Carabau cup for Liverpool’s season campaign ended on Tuesday night after Aston Villa disgraced their teenage boys by 5 goals to nil.
With Jurgen Klopp and his players 4000 miles away in Doha, it was left to Neil Critchley and this team of kids to keep the flag flying. Liverpool are the League Cup’s most successful club, but this was a night which did the competition no favours whatsoever.
No criticism of Critchley or his team, who performed admirably in the circumstances. There were times, particularly in the first half, where the gulf between the sides in terms of experience was barely noticeable. “We played like a Liverpool team,” Critchley said, and he was right.
Nor is it necessarily a slight against Klopp and the senior side either. Liverpool’s hands were tied from the moment they saw off Arsenal in round four. Their participation at the Club World Cup was non-negotiable, and so something had to give.
The integrity of English football’s second cup competition was that something. Villa march on to the semi-finals, but even they looked a little embarrassed by the manner in which they had done so.
After the final whistle, Dean Smith and his assistant John Terry went into the Liverpool dressing room to congratulate the visiting players on their performance. It was a classy touch.
“A special moment,” said Critchley. “One those players will always remember. The conduct of the Villa players and staff was first-class.”
The average age of the Liverpool starting XI was just 19 years and 183 days. There were five debutants, and 14 of the 18-man squad were teenagers.