Jhon Duran struck twice in the final five minutes to salvage a 3-3 draw for Aston Villa against Liverpool but they fell short of guaranteeing a place in next season’s Champions League on Monday. Villa looked set for a fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions as an Emiliano Martinez own goal and strikes from Cody Gakpo and Jarrell Quansah put the visitors on course for victory in Jurgen Klopp’s final away game in charge. But substitute Duran’s double edged Unai Emery’s men closer to Europe’s top table for the first time since 1983.
Victory for title-chasing Manchester City at Spurs would secure Villa’s place in the top four. But they are stumbling over the finish line as the strain of combining a challenge for the Champions League alongside a run to the Europa Conference League semi-finals has taken its toll.
“Just a brilliant effort towards the end,” said Villa captain John McGinn. “It’s been a tough couple of weeks. The manager won’t admit it but the boys are out on their feet, giving absolutely everything. We’ll have our Man City tops on tomorrow night.”
Martinez’s return to fitness after he missed last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Brighton should have been a major boost for the home side. But the Argentine World Cup winner’s howler handed Liverpool the opening goal after just two minutes as he fumbled Harvey Elliott’s deflected cross into his own net. Villa did respond positively as Ollie Watkins burned Quansah for pace and pulled back a cross for Youri Tielemans to equalise.
However, momentum swung back in Liverpool’s favour in an end-to-end encounter when Gakpo tapped in after Martinez could only parry Joe Gomez’s effort. Villa should have been level again before half-time when Diego Carlos somehow turned wide with the goal gaping after nudging Watkins out the way. Instead, they were 3-1 down just three minutes into the second half as Quansah rose highest to head in Elliott’s free-kick.
There was still time for Villa to mount a memorable comeback as Liverpool’s own defensive weaknesses were laid bare. “It got away from us tonight, there’s no doubt about that,” said Klopp. “We make a mistake for the 3-2 and in that moment we open the door for them, the atmosphere was there and they score the equaliser.”
A point for Liverpool may be meaningless in their quest to win the title as wins for Manchester City and Arsenal over the weekend mathematically ended the chance of Klopp departing as a league winner.
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