Left back Andy Robertson charged in from the flank to meet Mane's cross in the 87th minute with Liverpool facing the imminent end of its unbeaten record in the league. Seven minutes later, Mane scored a dramatic second goal with a header.
The Senegalese forward said Liverpool had to win ugly against a Villa squad who, he said, had put up the biggest challenge of any of Liverpool's opponents so far. "Today was not our best performance but we deserved the three points," he said.
Liverpool had earlier missed a succession of chances to level the game following Mahmoud "Trezeguet" Hassan's goal for Villa. The hosts snatched the lead in the 21st minute when Trezeguet reacted quickest to knock John McGinn's cross past goalkeeper Alisson.
That was judged onside by video review, though it was close, but VAR took the opposite view when Roberto Firmino put the ball in the net for Liverpool shortly after. After a lengthy review of Firmino beating Tyrone Mings to Sadio Mane's cross, VAR showed Firmino's right shoulder fractionally — and contentiously — offside.
The Premier League said on Twitter that VAR's line was "aligned to his armpit, which was marginally ahead of the last Villa defender." Firmino had been given offside by the assistant referee before the review.
"It would be cool if somebody could clarify" how VAR is used, manager Jurgen Klopp said. Liverpool has not lost in the league since January.
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