FA Cup 3rd Rd: Aston Villa 1 – 4 Liverpool
Back in 2019, Villa’s second-string team lined up against the Liverpool under-23s, and beat them 5-0. The tables have certainly turned, on Villa. A Covid-19 outbreak resulted in nine players testing positive (14 staff in total), and the whole first team squad being unable to play. It would be Mark Delaney, and a mixture of under-23s and under-18s, that stepped up to face the Reds at Villa Park, in the FA Cup third round.
Exciting prospects Jaden Philogene-Bidace and Carney Chukwuemeka, would not be present in Mark Delaney’s starting XI. The pair were training with the first team and so could not make the line-up.
However, the Villa faithful would get to see ex-Barcelona youth player Louie Barry lead the line. Dominic Revan wore the captain’s armband for Villa, having previously made the bench during the 2018/19 season. Despite complaints about injuries and tiredness of his players, Jurgen Klopp fielded several first team players, including the likes of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and James Milner. Four of Villa’s starters weren’t born when Milner made his professional debut for Leeds in November 2002.
The game seemed to be going a very predictable way in the early stages, as a cross into the box met the head of Sadio Mane. The Senegal international put the ball into the net and the kids were behind early doors.
After a handful more chances, Liverpool continued to dominate, but the Villans heads didn’t drop. A sensational double save from Akos Onodi denied Fabinho and Mane. The Hungarian was called into action a few more times before the half was out. Mungo Bridge and Callum Rowe dealt very well with the threat of Mo Salah. The midfield three Raikhy, Sylla and Bogard worked hard and stole the ball off the toes of the Liverpool players. As the confidence of those in claret and blue grew, Callum Rowe played a through ball into space. Louie Barry cut across and shrugged off Rhys Williams, and finished calmly past Kelleher in the Liverpool net.
1-1 at half-time, it was remarkable stuff.
Mark Delaney’s Villans continued their hard work in the second half, but struggled to get out of their own half. Tired legs began to become a factor, as Villa put their bodies on the line to make headers and blocks.
The score was level for the first hour of the game.
The floodgates then opened for a short period, as Wijnaldum, Mane and Salah made it 1-4. Liverpool continued to push, but took their foot off the gas a little. The ball scarcely made it past the halfway line, but Villa continued to fight for every ball.
It was the player’s first dose of first team action, and for many it may be their only first team game. With this in mind, it seems unfair to rate their performances, playing against players that have won the Premier League and Champions League.
Consider them all 10’s, because the expectation for the night was for a real horror show, with Villa’s worst FA Cup defeat of 8-1 to Blackburn in the 19th Century under real threat.
Instead, below there will be a stat from each player’s performance, along with a review of the starting XI. It was a great performance that will live on, they had Jurgen Klopp rattled, and forced him to bring on multi-million pound substitutes.
‘Four of Villa’s starters weren’t born when [James] Milner made his professional debut for Leeds in November 2002.’All of Villa’s first XI all made their first team Villa debuts
Akos Onodi – 8 Saves
Akos Onodi, previously on trial at Liverpool, made some sensational saves to keep Villa in the game. Fabinho’s strike looked destined for the back of the net, and the Hungarian shot-stopper got down well, and then followed up brilliantly to somehow divert Sadio Mane’s shot away from the goal.
Callum Rowe – 1 Assist
At times, Mo Salah struggled to make an impact up against Callum Rowe, as the left-back nipped the ball off his toes or forced him out wide. The youngster’s attacking quality showed too, as his delightful through ball set up Louie Barry.
Dominic Revan © – 14 Clearances
Captain Dominic Revan put in a captain’s performance at the heart of the defence. He was in the right place at the right time more often than not, to make blocks, or clear balls into the box. Also he made a nice run through Liverpool’s midfield, before being fouled on the half-way line.
Mungo Bridge – 3 Tackles
Mungo Bridge proved that he is not only a solid defender, but that he has some skill on the ball. On multiple occasions, Bridge won the ball, and then carried it away from danger.
Jake Walker – 2 Blocks
When he came off in the 74th minute, Jake Walker looked like he couldn’t have run any more. The right-back’s energy was relentless, and he was often in the right place to make a key clearance. Not bad from a player that was recently recalled from a loan spell at Alvechurch.
Mamadou Sylla – 1 Foul Won
Mamadou Sylla had one particularly impressive moment, as he flew into a tackles to prevent Jordan Henderson getting a shot away in the box. The Midfielder held his position well, and pressed effectively to disrupt Liverpool’s passing.
Arjan Raikhy – 2 Tackles
Much Like Sylla, Arjan Raikhy did his best to disrupt Liverpool’s flow in the first half. To a great extent, he succeeded, as the 18-year-old threw in tackles and battled for the ball in the centre of the park.
Ben Chrisene – 17 Touches
Considering Ben Chrisene is only 16-years-old, he looks like he could be a very good player indeed. Chrisene was the first Villa player to get the ball on the deck and attempt to play, which helped Mark Delaney’s men grow in confidence.
Kaine Hayden – 3 Dribbles & 44 touches
Kaine Hayden was a livewire down the right-hand side. His pace and ability on the ball created many of Villa’s ventures towards the Liverpool box. He saw more of the ball than any other Villa player.
Lamare Bogard – 72% Pass Accuracy
Netherlands youth international Lamare Bogard is highly thought of, having been signed in the summer from Feyenoord. The defensive midfielder looked comfortable, and did well to cover for out of position full-backs when needed.
Louie Barry – 1 Goal
There are sure to be calls from fans to put Louie Barry in the first team. The 17-year-old from Sutton Coldfield came up big when it mattered, scoring his chance when it came to him. This wasn’t his only showing of quality though, with an impressive cross, and an accurate long pass to boot.
Klopp would go onto to say of Barry, after the game, “he looks like a young Jamie Vardy!”
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Off the Bench
Brad Young (60) – 1 Tackle
Harrison Sohna (64) – 4 Clearances
Hayden Lindley (64) – 2 Clearances
Sil Swinkels (74) – 2 Tackles
Edward Rowe (74) – 9 Touches
Seemingly even shorter in height than Barry Bannan, Teddy had a great 15 minute cameo getting stuck in and not looking out of place one bit.
The fact that Villa were so keen to get this fixture done, shows just how throw away the FA Cup has become for Premier League teams. The ‘magic’ as it has been so often dubbed, is nowhere to be found in the third round and beyond.
That being said, Mark Delaney spoke of the players’ character after the game. It would have been easy for such a young team to have given up after the first goal, and let their heads drop. But the Villans battled on, and got their reward by equalising and frustrating the Premier League Champions for a good hour.
Louie Barry will never forget his goal, and the rest of the team should be proud for working so hard, and going toe-to-toe with such an accomplished football team.
As for the first team, Wednesday’s fixture against Spurs looks very much in doubt. It’s certainly going to be an interesting couple of weeks at Villa. We wish everyone at the club who tested positive for Covid-19, the very best and hope they recover swiftly and without any complications.