Yet few could argue with his effectiveness, Benteke scoring two fine goals to sandwich a brilliant assist for Andreas Weimann to net Villa’s second, albeit all indebted to slack home defending.
By contrast, Liverpool’s starlets suffered. Jonjo Shelvey never got to grips with his left midfield role while Raheem Sterling is beginning to feel the understandable effects of the whirlwind start to his senior career.
No player has appeared more times for Liverpool this season and the 17-year-old, hounded out of the game by Villa’s dogged rearguard action, would benefit from being withdrawn from the firing line for part of the imminent hectic festive schedule.
He isn’t the only one. Liverpool appeared gripped by a general fatigue on Saturday, both physically and mentally. But with such a small squad, Rodgers has few realistic options to change that.
To think matters may have been decidedly different had Luis Suarez not played the ball behind Gerrard rather than in front of him when the skipper was clean through on goal.
That came in the sixth minute, the highlight of an opening quarter in which Liverpool’s dominance suggested a home goal was a given.
When Suarez did have a hand in the opener in the 29th minute, it was not how Rodgers would have intended. The striker’s over-elaborate turn merely gifted possession to Villa on the halfway line, sparking a move that ended with Brett Holman rolling the ball into the path of the unpressured Benteke to strike home from 22 yards off the post.
It epitomised a frustrating afternoon for Suarez. But the Uruguayan wasn’t alone, Joe Allen in particular giving cause for concern with another ineffective outing.
If Villa’s first goal was a body blow for Liverpool, then their second landed the knockout punch. It was a fine effort too, Weimann feeding Benteke down the inside right channel and then allowed to advance into the area unmarked to tuck away his team-mate’s outrageous backheel pass.
Any hopes of a Liverpool comeback were dashed six minutes into the second half when Holman nipped in after Allen sold substitute Joe Cole short and again found Benkete, who simply strolled past Martin Skrtel, held off Allen and finished beyond Pepe Reina.
Even before then, Liverpool appeared to have run out of ideas. Yes, there were strong penalty shouts when Daniel Agger was tugged inside the area by Ciaran Clark and a Glen Johnson header was handled by Nathan Baker – especially as Allen was penalised for a similar offence at West Ham United last week – but Liverpool deserved no more than the late consolation when Gerrard’s head helped guide home a Johnson shot.
Back to the drawing board? There’s been enough progress in the last few months to prevent such a kneejerk reaction.
But this was a reality check that it will be a long, long time before the bigger picture is completed for Rodgers.
MAN OF THE MATCH. Stewart Downing. Determined against his former club, he was by far the best of a disappointing bunch