LIVERPOOL manager Kenny Dalglish hailed Luis Suarez’s strength of character after the striker overcame off-field distractions to lead the Reds to victory.
Forward Craig Bellamy and centre-back Martin Skrtel scored the first-half goals that moved the visitors to within a win of the top four and left Aston Villa 10th.
But it was Suarez behind much of Liverpool’s potency, despite missing three days of training because of an ongoing Football Association hearing into a charge – which he denies – of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
“Suarez has been sat in a hotel room for three days,” said Dalglish. “He only trained on Tuesday and Friday. Then he put in a performance like that. It speaks volumes for the man.” The Uruguayan twice hit the woodwork in the second half – first lashing onto the underside of the bar and then hitting the post with a cute chip – as Liverpool threatened to add to their tally.
By then Villa were already two behind. In the 11th minute Bellamy pounced from close range after Brad Guzan could only parry a point-blank backheeled effort from Suarez.
Just four minutes later stand-in goalkeeper Guzan was beaten again, Skrtel reaching Bellamy’s whipped left-wing corner with a glancing header across goal.