Fabio Borini scored his first Premier League goal for the club in almost two years and Rickie Lambert added a second with just over 10 minutes remaining to secure Liverpool’s sixth win in their last eight games.
Villa – who have now found the net just once in their last seven top flight matches – created several good chances to level but Simon Mignolet produced a fine stop to deny Christian Benteke.
The result drew boos from the home crowd, but under-pressure Villa boss Paul Lambert will be encouraged by his side’s build-up play and the performance of impressive new signing Carles Gil, although, once again, the finishing touch was missing and they remain three points above the drop zone.
Liverpool went into the game having won their last four away matches in all competitions and started brightly, forcing a corner inside the opening two minutes, which saw Philippe Coutinho volley Alberto Moreno’s cross wide at the back post.
Nathan Baker headed Keiren Westwood’s free-kick off target moments later as Aston Villa looked to get a foothold in the contest, but Alan Hutton had to be alert to intercept Jordan Henderson’s attempted pass to the returning Raheem Sterling as Liverpool took charge of the contest.
Moreno thought he’d put the visitors in front on 17 minutes, when he picked up the ball 25 yards out, charged forward and drilled in from the edge of the box, but the linesman’s flag had already signalled him offside.
Martin Skrtel headed Gabriel Agbonlahor’s whipped cross behind moments later, in a rare first-half Villa foray forward, but Liverpool were soon back on the attack, with Brad Guzan having to smother the ball at Sterling’s feet after a smart Moreno pass.
Brendan Rodgers’ side got their reward for their dominant start on 24 minutes when Lazar Markovic fed Henderson and the England international’s cross from the right side of the box found unmarked Borini, who stretched to turn the ball in at the back post.
The goal was Borini’s second in the Premier League for Liverpool but owed much to slack marking from Jores Okore.
Liverpool continued to push forward and Coutinho was unable to convert an impressive move, heading straight at Guzan, before Borini shot high and wide from just inside the box and Sterling blew a glorious chance, chipping into the ‘keeper’s arms when clean through on goal.
Liverpool almost paid for that wastefulness when Carlos Sanchez’s swerving long-range drive nearly deceived Simon Mignolet, before the previously anonymous Tom Cleverley fired over from Westwood’s superb pass.
Villa forced two corners in quick succession at the start of the second-half but Liverpool continued to provide the more incisive play and Baker had to slide in to deny Borini before Guzan came up with an excellent finger-tip save to push Skrtel’s header onto the post.
Lambert brought on Gil – a £3.2m recruit from Valencia – on the hour mark and just moments later Villa had their best chance of the game, but Mignolet produced a superb stop to parry Benteke’s powerful, close-range shot.
Gil then showed some class, stepping past his marker before just failing to latch on to a one-two with fellow sub Andreas Weimann, before Baker headed over from a corner, Skrtel slid in to deny Benteke and Baker then failed to connect in the box as Aston Villa pressed for a leveller.
Villa were looking the most likely to score next and Benteke hooked Hutton’s high cross wide before heading Gil’s corner off target.
However, Liverpool remained a threat on the break and Lucas Leiva forced Guzan into a fine stop with a drive from the edge of the box, before sub Lambert put the game beyond doubt.
On 79 minutes Villa half-cleared a Liverpool corner but Fabian Delph only succeeded in picking out Sterling. The forward moved the ball on to Lambert and the striker fired a right-foot shot across Guzan into the far corner.
Villa tried to find a response – Delph tested Mignolet from long range before Benteke was again off target – but Liverpool comfortably saw out the remainder of the match to take all three points.
Soccer Saturday reaction – Charlie Nicholas
It felt as if the so-called protest wasn’t much, the Holte End looked full to me, so that’s maybe a positive for them. That’s as well as I’ve seen Villa play in terms of going forward – in the first half there were two or three attempts but nothing clear cut. At half-time 1-0 was justified, Liverpool were a threat, and Sterling could have scored but for a poor, poor finish. The second half Villa started fantastically well, Benteke had a couple of chances. The lad Baker missed two absolute certainties. It maybe flatters Liverpool, the result. But for Villa it’s the same old story and I can’t cover that up for Paul Lambert or his players.
Aston Villa: Guzan (7), Hutton (7), Okore (5), Baker (6), Cissokho (6), Sanchez (7), Westwood (6), Delph (5), Cleverley (4), Benteke (6), Agbonlahor (6).
Used subs: Weimann (6), Gil (7)
Liverpool: Mignolet (6), Can (6), Skrtel (7), Sakho (6), Markovic (6), Henderson (8), Lucas (6), Moreno (7), Sterling (6), Borini (6), Coutinho (7)
Used subs: Enrique (6), Lambert (7), Ibe (6)
Man of the match: Jordan Henderson