Carabao Cup: Youngest Liverpool side in history crashes out of cup as Aston Villa book semi-final berth
Liverpool’s youngest-ever side were clinically swept aside by Aston Villa, who booked their place in the Carabao Cup semi-final with a 5-0 win.
After a promising start for the visitors, Conor Hourihane opened the scoring before an unfortunate Morgan Boyes own goal doubled the hosts’ lead three minutes later.
Jonathan Kodjia struck a third and fourth from close range before half time, with a late Wesley effort adding extra gloss to the scoreline, as an experienced Villa side strolled into the final four of the cup.
And the defeat - which always appeared likely after naming such an inexperienced side - put paid to any dreams of a domestic sweep by the Reds.
READ MORE: Liverpool boss Critchley reveals 'immense pride' for youngsters despite 5-0 defeat at Aston Villa
Liverpool, with their efforts focused on the Club World Cup in Qatar, fielded a side with an average age of 19 years, six months and three days.
And led by Under-23s coach Neil Critchley the Premier League’s runaway leaders made a promising start against the hosts, who themselves made 10 changes from their last league match.
First Herbie Kane struck over the bar from the edge of the box, before former Fulham youngster Harvey Elliott was allowed to travel into the box and forced a strong save from Oerjan Haaskjold Nyland.
The resulting corner saw Nyland produce a great save with his feet to deny Kane on the edge of the six-yard box, before Elliott half-volleyed the rebound into the side-netting.
The warning shots had been fired by Liverpool’s youngsters and the message was clearly received from Dean Smith’s side, who scored against the run of play on 13 minutes.
Hourihane whipped in a devilish, inswinging free-kick from the right wing and Caoimhin Kelleher could not keep it out amid pressure from the onrushing Kodjia.
It was a footballing lesson for the courageous youngsters and that lesson got substantially harsher just three minutes later when Ahmed Elmohamady’s cross deflected off Boyes and looped in off the far post.
Ki-Jana Hoever struck a decent effort from range which was deflected wide as the visitors sought a glimmer of hope, but Villa’s significantly more experienced side always threatened to do damage on the break.
As it was, Kodjia struck twice in the final eight minutes of the half to put the home side into a commanding four-goal lead at the break. The first saw the Ivory Coast international burst onto a prod from Jota to roll the ball beyond Kelleher.
The second was much more conventional. Jota picked out Elmohamady on the right wing and the Egyptian’s ball into the six-yard box was slotted home by the former Bristol City man.
As the half-time statistics suggested - with four goals from three shots - the home side were ruthless and Liverpool once again rued that lack of bite when Kane was kept out by Nyland in the opening exchanges of the second half.
The Norwegian goalkeeper was forced into a fine reflex save after a cross-shot from Boyes was deflected towards goal from close range by Kane.
It might have been five when Trezeguet was played through on goal but, having rolled an effort underneath the keeper, was denied by a late clearance from Van den Berg.
The Egyptian then prodded over shortly after, before Kane’s far-post header forced Nyland into another save.
Trezeguet was next to try his luck, forcing Kelleher into another save before Kane struck wide from distance.
Kelleher, who will have more enjoyable nights, had to palm away a Henri Lansbury strike from the edge of the box as the former Arsenal man was afforded time and space.
And with time running out, Brazilian striker Wesley slotted home his first goal in nine matches to rub salt in the wounds.
Liverpool will have been left disappointed by the defeat but will see most of their first team squad face Monterrey in the Club World Cup on Wednesday.
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