Football Features

“Remember the name!” – Liverpool crush Aston Villa but Louie Barry steals the show in FA Cup clash

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:15, 8 January 2021

In an incredible night of football, Liverpool beat Aston Villa’s side 1-4 in the FA Cup.

Villa had to field a team of youngsters but they more than held their own for much of the game. What did we learn?

1. Thiago is different gravy

Given the XI’s, Liverpool were obviously stronger than Aston Villa and so no one would be surprised at the final score. However what may get lost to the annals of time is that it was 1-1 at half-time and Liverpool, while dominant, hadn’t been very good.

Then Thiago Alcantara came on.

This man is different gravy, even in a team as talented as Liverpool he stands out as something special. The Spaniard’s control over match tempo made him the perfect sub to actually get hold of the game keep Villa on the back-foot constantly. And as the Villa kids began to tire, the class of the Liverpool attack showed. But they only tired as quickly as they did because Thiago had them running and chasing even more than they did in the first-half.

Liverpool always looked better, but didn’t look superior until Thiago came on. The man is different gravy and if the Reds can keep him fit it’ll take some effort to stop Liverpool from winning The Treble this season.

2. Louie Barry leaves his mark

Louie Barry joined Barcelona in 2019, but left in 2020 for reasons that had nothing to do with his footballing quality. Far from getting down about himself (unlike Adama Traoré who made the same move in 2015 only to get relegated) Barry has been working away and reaped the rewards tonight.

There was always going to be at least one Villa chance against Liverpool. One clear shot at goal. And it so happened to fall to Louie Barry who spun Rhys Williams like a top and scorched in behind the Reds’ backline. When confronted with the whites of Caoimhin Kelleher’s eyes he didn’t panic and slotted the ball beautifully into the back of the net.

Remember the name because even though he’s still only 17, Louie Barry looks like the real deal.

3. James Milner is, like, really old

James Milner, who began his career as a right-winger for Leeds in November 2002 as a 16 year-old, became the youngest player to score in the Premier League when he scored a month later. That he’s still playing in 2021 is incredible enough, but that he’s doing so for the best team in the country is even more incredible. His level of fitness is legendarily high, but what would have sapped his strength more than any bleep test was the age of the players opposite him tonight.

Callum Rowe, who bagged an assist on the night was just three years-old when Milner made his debut in 2002. Three of his team-mates were two. Akos Onodi in goal was just one. Two more were just weeks old and incredibly four of the side hadn’t even been born. They were so young that they had to be driven to the game by their parents!

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4. Mark Delaney’s boys did him proud

No one expected Aston Villa to get any sort of result against Liverpool. If they kept the score to single digits people wouldn’t have thought less of them. However they did much better than that; for half a game they really competed with the Reds.

Akos Onodi in goal was really impressive, making a number of great saves in the first-half to keep Liverpool at bay (especially an incredible double save). Dominic Revan and Mungo Bridge at the back were absolute colossi, constantly getting in the way of Liverpool’s crosses and passes, blocking the ball and getting it out of danger. Bridge had 9 clearances and Revan 14!

Mamadou Sylla in midfield was an absolute dynamo, making recovery blocks and harrying Reds attacks. Callum Rowe at left-back defended his flank well and his assist for Louie Barry was perfectly timed. And of course Barry himself was fantastic.

The whole team, really, was quite superb. That they competed with Liverpool for as well as they did and as long as they did is incredible. Obviously their legs gave out in the end as the Reds’ superior stamina and quality told, but Mark Delaney’s kids did him proud.

5. Jurgen Klopp finally gets it right

At first glance it appeared like Jurgen Klopp was being vindictive in his team selection. Knowing that quarantine procedures would force Aston Villa to send out a team of youngsters, he selected a very strong side with a very strong bench where he normally sends out the second string in domestic cups.

Was this Klopp searching for revenge against the side that had beaten his team 5-0 last season and 7-2 this? Well, that would certainly be a delightful story, but it’s far more likely that Liverpool’s next game, which is against Manchester United remember, doesn’t come for nine more days. Had he rested all his starters then they would have gone two weeks without a game.

Now that might sound delightful for a manager who is always complaining about fixture congestion, but recall that Liverpool often struggle when playing their first game after a long break. Moreover their last game was a defeat against Southampton, and letting that linger in the minds of the first-teamers in the build-up to the United game (which in addition to being the biggest game in English club football is also going to be a battle of first vs. second and Liverpool could well be second) would be a major misstep.

Klopp derailed his side’s own title bid in 2018/19 by rotating his XI in a cup game against Wolves after they had lost to Manchester City. The subsequent loss of rhythm saw them drop points and Manchester City claw them back atop the table. He did something similar against Chelsea last season, meaning Liverpool never recovered any rhythm before the dreaded home loss to Atlético Madrid.

So more than a bit of vindictive team selection, it’s far more likely that Jurgen Klopp was just trying to keep his star forwards in some kind of rhythm ahead of their biggest game of the season. He wasn’t about to make the same mistake three times in a row.