Liverpool eventually dispatched an Aston Villa youth team 4-1 to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup, but it was hardly a convincing display from Jurgen Klopp‘s men.
The Reds were expected to make it a procession at Villa Park after the hosts saw their entire first-team ruled out of the clash due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
And Klopp surprised many by fielding a strong XI in return having insisted the plans were in motion well before news broke of Villa’s circumstances on Thursday.
Sadio Mane would open the scoring before Louie Barry shocked the Reds by equalising on the cusp of half-time thanks to a lacklustre first half.
Thiago and Xherdan Shaqiri would add a much-needed creative spark in the second to see three goals find the net in less than five minutes to make it 4-1 – a scoreline which would remain come the final whistle.
The result secures Liverpool’s passage into the next round of the competition and on an unusual evening, there was a lot for fans to delve into on social media.
Heartwarming shirt swap reversal
A first-team debut and maiden senior goal, what a night it was for Villa’s Louie Barry!
While a member of the opposition, it is what football is all about and the broadcast cameras showed the youngster getting caught up in the moment post-match – as anyone would.
After being congratulated by a number of Reds on the way to the dressing room, he swapped shirts with Fabinho, imagine having that in your collection, only to be reminded he might want to keep his debut shirt.
A chase ensues as Barry tracks down Fabinho and hands back the No.3’s shirt in return for his own, but the Brazilian was not having any of that and handed his shirt back to the youngster.
Aston Villa’s Louie Barry who scored a goal today against #LFC swapped shirts with Fabinho, but later they reminded him that he might want to keep his debut shirt ??
He ran down the tunnel and told Fabinho if they could swap back, and Fabinho let him keep both jerseys ??? pic.twitter.com/H5heRzugkw
— LFC Transfer Room (@LFCTransferRoom) January 8, 2021
If you think that’s wholesome, his interview was just as heartwarming as he savoured what was the ‘best moment’ of his life. You have got to love a feel-good story.
More minutes for Shaq
A positive in regards to the Reds was the sight of Shaqiri, who made the most of his 30-minute cameo.
He has continually been in and out of the side with injury and at a time when the Reds have been lacking a creative spark, he showcased what he can offer at the perfect time.
Yes, he was playing against kids but you have to look at the intent and he had plenty of forward drive and within just four minutes of being on the field, he had two assists to his name.
Shaqiri could be our secret weapon this season. Think he deserves more minutes and like the way he’s always looking to make something happen.
— Ben Webb (@BenWebbLFC) January 9, 2021
With unlocking deep defences an ever-present issue, keeping Shaqiri fit could be vital for the remainder of the season as he adds a level of unpredictability we desperately crave.
Thiago at your service
Do you think it’ll ever feel normal that he’s a Red?
Instant class oozed into the team and his two pre-assists as he linked up with Shaq showcased the importance of playing to feet or a running target, rather than the aimless crosses which came before.
Replace thiago with any other LFC midfielder there and that ball goes out wide to Neco williamspic.twitter.com/UxMi9gytLe
— Thiago Scousantara (@scousantara) January 8, 2021
With his head constantly on a swivel and able to deceive the opposition, it was another valuable 45 minutes for the Spaniard who now looks primed to start against United.
Milner reminded of his age
“Thanks for that” was the response, “four of that side were not born when you made your debut” was the statement.
Age of Aston Villa's starting XI when James Milner made his professional debut for Leeds in November 2002:
Onodi – 1
Bridge – 2
Revan – 2
Walker – 2
Rowe – 3
Chrisene – Not born
Barry – Not born
Kesler – Two weeks old
Sylla – Not born
Raikhy – Three weeks old
Bogarde – Not born https://t.co/PRmvOhBdiN
— Ian Woodcock (@Ian_A_Woodcock) January 8, 2021
Poor, Milly, but his powers of endurance are certainly to be admired.
And, of course, all eyes are now on United
Which in turn means a somewhat anxious wait to see if Joel Matip will be fit and available for the clash in eight days.
The boss has called upon more than 10 centre-back combinations this season and with pace the key against United, Matip will be an important part of the jigsaw.
Keep everything crossed now to have Matip back for United. No chance we can go with Williams or Phillips against their pace.
— Jay (@Jay82_LFC) January 8, 2021
The continued discussions around the centre-backs comes at a time when Klopp has ruled out a move this in the winter window, meaning the fitness of the No. 32 continues to be under the microscope.