Durán double rocks Liverpool and secures vital point for Aston Villa

Villa close in on Champions League spot for next season after sub scores two in three minutes late on

Premier League: Aston Villa 3 Liverpool 3

Just when it seemed Aston Villa would slump to a crushing defeat at home to Liverpool, the substitute Jhon Durán struck twice to earn an unlikely, priceless point. Unai Emery will be glued to Manchester City’s trip to fifth-placed Tottenham on Tuesday.

Villa got off to an awful start after Emiliano Martínez turned the ball into his own net and, after Youri Tielemans cancelled out Liverpool’s opener, goals by Cody Gakpo and Jarell Quansah earned a lead before the substitute Durán turned the game.

Before kick-off the centre-circle banner swirled and swayed to the thudding backdrop of Jeff Beck but Villa hope it will have the stars of the Champions League on next season. For the neutral, one of the league’s last live storylines – the protracted battle for fourth – could run to the final day, when Villa head to Crystal Palace and Spurs host Sheffield United. The only caveat is that Spurs must win at home to the champions.

Conceding inside 62 seconds courtesy of a goalkeeper howler is one way to kill the pre-match buzz. Tielemans, back from a groin injury, surrendered possession on halfway and Harvey Elliott stepped on the gas, zoomed upfield and played a one-two with Mohamed Salah. Elliott sent a seemingly harmless, head-height cross in from the right but the ball clinked Pau Torres’s left shoulder and that proved enough to bamboozle Martínez at his near post. Martínez shifted from right to left in good time but the ball squirmed through his hands and while the Villa goalkeeper tried to claw it back with his right glove the damage was already done.


“I’m so glad that Jürgen is a Red,” came the adoring chant on loop from the visiting supporters, keen to shower Klopp with love on his final away day in charge. Martínez’s error stunned the home support but they were soon on their feet, the actor Tom Hanks – one of Villa’s celebrity fans – among them in the directors’ box. Gareth Southgate, Lee Carsley, the England Under-21s manager and former Ireland international, and Kieran McKenna, the Ipswich manager, cut calmer figures on the row behind.

Ollie Watkins toyed with Quansah and then comfortably beat the defender to the byline, where the Villa striker cut the ball back for an unmarked Tielemans to leather in with an unerring strike. Emery went berserk on the touchline, the significance of pulling level clearly not lost on him. For Villa, it was a simple equation at the outset: win and they would qualify for the Champions League. If only it was that easy.

Villa trailed again 11 minutes after equalising and Emery wore a weary look. The ball was in the Villa net but Liverpool’s celebrations were rather tame, even the sound from a boisterous away end a little muted. For Gakpo, who tapped in to restore Liverpool’s lead, there was a round of low-key high-fives. Part of that was down to an interminable wait for the video assistant referee, Chris Kavanagh, to confirm Joe Gomez onside in the build-up. Luis Díaz picked out Gomez on the overlap and he located an unmarked Gakpo at the back post.

It was a galling strike from a Villa perspective given that, in the preceding couple of minutes, they twice had a whiff of goal. Leon Bailey released Watkins with a clever pass but Quansah shut the door and Moussa Diaby, who ballooned over approaching half-time, then teed up Bailey. The Jamaica forward twirled clear of Wataru Endo but inadvertently ran into the towering frame of the alert Quansah, who extinguished the danger.

Villa’s best chance to restore first-half parity arrived on 36 minutes, when Diego Carlos filed a late entry for miss of the season. Somehow the Brazilian failed to convert Bailey’s cross, from inside the six-yard box, from a yard out. Diego Carlos got the faintest of touches on the ball, enough to slice wide – and away from Watkins who was lurking behind him – but not into a gaping net. The replays on the big screens did him no favours.

Villa surely could not start the second half any worse than they did the first? Well, fractionally. Liverpool scored again three minutes after the restart, Quansah looping in a header off a post after charging into the box to meet Elliott’s free kick. Lucas Digne did little to prevent the Liverpool centre back making clean contact on Elliott’s cross at the back post. Liverpool thought they had found a fourth through Elliott on 59 minutes but VAR deemed Gakpo offside when latching on to Alexis Mac Allister’s through ball down the middle.

Villa only had themselves to blame, slack marking presenting one of the most potent attacking teams on the planet with favourable chances. But then Duran entered in place of the injured substitute Nicolo Zaniolò on 79 minutes and, regardless of Emery’s rousing words, even he surely never envisaged what happened next. Klopp’s perfect goodbye – not for the first time this season – was blemished. Villa, meanwhile, are close to a return to the European elite, a stage Klopp knows well. “Danke für alles,” read a banner in the away end. Klopp doffed his black cap in return. – Guardian