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Liverpool do Arsenal a favour despite brilliant Aston Villa comeback in 3-3 thriller


Aston Villa v Liverpool FC - Premier League

Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez spills into his own net after just 64 seconds. (Image: Getty)

There was no Champions League party at Villa Park despite a dramatic late fightback from the hosts against Liverpool. An own goal from keeper Emiliano Martinez was negated by a Youri Tielemans leveller, but efforts from Cody Gakpo and Jarrell Quansah had the Reds 3-1 up and cruising – before Jhon Duren scored twice in the dying minutes. Moussa Diaby even had a chance to even win it at the death but was brilliantly denied by Alisson.

Express Sport looks at the major talking points….

Arsenal’s title hopes boosted

Mikel Arteta wouldn’t have exactly been celebrating wildly at Liverpool’s win, but both he and Arsenal players and fans will have breathed a sight of relief. Still leading City by a point going into the final day, Pep Guardiola’s side have a trip to Tottenham tomorrow that has just got a whole lot harder.

Spurs can overhaul Villa and take fourth spot if they beat both City and Sheffield United on Sunday, and Emery’s side lose at Crystal Palace. Forget talk of Tottenham lying down on Tuesday night to deny their rivals the title – they have no choice but to go all out for victory.

Villa faulter as Martinez fluffs his lines

It was an electric atmosphere pre kick-off at Villa Park, but Martinez soon dampened the mood. Just minutes after being named in Gary Neville’s team of the season on Sky Sports, the Argentinian keeper somehow contrived to fumble Harvey Elliott’s deflected cross into his own net.

Aston Villa v Liverpool FC - Premier League

Ollie Watkins tussles with Virgil van Dijk. (Image: Getty)

It was a rare error from the 31-year-old this season who for the second goal could only push a Joe Gomez shot into Gakpo’s path – although home fans were also left ruing their team’s failures at the other end. At 2-1 down, Diego Carlos somehow couldn’t connect with Leon Bailey’s cross with the goal gaping, while Moussa Diaby fired over when clean through. Further openings went begging before the Duran late show and should Spurs manage to beat City, a nervy final day trip to Crystal Palace awaits for Emery’s men.

Digne dragged to all parts

If Villa do indeed end up dining at Europe’s top table next season, then left-back Lucas Digne won’t want a repeat of the stage fright he suffered in the first 15 minutes against the Reds.

Caught out for the first goal as Elliott got free on the right, he was then all at sea as Mo Salah breezed past him before almost making it 2-0 moments later. More poor positional play from the Frenchman gifted the visitors a further golden chance which Luis Diaz blew – and all this in the early exchanges.

The 30-year-old was also susceptible in the second period, and all in all had a night to forget. Not the best audition for mixing it with the likes of Vinicius Jnr and co next season.

Watkins proves his worth

It’s now one goal in seven for Ollie Watkins, but don’t be fooled by that statistic. Yes, he’d have been irate at Carlos getting in his way for Bailey’s low ball in, and had a second half goal ruled out for VAR, but his all-round play caused Liverpool constant problems.

For the equaliser, he breezed past Quansah out wide before cutting a pass back for Tielemans, his 13th assist of the season. Irrespective of what transpires Sunday, the 28-year-old has proved himself a top-class forward this season and was atched by Mr Southgate tonight. A must for Euro 2024.

 

Gakpo presses his case

While Jurgen Klopp’s impending exit may also spell the end for some players at Anfield, it might just have saved the Liverpool career of Darwin Nunez. For the third successive league game, the Uruguayan was left on the bench for 75 minutes with the German boss seemingly having lost patience with his erratic form in front of goal.

If Salah does end up exiting Anfield this summer, who leads the line in his place will soon become a hot topic of conversation on Merseyside. And the underrated Gakpo again advanced his case to play a more prominent role, in the right place at the right time to tap in.

The stats will tell you Nunez has 18 club goals this season as opposed to the 15 scored by the Dutchman. That only tells half the story though, and given the amount of chances the No.9 missed in crunch games before his axing, it’s Gakpo who has finished the campaign the more reliable forward.

Aston Villa v Liverpool FC - Premier League

Jurgen Klopp was all smiles despite his side throwing away a lead. (Image: Getty)

Klopp keeps out of trouble

Despite his side’s late capitulation, Jurgen Klopp still had reason to be delighted tonight. In what would have been the most anti-climatic farewell in Premier League history, had he been booked tonight the German boss would have been confined to the stands for the home game with Wolves on Sunday.

Notably, the 56-year-old was restrained on the touchline despite the chaotic nature of the end-to-end football. Sunday will be all about the Premier League title race of course, but now over at Liverpool, a cemented club legend will get the emotional send-off he deserves.

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