Duran breathes life back into Aston Villa’s Champions League dream with late double

Unai Emery - Duran keeps Aston Villa's Champions League dream alive after late Liverpool collapse
Unai Emery punches the air in celebration following Jhon Durán's 88th-minute equaliser - Getty Images/Simon Stacpoole

This was a game where Aston Villa began by losing the plot but then almost finished with a Hollywood ending.

In front of their celebrity actor fan Tom Hanks, who addressed the crowd beforehand, they mounted a stirring comeback taking them to the brink of a Champions League place. At 3-1 down with just five minutes to go they flipped the script.

It certainly felt like that amid the wild scenes of celebration at the final whistle after two goals by a dynamic substitute. Duran Duran was on song.

Durán – Duran breathes life back into Aston Villa's Champions League dream with late double
Durán came off the bench to score twice and edge Villa close to Champions League spot - PA/Martin Rickett

Flicking through Hanks’ filmography, perhaps the most apt title now is Catch Me If You Can. It is over to Tottenham Hotspur who are five points behind but have two games to play, with Villa having just the one left.

The problem for Tottenham is not only their wretched form but the fact it is title-chasing Manchester City who they must beat on Tuesday to keep their faltering hopes alive. Spurs may have a good record against City at home but the likelihood is it will be Villa celebrating again when that particular fixture finishes.

Remarkably it is now five games without a win for Unai Emery’s side in all competitions – two Premier League draws, a loss and defeat in both legs of their Europa Conference League semi-finals.

But if they finish in the top four it will be a magnificent campaign for them, securing their involvement in the European Cup for the first time since 1983 – the year before Hanks burst onto the scene with the mermaid movie ‘Splash’. Emery has certainly made a splash at this club.

For once the storyline was not about Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp in what was the manager’s penultimate game in charge. There was of course something heartfelt in the way he went over to appreciate Liverpool’s away fans and the tide of emotion is already gathering for Sunday’s grand farewell at Anfield.

Back in 1983, Klopp was just being taken on as a youth team player with TuS Ergenzingen, 15 miles from his hometown of Glatten in the Black Forest, and no-one could predict the impact he would go on to make as a manager.

For Villa, Emery is gaining a similar messianic value and whatever Spurs do, even if they beat City and triumph away to Sheffield United, and unless they score an avalanche of unanswered goals, his side will be fourth should they avoid defeat at Crystal Palace. Their goal difference is eight better.

A complication is Palace are playing wonderfully well but Villa will believe they are there. Or almost there. But they will also be kicking themselves that they did not actually get the job done here in front of their own supporters. They had the opportunities but they also made stupid mistakes.

The home fans did not immediately leave after the game and they certainly believe as the players and Emery came back out for a lap of appreciation. The flags were waved and the atmosphere felt triumphant with Emery shouting “up the Villa!” into the microphone. How they will also desperately hope it is not premature.

If it is then there will be two first-half incidents that will haunt them. The stadium announcer had hailed Emiliano Martinez as “the world’s number one”, there had been a carnival feel inside Villa Park, the home players had taken to the pitch with their children – and then after just 61 seconds they were a goal down.

And it was due to a horrendous, awful error from Martinez who fumbled Harvey Elliott’s deflected cross into his own net. He almost patted it over the line. To say it was deflected makes it sounds like it took the kind of change of direction that elicits an excuse or provides some mitigation. No, it merely brushed off Pau Torres and the look on Martinez’s face said it all.

Then, after Youri Tielemans had equalised only for Cody Gakpo to restore Liverpool’s lead, there was arguably the miss of all-time from Diego Carlos. Leon Bailey broke through in the penalty area and crossed low. It was an open goal and a tap-in for Carlos, with Ollie Watkins behind him, but the defender somehow made a mess of it and side-footed wide. From half a yard out. No more. For those who can recall it was worse than Ronny Rosenthal’s ‘sitter’ for Liverpool in this fixture back in 1992.

