Aston Villas Wesley (left) celebrates with Mahmoud Ibrahim Hassan of Aston Villa after scoring his fifth goal in the quarter-finals of the English League Cup Team had scored football match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, Tuesday 17th December 2019. (AP Photo / Rui Vieira)
BIRMINGHAM, England – The youngest Liverpool team to ever play a competitive game were brought to school in the quarter-finals of the English League Cup on Tuesday.
With his best players in Qatar for the Club World Cup, Liverpool had to line up his young players – with an average age of 19 years and 182 days – against Aston Villa and they were beaten 5-0.
Four of the goals were scored in the first half for Villa, who reached the last four of five competitions won – most recently in 1996.
As for Liverpool, it was the club's first national defeat this season that was hardly unexpected under the circumstances.
An unusual encounter meant that the Premier League leader had to play two games in different competitions within 24 hours on different continents.
While coach Jürgen Klopp and star players like Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk traveled to Qatar to take part in the Club World Cup – a tournament in which the winners of the various continental club titles took part – Liverpool had to play a game together contested patch full of youth players to play Villa in League Cup.
Five players debuted on the senior team, one of whom was striker Tom Hill, wearing number 99 on the back of his shirt, while Neil Critchley, coach of the Liverpool U-23 team, played Klopp replaced. Klopp spoke in Doha hours before kick-off and said he would watch the game with the older players on TV.
He would have been impressed with how his youngsters started when they poured over a villa team that also missed many of their first choice players.
Liverpool, however, took no risk and had to pay for it.
"For a long time I thought we were good at the game," said Critchley. “You get a harsh reality of the quality you're facing. We had little legs and steam in the second half, which was understandable, but it was an incredible night.
"I don't think anyone wanted it to end."
The first two goals from Villa were cruel for Liverpool. Conor Hourihane's free kick missed everyone in the area and crept into the inside post in the 14th minute before Ahmed Elmohamady blocked a cross from right from Morgan Boyes, overtook goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, and the corner fell into the box after three minutes 2: 0.
Striker Jonathan Kodjia scored two more goals in the 37th and 45th minute before half-time when Villa took advantage of Liverpool's weak defense.
The guests held their ground in the second half until substitute Wesley scored a fifth goal in stoppage time, which for many critics questions the integrity of the competition.
"It was probably a defeat (situation)," Hourihane said. "Everyone expected us to win, so we had to be professional and do our job."
Critchley described it as an "encouragingly hard" opportunity for his young team, saying that villa manager Dean Smith and assistant coach John Terry – the former captain of England – came to the locker room after the game for Liverpool's players to congratulate.
"They said how difficult it was for them that we have some really good players to keep going and wished them all the best for the future," said Critchley. "This will be a moment that I remember and that the players will remember for the rest of our lives."
The other three quarter-finals will take place on Wednesday, and Manchester City will continue to defend their title with an away game in third-class Oxford.
Manchester United is home to fourth division Colchester, while Everton and Leicester have an All Premier League match.
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