‘One of his boys said he hadn’t played in two months’: Milner praises Villa’s youth despite Liverpool loss

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Villa academy players held their own for great periods of their third-round clash at Villa Park

James Milner has praised the spirit, determination and talent of Aston Villa’s young players despite their 4-1 FA Cup loss to Liverpool.

Villa had to line up a team of U23 and U18 players for Friday’s third round tie after the entire first team team, coach Dean Smith and his first team coaching staff were forced to isolate themselves. following a Covid-19 outbreak at the club. training ground.

It meant that under-23 coach Mark Delaney took over a youth team that had an average age of just 18 years and 294 days. Five of the eleven starters weren’t even born when the 35-year-old Milner made his first FA Cup appearance, with Leeds against Scunthorpe in January 2003.

Speaking after the game, the veteran Reds player had only words of praise for his defeated opponents.

“A good group of guys, honest, they worked hard for each other, quality,” he told BT Sport. “They made a change, we expected that, we did not want to take it for granted. In the first half they achieved the goal of continuing to play. We achieved the result in the end, but I think it is not an ideal situation for either team.”

Unsurprisingly, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has made changes to his squad since their last Premier League game, although the starting eleven still included players like Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson.

It looked like it was going to be a long night for Villa when Mane gave Liverpool the lead after just four minutes. However, they slowly struggled to get back into the game and were rewarded with a surprising draw from 17-year-old Louie Barry before the break.

Klopp seemed increasingly frustrated as Villa continued to defend himself after the break, before his stamina was finally broken in the 60th minute when Gini Wijnaldum found the back of the net with an effort from the edge of the area.

More goals from Mo Salah and a second of play from Mane extended Liverpool’s lead as his class and fitness finally told, although Villa’s youths can keep their heads high after putting on a spirited display.

“Obviously I think we had to do some things better,” Milner added. “I think we started quite well with the counter pressure and put pressure on the ball, but maybe we didn’t do it well, especially for the goal. [we] let them get out of a couple of corner situations where they shouldn’t have gotten out.

“They are good players, they are at Aston Villa for a reason. One of their guys said he hadn’t played in two months.

“Every time you are not quite there, they will punish you. They took the goal and we had to get up again.”

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