Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said that preparing to face a youthful Aston Villa team in Friday’s FA Cup third-round clash presented a challenge he had never faced before, but the German was pleased after his side emerged with a 4-1 win.
Villa were forced to field academy players due to a mass COVID-19 outbreak among their ranks, with Under-23 coach Mark Delaney taking charge of the game instead of first-team manager Dean Smith.
Sadio Mane scored twice, while Georginio Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah added one each to cancel out a fine goal by Villa’s 17-year-old striker Louie Barry and send Liverpool into the fourth round.
“The kids of Villa did really well,” Klopp told reporters. “It was a tricky one. I’ve never before had this kind of challenge in my life, that you have no idea who you’re playing against — absolutely no idea.”
“You prepare a meeting and then you can throw all the preparation, all the videos in the bin and then you have to start new,” he said. “That’s football and academy players are good players.”
“Last year we played here with our kids and they gave Villa a proper game as well. That’s just how it is,” he said. “These young kids can all play football and if you don’t play well against them you have problems.”
Sixteen Villa players made their first-team debuts on Friday and Delaney said he was immensely proud of the character they had shown.
“The characteristics of the boys, their togetherness, the camaraderie between the group, they pulled themselves together, they didn’t let it faze them,” he said.
“You’ve got to take your hat off to the players, they were outstanding,” he said.
Bayern Munich’s defensive frailties finally took their toll as Borussia Monchengladbach came from two goals down to beat the Bundesliga leaders 3-2 on Friday.
Jonas Hofmann scored twice and Florian Neuhaus provided the bow as ’Gladbach dealt Bayern just their second defeat in 15 games.
“’Gladbach were very efficient. They brutally punished three mistakes that we made,” Bayern manager Hansi Flick said.
Bayern conceded first in each of theor previous eight league games, but recovered to lose none.
Flick was determined for his team to make a good start and Bayern were given an opening early on when Neuhaus was penalized for handball in the penalty area.
Robert Lewandowski duly converted the penalty in the 20th minute, consequently also ending Bayern’s habit of conceding the first goal.
Leon Goretzka then won the ball in midfield, played a one-two with Leroy Sane and doubled Bayern’s lead in the 26th minute.
However, the defending champions’ issues had not gone away, as Hofmann showed when he beat the visitors’ offside trap to score after a brilliant through ball from Lars Stindl.
Stindl won the ball from Joshua Kimmich to set up Hofmann again just before halftime.
The goal was initially flagged offside, but a review showed that Hofmann was behind Niklas Sule when Stindl played him through.
Hofmann had plenty of time to pick his spot and he stayed cool before slotting the ball inside the left post.
“We twice lost the ball where we shouldn’t lose the ball and we didn’t react to it properly,” Goretzka said.
Sule was again at fault when ’Gladbach got their third goal in the 49th minute, when his wayward pass was intercepted by Hofmann, who played a one-two with Breel Embolo before laying the ball off for Neuhaus, who let fly inside the top-right corner.
“Unfortunately, they punished these two or three bad passes that we had in the buildup, but in the end it’s pointless to talk about the goals conceded,” Thomas Muller said. “We didn’t make enough of our pressure in the second half.”
AP, BARCELONA, Spain
Gerard Moreno scored his competition-leading 10th goal to set Villarreal on their way to a commanding 4-0 victory against RC Celta de Vigo in La Liga on Friday.
The Spain striker was set up by Dani Parejo after Parejo stole possession from Celta’s Denis Suarez near the area and played Moreno clear to open the scoring in the fifth minute at Balaidos Stadium.
It was eighth-placed Celta’s third loss of the week, marking a sharp downturn after they won five and drew one under new coach Eduardo Coudet.
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