Liverpool ease past Aston Villa in FA Cup third round

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Aston Villa 1 - 4 Liverpool

Sadio Mane scored twice as Liverpool eased past a youthful Aston Villa side 4-1 in their FA Cup third-round tie at Villa Park on Friday night.

Aston Villa fielded a heavily rotated XI due in part to a COVID-19 outbreak at the club — with manager Dean Smith not on the sidelines — while Liverpool also rested some regulars for the tie.

However, Liverpool’s side still featured Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in their team and the Senegal striker headed his team in front shortly after kickoff from a Curtis Jones cross.

Despite Liverpool dominating possession against their youthful opposition, Villa stood strong for the remainder of the first half and levelled the score shortly before the break with a classy finish from Louie Barry from a counter-attack.

Liverpool retook firm control of the match on the hour with back-to-back goals when Georginio Wijnaldum shot past Akos Onodi from the top of the area and Mane headed in another three minutes later.

Salah then extended the visitors’ lead to three with a quick turn and strike to beat Onodi after Xherdan Shaqiri set him up with a pass into the centre of the box.

Liverpool will await the results of the rest of the weekend’s third-round ties to determine who they’ll face when FA Cup play resumes on the weekend of Jan. 23.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was not entirely happy with the performance, having praised the youngsters while pointing out that his side had made too many simple errors.

“The kids did really well — that’s good,” Klopp said. “Problems in passing and moving. Too many on the wrong side of the ball, not enough recoveries of passes. We had chances and shot the ball directly at the goalie — we changed it in the second half. It was rusty but better in the second half.”

In the evening’s other fixture, Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Crystal Palace 1-0 thanks to Adama Traore’s 35th-minute strike as he beat visiting keeper Jack Butland with a thunderbolt from the edge of the penalty area.

Wolves dominated as Fabio Silva headed over the bar early on and Butland parried a low Nelson Semedo drive but he was powerless when Traore teed himself up and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.

The home team’s manager Nuno Espirito Santo praised Traore after the winger netted his first goal of the season in any competition.

“It was a special goal from a special player,” said the Portuguese. “I am very happy because I think this goal will boost his confidence. He has been really trying in training sessions and that is why I am so happy.”

In the evening’s other fixture, Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Crystal Palace 1-0 thanks to Adama Traore’s 35th-minute strike as he beat visiting keeper Jack Butland with a thunderbolt from the edge of the penalty area.