Liverpool’s winners and losers from 4-1 win over Aston Villa’s kids
Liverpool survived a scare against Aston Villa’s youngsters to cruise through to the FA Cup fourth round thanks to a 4-1 win at Villa Park.
Due to a coronavirus outbreak at the Midlands club, Villa’s entire first-team squad and coaching staff were forced to stay away from the stadium.
In their absence, a team with an average age of 18 stepped up to take on the Premier League champions, and they put up a good fight.
Sadio Mane got the game underway with a well-taken header just two minutes into the game, as it appeared the significantly stronger side would walk into the next round.
But Villa got a goal back just before half-time through Louie Barry as it seemed the most unlikely of cup upsets could be on the cards.
Jurgen Klopp brought on Thiago Alcantara at half-time and clearly tore into his flops at the interval, with the Reds coming out swinging in the second period.
Goals from Mane, Mohamed Salah and Georginio Wijnaldum within a short period of time were enough to send Liverpool through to the fourth round.
Here are the Daily Star’s winners and losers from the game at Villa Park.
The Spaniard came on at the interval for Henderson as he looks to continue building his fitness after a lengthy lay-off through injury.
He made an immediate impact, constantly dropping deep to collect the ball and ping passes over the Villa defence.
Thiago almost made the difference just five minutes after coming on, as he took on one Villa defender before slipping through Neco Williams, who played to Salah – who was in an offside position when he stabbed the ball home.
Regardless of the competition, scoring two goals is always something to be happy with, and Mane was the best of Liverpool’s attackers throughout.
He put Liverpool on their way to the fourth round with a strong header after just two minutes, and added to the rout with a looping header just on the hour mark.
The forward was relentless with his movement, and caused constant problems for the young Villa defence.
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Shaqiri hasn’t had the best time of it recently, having been linked with a move away from the club.
The Swiss attacker has barely featured for the Reds this season, and was only brought on with half an hour remaining.
But, like Thiago, he had an instant impact and played brilliantly.
Shaqiri was constantly asking for the ball and playing cute passes to unlock the Villa defence, and his performance will prove Liverpool need to keep him around until the end of the season at least.
Williams had the perfect chance to prove that Klopp needn’t go out and sign a new centre-back in the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
But instead, he was at fault for Aston Villa’s equalising goal, as he allowed Barry to move past him with ease before slotting home.
The young centre-back looked comfortable on the ball alongside Fabinho, but was poor in the build-up to Villa’s goal, allowing the inexperienced Barry to get on the wrong side of him and out of sight as he sprinted through on goal.
The Egyptian put in another disappointing performance at Villa Park.
He’s been sloppy in front of goal recently, with his last goal coming against Crystal Palace the week before Christmas.
Salah looked a step behind the pace, and had a first-half of half-chances, but often failed to get the ball under control.
He grabbed a goal late in the game, but will likely be unhappy with his performance.
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Henderson looked uncharacteristically poor at Villa Park, and was taken off at half-time as a result.
The club captain had a chance to put Liverpool 2-0 up during the first half of the game, but opted to try and square the ball instead of shooting when he looked to be clean through on goal.
His passing beyond the Villa defence wasn’t good enough either, and there was a notable difference in Liverpool’s play when he was replaced with Thiago.
Another Liverpool midfielder who failed to impress.
Jones’ game started well, as he provided a brilliant cross for Mane’s first goal of the game.
But he didn’t have much of an impact other than that, and was continuously sloppy in possession.
Liverpool player ratings
Coahim Kelleher – 7
Neco Williams – 6
Rhys Williams – 5
Fabinho – 5
James Milner – 6
Georginio Wijnaldum – 6
Jordan Henderson – 4
Curtis Jones – 6
Mohamed Salah – 5
Takumi Minamino – 5
Sadio Mane – 7
Thiago Alcantara – 8
Xherdan Shaqiri – 8
Roberto Firmino – 6
Divock Origi – 6
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6
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