Liverpool paid tribute to Aston Villa’s youngsters as they gave the champions in a scare in the most unusual of FA Cup third round ties. The hosts were forced to name a squad comprising of academy players, after a Covid outbreak wiped out their senior team, forcing Dean Smith to watch the game from home.
For many, it was their first taste of senior football, but stuck to their task and earned credit, despite eventually losing 4-1.
Jurgen Klopp named an exceptionally strong as the Reds look to win the FA Cup for the first time in 15 years.
The Reds manager has failed to get his past the fifth round, but put their name in hat following the win in the Midlands.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing, after Sadio Mane put them in front after just four minutes, Mark Delaney’s youngsters grew into the game.
And despite having almost none of the ball, they sprung to life to grab a stunning equaliser through Louie Barry.
Klopp was also very complimentary of the Villa players, for making the evening a lot more difficult than many anticipated.
Speaking to BT Sport, he said: “Yeah bit more of a challenge than it should have been but first and foremost we have to say that the kids did really well – that’s good. We scored a nice goal from that moment on.
“Didn’t pass with the right speed. We had football problems. We saw in the second half that the football problems were football.
“It’s good. We needed a little bit longer but then it was completely clear. Completely comfortable and like it should have been”
It was 17-year old Barry that put his name in lights, when the former Barcelona forward burst beyond Rhys Williams to strike Villa level.
Following the defeat he spoke of his pride in his own performance and the one from his teammates.
“I knew I had it [the goal] when I saw it… the ball in the back of the net is proudest I’ve been. Family screaming at the TV. I was just happy to score – hope I score many more.
“I was working very hard. When I celebrated everything came out of me. Relief. It was quite good.
“I’ve never been so proud of a team – from start to finish we gave it our all. Credit to ourselves and the club.”