Aston Villa eased into the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup after beating the youngest side in Liverpool's history 5-0 on Tuesday night.
With Liverpool's first team out in Qatar ahead of the Club World Cup semi-final against Mexican side Monterrey on Wednesday, 11 changes were made and five debuts were handed out from the start as U23 boss Neil Critchley took charge at Villa Park.
- Carabao Cup results | Carabao Cup fixtures
- How the teams lined up
- Critchley reveals Klopp's half-time encouragment
Conor Hourihane's fortunate free-kick put Villa in front, a Morgan Boyes own goal doubled their lead shortly after and Jonathan Kodjia added two more before the break. Wesley, who replaced Kodjia as a late substitute, ended a nine-game barren run with a stoppage-time fifth.
It put Villa through to their first Carabao Cup semi-final since 2013, where they will face one of the six sides in action on Wednesday night.
How Villa cruised past Liverpool's youngsters
Aston Villa: Nyland (6), Elmohamady (7), Chester (7), Konsa (6), Taylor (6), Lansbury (6), Luiz (6), Hourihane (7), Jota (7), Kodjia (7), Trezeguet (6)
Subs: Wesley (6), Hause (n/a)
Liverpool: Kelleher (6), Hoever (6), Boyes (5), Van den Berg (5), Gallacher (6), Chirivella (5), Christie-Davies (6), Kane (6), Longstaff (5), Hill (5), Elliott (7)
Subs: Bearne (n/a), Clarkson (n/a), Norris (n/a)
Man of the match: Jonathan Kodjia
It may have been the youngest Liverpool starting line-up in history (with an average age of 19 years and 182 days), but that did not deter them early on. They made a far better start than Villa and had some good early chances. Orjan Nyland in the home side's goal was forced to make two fine quickfire saves after 11 minutes from Harvey Elliott and then Herbie Kane to keep the scores level.
But their inexperience told just a couple of minutes later as Villa took the lead, as Hourihane swung a free-kick in from wide that bounced all the way through and into the bottom corner.
There was a huge element of fortune about Villa's second as well, as Ahmed Elmohamady's speculative cross took a deflection off of Boyes before looping over the helpless Caoimhin Kelleher.
The second took some of the spark out of Liverpool and eventually the cracks started to show. It was all too easy for Villa's third on 37 minutes as Sepp van den Berg's loose pass allowed Jota to poke through to Kodjia, who raced in and slotted past Kelleher for his first goal of the season.
- Only Henri Lansbury kept his place for Aston Villa from their 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United in the Premier League on Saturday. Orjan Nyland started in goal, while James Chester and Conor Hourihane made their returns from injury. Jonathan Kodjia started up front.
- As expected it was a completely different teamsheet for Liverpool. Tony Gallacher, Isaac Christie-Davies, Luis Longstaff, Morgan Boyes and Thomas Hill made their senior Liverpool debuts, while 22-year-old Pedro Chirivella took the captain’s armband. Rhian Brewster missed out through injury. The average age of the starting XI was just 18 years and three months old.
Another sloppy moment, this time from Kane, allowed Villa in on the stroke of half-time for a fourth. Jota played in Elmohamady, and he crossed for Kodjia to turn home his second of the night.
The second half was a cruise for Villa, who were likely told to take it easy by boss Dean Smith to reserve some energy for their battle against relegation in the Premier League. It was the perfect ending for the Villa boss, though, as he saw his main striker Wesley emerge from the bench to score for the first time since October with a cool finish in stoppage time after being fed into the box by Trezeguet.
They await their semi-final fate, with the draw taking place on Wednesday night after Oxford vs Manchester City - live on Sky Sports Football.
Aston Villa's Dean Smith: "It was a little bit of a weird game, probably the weirdest quarter-final of a major competition that I've seen or been involved in. But I've got to give the Liverpool kids credit because they were very good, technically-gifted players who were tactically switched-on and very well coached. They made it difficult for us at times.
"But we did what we had to do. We scored five goals and conceded zero, our goalkeeper made some good saves and we could have scored more. The objective was to get through and we've done that. It was a very professional display, I asked for a good attitude and I thought we got that today. I'm very pleased to be in the semi-final."
Liverpool's U23 coach Neil Critchley: "I thought we were magnificent from the first whistle. The start to the game was fantastic, we had a couple of chances, we were there from the first moment and we were really unfortunate to concede from a free-kick and a cruel deflection. You then find yourself 2-0 down thinking we've actually played well.
"For long periods of the game I thought we were well in the game, but you get a harsh reality of the quality you're facing. We ran out of legs and steam a bit in the second half, which is understandable, but it was an incredible night and I don't think any of us wanted it to end.
"The support we had was unbelievable. They were well aware of the team that was going to take to the pitch tonight and they've come here in their thousands and stayed until the end and clapped them. That was a special moment for myself and my players."
Man of the match: Jonathan Kodjia
With Wesley struggling for goals in the Premier League, Smith would have been delighted to see his back-up striker show so much confidence in front of goal. Wesley may have scored late off the bench but for the first time this season, the Villa boss faces a real dilemma over who to start up front against Southampton.
Post-match Opta stats
- Aston Villa's 5-0 victory was just their second win in their last 21 home matches against Liverpool in all competitions (D5 L14), ending a run of six consecutive defeats against the Reds on home soil.
- Only Burton's Liam Boyce (5) has scored more League Cup goals this season than Aston Villa's Conor Hourihane (4).
- Jonathan Kodjia netted his first double for Aston Villa since August 2018, against Brentford in the Championship.
Aston Villa's hectic festive schedule begins at home to Southampton on Saturday (3pm), before they welcome Norwich to Villa Park on Boxing Day (3pm). Two days later they head to Watford on the 28th (3pm), and visit Burnley on New Year's Day for a 12.30pm kick-off.
Liverpool's first team will be in action again in the Club World Cup on Wednesday against Monterrey. Should they beat their Mexican opposition then the final of that competition will be on Saturday. Either way, their next Premier League game will be at Leicester on Boxing Day (8pm).