Benitez demands Liverpool's main men must lift their game

Gerrard and Torres under fire as Villa inflict first home league defeat since 2007
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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez told his senior players last night that they would have to take responsibility if Liverpool were to turn around their Premier League season after a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa, their second loss in three games. The manager saw Steven Gerrard gave away the penalty for Villa's third goal.

Benitez's team had not lost a home game since December 2007 in the league and the Liverpool manager made special mention of that run in his programme notes before the match only to see it crumble in the face of a determined Villa performance. An own goal from Lucas Leiva and two more from Curtis Davies and Ashley Young – from the penalty spot – gave Villa their first win of the season.

Fernando Torres scored for the home side, the first time he has scored in the league and been on the losing side for Liverpool. Benitez said: "The team as a team has to improve and it depends on the senior players. They have to take responsibility and go forward."

Gerrard brought down Nigel Reo-Coker for the penalty when Liverpool had reduced the deficit to 2-1 having gone in at half-time two goals down. Benitez said mistakes had let his team down and refused to accept that a second defeat – after the away reverse at Spurs – pointed to more fundamental problems with the team."When you look at the goal we conceded you will see that it is difficult to change this situation," he said. "We made mistakes. We won many games last season with this squad and we will have to do the same again this year. We have to win against Bolton on Saturday now.

"We were not playing well, and we were up against a team who are excellent on the counter-attack. Their goalkeeper made some great saves, but when that happens we just have to make more chances. This squad is virtually the same as last season, so I believe it is good enough to mount a title challenge."

Martin O'Neill was critical of his own Villa supporters who had booed the team at half-time and full-time of their opening day defeat to Wigan Athletic. "I said at the time if you get booed off at the end of a game and you deserve it then fine. I was disconcerted by the fact that it was at half-time. I didn't see Liverpool being booed of at half-time [when they were 2-0 down].

"It is staggering to me the number of prophecies made after one game of three or four games. It is staggering but then nothing surprises me."

This was just Villa's third win in their last 15 games and O'Neill said that he had great faith in his young team. "This is essentially a young side," he said. "They will take criticism from me when it is deserved. We have some outstanding young players. Defensively we need some experience and we will see what we can do about that in the next few days."

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