encounter.

Whether or not it amounts to a live audition for Grealish, only time will tell.

Pep Guardiola has ruled out Manchester City delving into the transfer market with Sergio Aguero to again be absent when they host Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Aguero has made just five Premier League appearances this season and has missed City's past three games in all competitions while in self-isolation despite testing negative for COVID-19.

Guardiola has used Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and Ferran Torres in the central attacking role during the Argentina international's absence but is not interested in bringing in further options.

The City boss simply replied "no" when asked if the club could look to bolster their options in January after he confirmed Aguero would not return to face Villa.

"He is not ready for tomorrow. He is still isolating," Guardiola said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"We need Aguero, we miss him. The numbers speak for themselves. He's the best striker in our history.

"He can win games by himself and for a long time he has not been with us, but we have not sat here complaining. We moved forward with the players that we have and found alternatives."

Aymeric Laporte has not been part of a matchday squad for City since December 26 but Guardiola confirmed he is nearing a return from a thigh injury.

However, with Ruben Dias and John Stones having developed an incredible centre-back partnership, the City boss warned Laporte it will not be easy for him to regain his spot.

"He is at the last step. He is not ready for tomorrow, but he is training with us. Yesterday was the first one, today was the second," said Guardiola.

"Hopefully [back to face Cheltenham Town on Saturday]. That would be good news. We need him. We cannot play with just Stones and Ruben. We need Nathan [Ake], we need Eric [Garcia], we need Laporte.

"It depends on him [whether he can get into the starting line-up]. The quality is there so if he is in top form and his mind is open he is the best left-sided centre-back.

"He has special qualities on the ball. He has to be focused to come back as best as possible and he will have the minutes. Being in the team or not depends on the performance of everyone."

In the eight Premier League games Stones and Dias have started together, City have dropped just two points and conceded a single goal.

In the nine matches where either one of them has not started, they have conceded 12 at an average of 1.3 per game.

No Premier League defender has been involved in more clean sheets (eight) or has a superior passing accuracy (93.4 per cent) than Dias, whose 78.3 successful passes per 90 minutes are only bettered by Thiago Silva (83.8).

On Dias, Guardiola said: "We knew his quality on the pitch, we knew a bit his personality but we have been impressed at the consistency, being ready mentally and physically to play every three days.

"You always expect the best but we are more than delighted with what he has given to the team.

"[His impact] has been massive, not just with John. He has the ability to live every single action, always concentrated on what he has to do and helping his team-mates. It is not easy to find that in someone who is 23 years old."

The Premier League has announced 16 new positive cases from its most recent two rounds of coronavirus testing - a fall of 20 from the number of players and members of club staff who tested positive the previous week.

Due to a rise in infection rates across the league and in the United Kingdom at large, the Premier League ramped up testing to twice weekly between January 4-10, when there were 36 positives.

Across the two rounds carried out between January 11-17, there were 16 positives from 3,115 tests.

That amounts to an infection rate of 0.5 per cent, down from the rate of 1.39 per cent the previous week, when there were 2,593 tests.

Clubs received updated guidance from the Premier League this week, reminding them that "unnecessary contact" between players such as "handshakes, high fives and hugging" should be avoided, following government criticism of goal celebrations.

Aston Villa's games against Tottenham and Everton were called off over the past week following a COVID-19 outbreak that forced them to close their Bodymoor Heath training ground.

Villa are due to return to action at Manchester City on Wednesday, but Leeds United's scheduled meeting with Southampton on the same day will not take place.

Southampton will instead face Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup third round, with the initial fixture earlier this month postponed due to a number of coronavirus cases at the League One club, with their manager Steve Cotterill remaining in hospital.

Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes has won the Premier League Player of the Month award for the fourth time in his first year with the club.

Fernandes was confirmed as the winner of December's award on Friday, following up his success in November.

His fourth overall Player of the Month award means he is already level with United greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes, while just one behind Wayne Rooney's career tally.

Fernandes has closed to within three of the overall record held by Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, who won seven.

The Portugal international is the first player to win the award four times in a calendar year.

He scored twice and added an assist in the 6-2 win against Leeds United while he also netted and set up a goal in the 2-2 draw at Leicester City on Boxing Day.

Fernandes additionally assisted key goals for Paul Pogba (against West Ham) and Marcus Rashford (against Wolves) over the course of the month.

