Aston Villa 7 Liverpool 2: Watkins hat-trick and Grealish double leave champions shell-shocked at Villa Park

By Charlie Wyett

WE all knew a team from Merseyside would be Invincible after four games.

Just not the team in blue.

After one of the strangest but also magnificently entertaining days in the history of the Premier League, the table today has a properly weird look about it.

Not only with Everton top but unbeaten Aston Villa, having played a game less, in second spot.

And there, down in fifth place are Liverpool, the champions, having just been absolutely battered, humiliated and destroyed in one of the most extraordinary games ever seen at this famous old football stadium.

Like the events up the M6 at Old Trafford a few earlier, this was conclusive proof that the Premier League in its entirety has forgotten how to defend.

Not that neutral fans care in the slightest. Because for many, to see the two biggest teams in England – Manchester United and Liverpool – taken apart and completely embarrassed will have been wonderful viewing.

For many, just seeing the scorelines again this morning will still bring a huge smile to the faces of millions of football fans.

In everyday life due to the coronavirus crisis, there is nothing to like about the New Normal. Because if this is the New Normal in football, due to its spectacular unpredictability, then long may it continue.

The current season should be sponsored by Playstation as the defenders, top-class internationals, look as though they are being controlled by people at home.

In just one evening Ross Barkley developed a telepathic understanding with Jack Grealish

Liverpool were a complete shambles with Joe Gomez suffering a nightmare but he was not the only one to blame.

Equally, Villa were absolutely unbelievable. And to think Dean Smith’s team nearly went down on the final day of last season.

Ollie Watkins, the £33million man from Brentford, scored a brilliant first half hat-trick.

Former Everton midfielder Ross Barkley savoured an outstanding debut after his loan move from Chelsea.

In just one evening, he developed a telepathic understanding with Jack Grealish. It was a joy to see Villa’s posterboy cause such panic against a top team rather than a weaker side, which has often been the norm.

After one of the greatest wins in their history, Villa fans – like Everton – can dream for a few weeks at least.

Liverpool were missing Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcanatara due to positive Covid-19 tests and Alisson was out injured but that is no excuse for such a feeble, weak performance.

Liverpool fans will have still winced when they saw that Adrian was starting. In his last big game in March, he gifted Atletico Madrid a goal which sparked their extra-time comeback in the last 16 of the Champions League.

And the game was not even four minutes old when the Spanish keeper was at it again with a suicidal pass to Gomez. Grealish squared for Watkins who finished confidently from close range but although he looked ecstatic, imagine if someone had told him he would be securing the matchball 35 minutes later.

Watching this game, in an empty stadium, was a properly surreal experience.

Quite clearly, not having any fans to create tension, the lack of a proper pre-season and a jam-packed calendar has sent the players haywire.

Yet Watkins, although having scored plenty of goals in the Championship, made his opponents look like non-League players.

For the second, he impressed with some good hold up play, exchanged passes with Grealish and charged into the area, turned Gomez inside out and then produced an explosive finish into the top corner.

Mo Salah pulled one back by lashing the ball past Emi Martinez after Naby Keita’s initial shot was blocked by Matt Targett. Yet instead of taking some semblance of control, Liverpool fell to pieces and made Villa look like the Premier League champions.

John McGinn restored Villa’s two-goal advantage with a volley albeit with a heavy deflection off Virgil van Dijk, who was walking around as though he wanted to kill some of his team-mates.

The disbelief was visible among all the Liverpool team but Villa kept on attacking like lions.

Liverpool played a high line at Barkley’s free-kick and were waiting for an offside on Tyrone Mings but he was not active. Instead, Trezeguet crossed for Watkins to head into an empty net.

Barkley had certainly been in the thick of everything without getting a goal he deserved. Finally, in another outstanding exchange with Grelaish, he took a shot from 20 yards which came off Trent Alexander-Arnold and looped over Adrian.

Gomez was finally put out of his misery and replaced by Curtis Jones but only after Salah made 5-2 with a left-foot strike.

Grealish, so impressive, then got the goal he also deserved but once again, luck was not on Liverpool’s side as the ball took a wicked deflection off Fabinho.

Yet here is a lad not short on confidence and Grealish illustrated that with a cheeky chip over Adrian for the final goal of a truly horrendous night for Jurgen Klopp.

But also, a brilliant couple of hours for Villa’s fans who will spend the next few weeks – maybe even years – looking at this frankly ridiculous scoreline.

So, one final time, Villa 7 Liverpool 2.




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