Win over young Liverpool team was weird: Aston Villa boss Dean Smith
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith said his side's 5-0 League Cup victory over Liverpool's youngest-ever side yesterday morning (Singapore time) had been one of the weirdest matches he had ever been involved in.
With English Premier League leaders Liverpool playing in the Club World Cup 24 hours later in Doha, Villa faced an unrecognisable line-up featuring no senior players.
Liverpool's starting side had only 16 first-team appearances between them and had an average age of 19.4, a club record.
Villa themselves made 10 changes from the side that lost to Sheffield United in the league last Saturday, but were still put in a "no-win" situation against the Anfield kids on a strange night at rainy Villa Park.
"We had to be very professional," said Smith, who has taken Villa to their first League Cup semi-final since 2012/13.
"It was a bit of a weird game, probably the weirdest one I've been involved in for a quarter-final of a major competition.
"They had technically gifted players, were tactically switched on and they made it very difficult for us at times."
Villa's Conor Hourihane, who opened the scoring in the 14th minute after a nervy start by the hosts, said it had been a tricky test against players with nothing to lose. Villa's other goals came via a Jonathan Kodjia brace, Wesley and a Morgan Boyes own goal.
"We weathered the storm at the start, but quality came through in the end," he said.
"It was lose-lose but we did a professional job and we are delighted to get over the line. Nice to get through to the semi-finals. That is what we had to do tonight."
Liverpool's Under-23 coach Neil Critchley, who stood in for Juergen Klopp, said the German phoned him at half-time from the team's Doha hotel, saying he was proud of the youngsters.
"It was an incredible night and no one wanted it to end. The support we had was unbelievable," said Critchley.
"The conduct of the Villa players was first class.
"For Dean Smith and (assistant manager) John Terry to come in to our dressing room after the game and say the things they said... They said 'keep going, good luck' and wished us the best." - REUTERS