Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool survived a scare from coronavirus-hit Aston Villa to reach the FA Cup fourth round with a 4-1 win against Aston Villa, who were missing their entire first-team squad because of the pandemic which continues to wreak havoc on English football.
Sadio Mane scored a brace for the Premier League, with Georginio Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah netting one each to cancel out a fine goal by Villa’s 17-year old striker Louie Barry, who scored on his senior debut for Dean Smith’s side.
Villa had stunned Liverpool 7-2 in the Premier League at the same venue in October but on Friday they had no chance of emulating the success as nine of their first team players and five staff members tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
Aston Villa’s Under-23 coach Mark Delaney took charge of the game instead of first-team manager Dean Smith and the club also closed their training ground following the outbreak.
Mane gave Liverpool an early advantage in the fourth-minute after heading one into the net. Louie Barry enjoyed a moment of glory in the 41st, when he levelled after racing clear of Rhys Williams and steered a low shot into the bottom left corner.
After the first-half ended at a score of 1-1, Georginio Wijnaldum restored by scoring in the 60th minute. He side-footed a sublime shot past goalkeeper Akos Onodi after good work from Salah and Takumi Minamino.
Mane made it 3-1 with another header by looping header after a Xherdan Shaqiri cross, while Salah sealed Liverpool’s progress with a shot on the turn past Onodi, who made an array of fine saves throughout the match.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp was not entirely happy with the performance, having praised the youngsters while pointing out that his side had made too many simple errors.
“The kids did really well – that’s good,” he told BT Sport. “Problems in passing and moving. Too many on the wrong side of the ball, not enough recoveries of passes. We had chances and shot the ball directly at the goalie – we changed it in the second half. It was rusty but better in the second half.”