Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool
If there has ever been a more madcap day in the Premier League, then I am struggling to remember it.
After 10-man Manchester United’s home humiliation earlier in the day, this was an even bigger shock because it came from a side which survived by the skin of its teeth last season against the reigning champions; from a side which had lost five successive Premier League matches in a row against their opponents by an aggregate score of 15-3.
This just proved that football can be crazy!
Highlights of the game
This was an Aston Villa side aiming to rewrite history.
Dean Smith, who has done such a marvellous job at the club, was vying to guide to Villa to three consecutive top-flight victories for the first time since April 2010.
Yet victories over Sheffield United and Fulham were one thing. The league’s top team were now in town and this was a very different challenge.
Liverpool had turned on the style in their opening three matches and were massive favourites with the SBOTOP Premier League betting odds.
So, the Premier League highlights which duly followed were as remarkable as they were shocking.
Ollie Watkins, the £28 million arrival from Brentford, had a hat-trick by half-time and Jack Grealish, the game’s outstanding performer, scored twice and contributed three assists in a 7-2 Villa Park rout.
Granted, three of the Villa goals took fortuitous deflections but there was no denying them a deserved success.
A defensive error kick-started proceedings as a pass was played straight to Grealish and he played the ball back inside for the unmarked Watkins who finished from close range.
The frontman’s second goal was superb as he was sent clear by his captain before cutting back inside Virgil van Dijk and rifling the ball into the top far corner.
When Mo Salah reduced the arrears after a Naby Keita effort was blocked, most followers would have expected Villa to spend the remainder of the contest with their backs to the wall.
Yet instead they turned the screw as the ever-improving John McGinn’s shot deflected off van Dijk to beat Adrián before Trezeguet returned a deep free-kick from debutant Ross Barkley for Watkins to head home.
Into the second half and Barkley – how the boyhood Everton fan must have enjoyed this on his debut – took a pass from Grealish on the edge of the box and saw his shot flick up off full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and sail into the far corner.
After Salah added his second from a Firmino pass, the Villa captain got the goal he deserved, albeit with another deflection, this time off Fabinho.
The coup de grace was still to come as the club talisman produced a sumptuous dinked finish for his second and Villa’s seventh.
Neither player, manager, nor the thousands of fans watching worldwide could scarcely believe it.
Indeed, as Smith said at the end, the only shame for the home team was that their fans were not inside what would have been a ‘rocking’ Villa Park to witness it first-hand.
It could and perhaps should have been more too as Watkins had a one-on-one with Adrián and was also denied his fourth by the crossbar.
Yet Villa were content with seven; in seventh heaven no doubt.
Perhaps Jurgen Klopp should have listened to the warning signs given by Roy Keane six days ago.
Liverpool are the first reigning English top-flight champions to ship seven goals in a league match since Arsenal against Sunderland in September 1953.
Before tonight, Villa had only won once against Liverpool in their past 19 top-flight home games.
They have now won their opening three top-flight games for the first time since 1962-63.
Watkins is the 10th player to score a top-flight hat-trick against Liverpool and the first since Dimitar Berbatov in September 2010.
Salah has now scored against 25 of the 26 sides he has appeared in the Premier League for Liverpool – the best ratio of any player in the competition for the club.
This is the first time in the two clubs’ history that both Liverpool and Manchester United have conceded six goals in a match on the same day.
There have been 144 goals scored in 38 Premier League games this season, an average of 3.79 per game; this is the highest goals per game ratio in an English top-flight season since 1930/31 (3.95 goals per game).
Villa have a Midlands derby at Leicester City next time out before a home match with newly-promoted Leeds United a week later.
It’s the Merseyside derby for Liverpool as they go to Everton on October 17.
That is followed by a Champions League trip to Ajax and a home league match against Sheffield United.
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