The 26-year-old said: "Three goals and four assists was a complete month.

"Scoring and assisting your team-mates is perfect. I want to achieve other trophies and awards but I'm really happy to make history.

"It is a long way before we can start talking about being [Premier League] champions. We have to keep working. 

"We play against one of the best teams in England [Liverpool on Sunday] and we know what it means to the fans. But the main point is the same: three points."

Fernandes' team-mate Rashford was also on the shortlist along with Anwar El Ghazi, Emiliano Martinez, Ben Mee, Mohamed Salah, Tomas Soucek and John Stones.

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith was named Manager of the Month.

His side are just 10 points behind leaders United with two games in hand having secured wins over Wolves, West Brom and Crystal Palace in December, conceding just once in five games.

Carlo Ancelotti, Sean Dyche and United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were the other nominees.

Aston Villa's scheduled home Premier League game with Everton on Sunday has been postponed.

Villa revealed a "significant" coronavirus outbreak on January 7, the day before they were due to face Liverpool in the FA Cup.

While they still went ahead with that match, fielding a squad made up entirely of youth players, their Premier League meeting with Tottenham on Wednesday was not able to go ahead.

The Premier League decided at the start of the week to switch that game with Spurs versus Fulham, another match that had previously been postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak at Craven Cottage last month.

It was always a possibility Villa's hosting of Everton could fall victim as well, and with several of the club's players and staff still in isolation, the Premier League made the decision to postpone on Thursday.

The league also announced a new date for Villa's clash with Newcastle United, which would have been played on December 4 were it not for a coronavirus outbreak at St James' Park.

Now the game is set to take place on January 23, while the Everton match will be rearranged at a later date.

Jose Mourinho welcomed the Premier League's decision to have Tottenham play Fulham on Wednesday as Aston Villa attempt to recover from a coronavirus outbreak.

Spurs will host Fulham when they were scheduled to instead take on Villa, who had to field an academy side against Liverpool in the FA Cup after COVID-19 wiped out their first team.

The Fulham fixture had been postponed from December due to their own problems with the virus, a short-notice call that frustrated Mourinho.

The Tottenham coach was rather more enthused by the league's resolution this week, hailing it as a crucial step in order to keep the season going.

"The biggest impact is to have matches postponed. That is the biggest impact," Mourinho said.

"The changing of the order of the matches, the impact is minimal because, in the end, you have to play 19 matches at home and 19 matches away, you have to play two matches against every team.

"If it is to help the Premier League to go and to end properly, I think it is a solution we all have to accept as a positive solution."

But Fulham see the change rather differently, with the move only confirmed on Monday when Scott Parker's side otherwise expected a week off.

Given the last-minute nature of the initial postponement, the relegation battlers received little sympathy from Mourinho, however.

Asked if the switch was fair on Fulham, Mourinho replied: "Are you serious?

"They had 48 hours to prepare for this game? You think so? I had the news I was not going to play them two hours before the game started."

Parker, a former player of Mourinho's at Chelsea, was not impressed by the shake-up.

"It was a possibility on Saturday afternoon," said Parker. "I didn't think it was realistic.

"We were then told on Monday at 0930 we had to fill in for Villa. I realise we live in unpredictable times. We have to move things and it is not ideal.

"I am normally the last one to moan or whine. To confirm a Premier League game at 0930 on Monday morning is scandalous.

"It's not about the fixture. I accept we have to play but it's the notice. The people making these decisions don't understand."

Fulham have not played since Boxing Day, with a second fixture - against Burnley - also postponed, although Parker's men are unbeaten in five in all competitions.

The Premier League has announced 36 new COVID-19 cases among players and staff at top-flight clubs.

Results were released on Monday following two rounds of testing carried out between January 4 and 10; those found to be positive will self-isolate for a period of 10 days.

The number is a slight decrease on the 40 coronavirus cases which were discovered between December 28 and January 3.

A twice-weekly testing programme has been introduced amid a rise in COVID numbers across the United Kingdom, leading to the competition putting enhanced protocols in place.

The Premier League earlier revealed changes to the upcoming fixture schedule following a coronavirus outbreak at Aston Villa.

Tottenham were due to travel to Villa Park on Wednesday, but their opponents requested a new date due to their players and staff either testing positive or being placed in isolation.

Instead, Spurs are to host Fulham on the same day. The London clubs had previously been due to meet on December 30, only for that game to be postponed following a spike in cases at Craven Cottage.

