Liverpool's youngest-ever team was no match for Aston Villa in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, as Dean Smith's side ran out comfortable 5-0 winners to book their place in the semi-finals.
The Reds had to name an entire squad made up of reserves and youngsters due to the first team being in Qatar for the Club World Cup, and Villa ultimately made light work of their visitors, who named an XI with an average age of 19 years and 182 days.
Under the guidance of Under-23s coach Neil Critchley, Liverpool started the encounter with purpose and could have taken an early lead, but Villa made the most of the let-offs and blew the Reds away, going into half-time four up thanks to Conor Hourihane, a Morgan Boyes own goal and a Jonathan Kodjia brace.
While Liverpool had conceded four times in the opening half of a match for the first time since Steven Gerrard's last match, away to Stoke City in May 2015, Villa were not dominant until after the break, though they only added one more through Wesley's late fifth.
19y & 182d - With an average age of 19 years & 182 days, Liverpool have named their youngest ever starting line-up for a competitive game in all competitions. Opportunity. #CarabaoCup #AVLLIV pic.twitter.com/9oiMXLFyop— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 17, 2019
Liverpool's inexperience appeared no obstacle during the early exchanges, causing the Villa defence considerable issues as Harvey Elliott and Herbie Kane were crucially denied by Orjan Nyland.
But Caoimhin Kelleher was less commanding at the other end, allowing Hourihane's right-wing free-kick to squirm underneath him, before Boyes deflected an Ahmed Elmohamady cross over the goalkeeper as Villa raced into a commanding lead.
A kind ricochet in the 37th minute allowed Jota to play in Kodjia and he prodded past Kelleher after racing clear, with the forward getting a second on the stroke of half-time when steering Elmohamady's cross in from close range.
Kodjia was denied a hat-trick just past the hour when played through on goal as Kelleher got down to make a good save, but Wesley did cap the win off in stoppage time, stroking home his first goal in over two months.
What does it mean? Clean-sweep chances unsurprisingly over
Ever since it became clear the fixture pile-up would be impossible for Liverpool to manage and still remain competitive on all fronts, no one really expected them to get beyond Villa, so elimination is by no means a surprise.
Although the result means the Reds miss out on an opportunity to win a trophy, the absent Jurgen Klopp will probably be quietly content that their fixture list is not going to become even more congested further down the line.
Nyland a safe pair of hands
Were it not for the early saves from Nyland, the match may have taken a different course. However, he thwarted some very good chances and Villa soon took charge.
Kelleher caught out
The 21-year-old keeper will not want to see replays of Villa's first goal, which he allowed to scramble underneath him. He was otherwise generally solid, though perhaps lacked presence on a few occasions.
Key Opta facts
- Aston Villa have reached the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign, while Liverpool have been eliminated at the quarter-final stage for the first time since 2007-08.
- 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.
- This was Liverpool's first defeat in 20 games across all competitions (W16 D3), Villa becoming the first side to beat them since Napoli in the Champions League back in September.
- Liverpool suffered their biggest margin of defeat in any competition since September 2017, when they lost 5-0 against Manchester City in the Premier League.
- Jonathan Kodjia netted his first brace for Villa since August 2018, when he scored twice against Brentford in the Championship.
For most of this Liverpool team, their next outing will come on Friday against Paris Saint-Germain's Under-23s in the Premier League International Cup, though the first-team regulars begin their Club World Cup campaign against Mexican side Monterrey on Wednesday.
As for Villa, they return to Premier League action at home to Southampton this Saturday in what is their final match before Christmas.