Aston Villa overwhelmed Liverpool’s youngest-ever starting line-up to cruise into the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup at Villa Park.
With the Reds’ senior players in action at the Club World Cup in Qatar on Wednesday, Under-23s boss Neil Critchley led a side containing five debutants and which had an average age of 19 years, six months and three days.
While Villa made 10 changes from their Premier League defeat at Sheffield United, their vastly superior experience ensured they lived up to their favourites tag.
Liverpool began brightly – and indeed enjoyed significant spells of possession throughout the match – but conceded two freak goals in the space of three first-half minutes to allow the hosts to settle.
First, Conor Hourihane’s free-kick from the right deceived Caoimhin Kelleher, and the Reds keeper then saw an Ahmed Elmohamady cross deflect off Morgan Boyes and loop over him into the left corner.
Jonathan Kodjia added Villa’s third with a cool finish after Jota’s through ball before sweeping in Elmohamady’s cross from the right.
Wesley completed the scoring for the hosts, who reached the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 2012-13.
Five-times winners Villa head into a two-legged semi-final in January, although manager Dean Smith might view forthcoming league matches against Southampton, Norwich and Watford – the three teams below them in the table – as arguably of greater significance.