"With the health of players and staff the priority, the league continues to work with Aston Villa on measures to ensure their league season resumes safely and at the earliest opportunity," a statement from the Premier League read on Monday.

"The Premier League wishes those with COVID-19 a full and swift recovery and will rearrange Aston Villa's game against Tottenham Hotspur as soon as possible."

Tottenham will play Fulham - not Aston Villa - on Wednesday as part of the Premier League's rearranged schedule due to the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spurs had been due to travel to Villa Park for a midweek fixture, but their opponents requested a new date due to their players and staff either testing positive for COVID-19 or being placed in isolation as close contacts.

Instead, Jose Mourinho's side are to host Fulham in a fixture that was originally postponed on December 30 due to a spike in reported coronavirus cases at Craven Cottage.

"With the health of players and staff the priority, the league continues to work with Aston Villa on measures to ensure their league season resumes safely and at the earliest opportunity," a statement from the Premier League read.

"The Premier League wishes those with COVID-19 a full and swift recovery and will rearrange Aston Villa's game against Tottenham Hotspur as soon as possible."

Villa's FA Cup tie with Liverpool went ahead last week, though the club fielded a youthful side in a 4-1 defeat that saw Under-23s manager Mark Delaney take charge in Dean Smith's absence.

With the Spurs game off, their next outing is due to be against Everton, though the Premier League has pushed that back from Saturday to Sunday, with kick-off scheduled for 12:00 GMT.

Fulham, meanwhile, will take on Chelsea in a west London derby on Saturday, instead of the initial Friday date.

"The Premier League, in consultation with its clubs, has enhanced its COVID-19 protocols, in addition to reimplementing a twice-weekly testing programme," the statement concluded.

"The protocols, which strengthen key elements of the current guidance, came into immediate effect this week."

Jose Mourinho is preparing for Tottenham's Premier League clash against Aston Villa to go ahead as scheduled on Wednesday.

After a significant coronavirus outbreak, Villa used youth players in a 4-1 FA Cup loss to Liverpool on Friday.

The outbreak has put their hosting of Spurs at risk, but a postponement would create more fixture chaos for Tottenham.

After a 5-0 FA Cup win over Marine on Sunday, Mourinho was asked when Tottenham's next game would be and the Spurs head coach responded: "Wednesday."

"No-one has told me any different that I am not going to play so tomorrow morning we'll start preparing that game," he added.

"The same Tuesday, unless we're told different."

Spurs are fourth in the Premier League table, four points behind Liverpool and Manchester United.

Neco Williams hopes improving Liverpool's FA Cup record will be a motivating ambition that drives the team on to the final in this season's competition.

Liverpool beat Aston Villa 4-1 in the third round on Friday, though the hosts were forced to field a team comprised of youngsters as a result of a significant COVID-19 outbreak.

Jurgen Klopp's men ended their long wait for a Premier League title last season and tasted Champions League glory in 2019, though they have not won the FA Cup since 2006.

That is a run right-back Williams, who played the full 90 minutes at Villa Park, is eager to change.

"The FA Cup is not a cup we have done that well in, so I think this year we are looking forward to pushing on and to get to the final and hopefully win it," he told the club's website.

"It's always good to score goals and that just gives the lads who scored the confidence to go and do that in the next game, keep adding them goals to the charts.

"The more clinical they are, the more goals they are going to get. So it was good for the lads."

Williams, 19, sees increased opportunities to play as another advantage of an FA Cup run, while praising the efforts of Villa's battling youngsters.

He added: "I think the more rounds we go through the FA Cup then hopefully the more game-time I can get. 

"I think if I was a young lad or I hadn't yet made my debut, the first thing I would want to do is make an impression and to give everything that I have got. 

"And to be fair to their lads, they did what they were told to do and they gave us a good game."

James Milner played on the opposite side of the defence to Williams and felt improvements had been needed after the Reds went into half-time with the match level at 1-1.

Milner told BT Sport: "I think obviously we needed to do some things better. 

"We started pretty well with the counter-pressing and pressed on the ball, but then maybe didn't get it right – especially for the goal [we] let them out of a couple of situations in the corner where they shouldn't have got out. 

"They're good players, they're at Aston Villa for a reason. Every single time you're not quite there, you're going to get punished. They took the goal and we had to lift ourselves again."

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