The fact that Liverpool have had to play two games in the span of around 24 hours is the result of poor scheduling and a whole lot of chaos. Courtesy of this predicament it was clear to see that there was going to be some kind of congestion, which as we now know, led to the Reds’ youngest ever team being fielded at Villa Park for their quarter-final against Aston Villa.
Giving it their all
There were decent spells of possession for Liverpool throughout the course of the first half, but two bizarre goals from Conor Hourihane and a Morgan Boyes own goal allowed Villa to build up a handsome looking lead. Jonathan Kodjia proceeded to score his first brace in over a year to make it 4-0 before half time, and then in injury time, the youngsters’ second half clean sheet diminished as Wesley made it five.
Neil Critchley, who was the stand-in manager for Liverpool whilst Jurgen Klopp is away at the Club World Cup, was proud of his young players.
“I thought we were magnificent. We were fantastic from the start, we had a couple of chances from the first whistle. We were really unfortunate to concede and then find ourselves 2-0 down. It was an incredible night and no-one wanted it to end. The support we had was unbelievable.
“The conduct of the Villa players was first class. For Dean Smith and John Terry to come in to our dressing room after the game and say the things they said… They said ‘keep going, good luck’ and wished us the best. A moment I will remember and the players will remember for the rest of their lives.
A spirited display
“Some of them showed the potential to one day play for us, or in the Premier League. They will know it was just part of their journey. My overwhelming feeling is one of immense pride.”
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith was also very honest with the nature of the game and the win.
“It was probably the weirdest major competition quarter-final I’ve seen or been involved in. They started brightly, they’ve got some technically gifted young players. We were clinical, professional and showed a good attitude. It was a bit of a no-win for us apart from getting through to a semi-final.
“I was brought up coaching U18s and U23s, Liverpool played really well tonight but they’ll be disappointed with the result. They’ve got some starlets that will be performing at Premier League level in the next three or four years.”
Liverpool will go head to head with Monterrey in just a matter of hours, with the winner going on to meet Flamengo in the final to see who will be crowned world champions.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, will be well aware of the fact that they’re just a two-legged semi-final away from returning to Wembley once again.