Aston Villa – Liverpool stood head and shoulders above the rest as the shock result of the still-young 2020-21 Premier League season — a season already full of shocking results — as Villa pumped the defending champions 7-2 at Villa Park on Sunday.
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Ollie Watkins bagged a first-half hat trick, starting after four minutes, to pace Dean Smith’s side to its improbable victory. Jack Grealish amassed a hat trick of his own — of assists — along with two more goals.
The result leaves just two clubs — Everton, who have won all four of their games, and Villa, who have played only three — with 100-percent records.
Sunday also marked the first time in club history that Liverpool conceded seven goals in a PL game and the first time in a league game since 1963.
3 things we learned: Aston Villa – Liverpool
1. No one is safe this season: A quick list of eyebrow-raising results in 2020-21 (and we’re only four weeks into the season): Liverpool 4-3 Leeds; Man United 1-3 Crystal Palace; West Brom 3-3 Chelsea; Man City 2-5 Leicester City; West Ham 4-0 Wolves; Leeds 1-1 Man City; Leicester 0-3 West Ham; Man United 1-6 Tottenham; and now, finally, Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool.
2. Counter-attacks and set pieces: Of the seven goals Aston Villa scored on Sunday, five came as the direct result of either a counter-attack or a set piece. Neither of the two which originated from set pieces were the traditional set-piece goal in which the ball is played in and scored immediately thereafter, but after multiple failed clearances and second chances. The three that came on counter-attacks were down to sloppy possession and painfully slow defensive rotations. While 7-2 looks horrific on paper, Klopp will see those errors as something he can fix with focused training and a better mentality from his players.
3. Alisson vital to Liverpool’s system: Beyond the fact he’s arguably the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment, Alisson also happens to be the perfect for Liverpool and how Klopp wants them to play. Calm and comfortable on the ball in virtually any situation, he plays Liverpool out of trouble and starts meaningful possession upfield without having to boot it upfield into 50-50 aerial duels. It’s an invaluable piece of the puzzle for a team that strangles opponents with possession and scoring chances. On a day in which the Reds conceded seven times and Adrian was at fault for just one, it’s a bit harsh to focus solely on him, but it’s undeniably something to keep an eye on going forward.
Liverpool’s night began in the worst possible way as Adrian, who was thrust into the team and could be there for some time to come with Alisson out injured, sent a wayward pass straight to Grealish inside his own penalty area and watched helplessly as Grealish cut it back to Watkins for a simple finish and 1-0 lead after four minutes.
Watkins doubled Aston Villa’s lead in the 22nd minute, and this time he had lots to do all on his own. Again, it was Grealish who released the club-record signing down the left wing, but it was all Watkins who skated past Joe Gomez one-on-one and created a full yard of space for a shot near the penalty spot. Watkins’ finish — high and inside the far post — was sublime.
The 2-0 scoreline last 10 minutes, until Liverpool well and truly woke up. Mohamed Salah was perhaps a bit fortunate to see the ball fall to him 12 yards from goal after Naby Keita’s effort was blocked, but Salah was ruthlessly clinical with his left foot to make it 2-1.
Two minutes later, it was 3-1. John McGinn’s left-footed volley took a wicked deflection off Virgil van Dijk and left Adrian completely wrong-footed as the ball bounced over the goal line.
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Four minutes later, it was 4-1 and Watkins had his hat trick. Ross Barkley curled a dangerous free kick to the back post where Trezeguet half-volleyed back across the face of goal and Watkins arrived just in time to head it past Adrian.
Barkley marked his debut with a goal of his won in the 55th minute, punishing Gomez for a poor giveaway in midfield. Trent Alexander-Arnold provided the deflection that sent the ball quickly looping high and falling back below the crossbar just as quickly.
Salah pulled a goal back for Liverpool right on the hour mark, giving him 99 PL goals, but the rout was hardly over.
Yet another deflection forced Adrian to pick the ball out of his own net in the 66th minute. Grealish cut inside from the left wing and sent a far-post curler off Fabinho’s midsection and watched in delight as the ball snuck inside the near post for 6-2.
Grealish dealt the final blow to make it 7-2 with a breakaway chance in the 76th.