Winning ugly is much, much better than losing or drawing prettily. We've had enough of that, thanks.
Look, that wasn't good. There was almost zero good aside from Liverpool's goal and Simon Mignolet. How many times has Liverpool been on the other end of that in the last few years?
The first 40 minutes were "good enough," keeping patient possession to ensure Villa didn't have the chance to rent Liverpool asunder on the counter, and getting men behind the ball when Villa took over. The final 50 minutes were "hold onto your butts, this is gonna be a rocky ride." But Liverpool held onto its butts. Barely, but their butts are still there.
Liverpool's starting game plan seemed the right one, even if it was a slight surprise to see the exact same XI and formation as against Stoke. We learned, to painful effect, how Villa can punish Liverpool's weaknesses: Liverpool's weaknesses in the air, Liverpool's weaknesses on the counter, Liverpool's weaknesses on set plays. For 40 minutes, Villa had zero chances to exploit those weaknesses. Sure, Liverpool created just four chances of their own, took just four shots in the first half – the goal, one off-target, and two blocked – but Liverpool converted its best opportunity, and converted it with aplomb. Sturridge kept possession after Okore's attempted tackle, Enrique whipped in a glorious low cross which Coutinho cleverly dummied, and Sturridge – who'd smartly continued his run – danced around Luna and Guzan before hammering into the net from close range.
But from there, downhill, and downhill fairly quickly. Villa's bum rush began as the first half drew to a close, with three successive corners, a fantastic block from Toure on Bacuna's effort, an excellent save from Mignolet on Benteke, and a fortuitous deflection from Agger on Weimann's blast when Liverpool's failed to fully clear that third consecutive corner.
Depressingly, the rest of the match played out in a similar vein, continuing to seesaw further and further in Villa's direction. Liverpool weren't let down by tactics as much as they were by individual mistakes and poor performances. Lucas and Gerrard were especially disappointing, conceding possession far too easily in the second half, overmatched by the Bacuna-Westwood-Delph triumvirate. Coutinho had one of his rare off days, creating no chances, taking just one wildly off-target shot, and completing just 73% of his passes (59% in the attacking third), but he at least played a key role in Liverpool's goal. Enrique and Johnson also gave the ball away too frequently, especially Johnson, but at least "did enough" to prevent their opponents from capitalizing on those errors. Agger once again appeared to want to subconsciously punish Mignolet for replacing Reina, nearly scoring an own goal on an overhit back pass under no pressure, requiring Mignolet to shin wide for a corner.
Liverpool won because Villa couldn't take its chances, thanks to their own wastefulness, decent defending from Toure and Agger (Benteke won just 5 of 12 aerial duels, after winning 12/22 and 14/23 against Chelsea and Arsenal), a crucial block from Gerrard, and another miraculous save from Mignolet. It's nice when that happens to someone else for a change. Mignolet's 86th-minute stop on Benteke's blast was most impressive, somehow clawing away the open strike after the striker found space between the two center-backs.
There's that old cliche about grinding out results, about how teams win even when their performance doesn't merit a win. Liverpool won 1-0, scoring with its only shot on target. They took five in total, just one after Sturridge's 21st minute goal. Meanwhile, Villa took 17. 17! At this point of the season, knowing all too well Liverpool's recent history, that'll do. That'll do just fine for now.
Liverpool hasn't won its first two matches of the campaign since 2008-09, hasn't kept a clean sheet in the first two matches since 2005-06. Yes, there are worries, and rightfully so, but Liverpool will undoubtedly play far better and lose or draw matches this season. It's happened before, it'll probably happen again. You can't complain about six points from six.