For Villa the frustration grew. Jarrel Quansah made it 3-1 to Liverpool with a superb looping header for his first Premier League goal before Villa hoped they had pulled one back. Watkins finished and there was a long VAR check. Bailey angrily berated Watkins, presumably believing he had strayed offside. But it was Bailey who had erred and it was ruled out.

Leon Bailey – Duran breathes life back into Aston Villa's Champions League dream with late double
Leon Bailey missed a sitter that brought back memories of Ronny Rosenthal's miss in another six-goal meeting between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park - EPA/Peter Powell

It seemed a sign that the game was lost for Villa with Klopp making a quadruple substitution to refresh his team. But it was two changes made by Emery that made the difference. One of them, Calum Chambers, sharply stole away possession from a hesitant Alexis MacAllister to feed the other, Jhon Duran, who had a lot to do but beat Alisson with a fine low shot. Then there was a freakish finish as Moussa Diaby attempted to pick out Duran with the ball striking the forward’s thigh and flying into the net as he ran on. A slice of fortune for sure, maybe a bit of improvisation, but Villa will hope it was a sign also.

Aston Villa vs Liverpool: As it happened . . .

10:57 PM BST

Emery loves the Villa

10:53 PM BST

McGinn and Tielemans wearing City shirts tomorrow

10:36 PM BST

Klopp disappointed but proud of his players

10:07 PM BST

Mixed feelings for Emery and Villa

A suitably crazy game and mixed feelings for Villa. They were happy with the point in the end, but must wait to confirm Champions League qualification. Liverpool only turned up to play in possession - they were hopeless when put under pressure. No celebratory fist pumps from Klopp tonight.

Good result for Spurs, of course. And Arsenal. Spurs will go for broke against City tomorrow night, won’t they?

10:05 PM BST

Full-time: Aston Villa 3 Liverpool 3

Not the results Villa wanted but considering the scoreline after 83 minutes we’re sure they’re pretty pleased with themselves. It’s a step in the right direction for Villa in their quest for Champions League football next season but this result still leaves the door slightly ajar for Tottenham Hotspur.

Captain John McGinn applauds the fans after the game
Captain John McGinn applauds the fans after the game - Carl Recine/Reuters

10:00 PM BST

90+6 mins: Aston Villa 3 Liverpool 3

Injury time hasn’t been quite as dramatic as we might have expected but there was a Var check for a handball in the Liverpool box, it was swiftly checked though and no penalty was given.

09:57 PM BST

90+4 mins: Aston Villa 3 Liverpool 3

Bedlam inside Villa Park as the nine minutes added time is announced. They fancy this. Doesn’t feel like the scoring is over. Champions League is there for the taking.

09:57 PM BST

90+1 mins: Aston Villa 3 Liverpool 3

As I was saying... or maybe 4-3 to Villa if it carries on. Liverpool so generous throwing this away.

09:53 PM BST

GOAL! 88 mins: Aston Villa 3 Liverpool 3

Another from Duran! Diaby drives forward and shoots but his effort flicks off Duran and deceives Alisson. It’s all square and there’s still plenty of time for a winner!

Duran levels it late on
Duran levels it late on - Carl Recine/Reuters

09:49 PM BST

GOAL! 85 mins: Aston Villa 2 Liverpool 3

Jhon Duran breathes life into the Villa comeback. A very well taken finish by the substitute as he slots it past Alisson from the edge of the area. Could we see more late drama here at Villa Park?

Jhon Duran claws it back for Villa
Jhon Duran claws it back for Villa - Andrew Boyers/Reuters

09:47 PM BST

83 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

Powerful strike from outside the area by Trent is punched over by Martinez. Down the other end Bailey tricks Jones on the edge of the area, plays it to the feet of Duran but this effort is blocked.

09:43 PM BST

80 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

Villa have had plenty of chances but they’ve lacked conviction. Liverpool have just been playing this game for a bit of fun. This game has felt for a while it could end either 3-3 or 5-1.

09:42 PM BST

77 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

Salah plays a delightful little pass to Szoboszlai but Martinez is quick off his line to put it out for a corner. Zaniolo, who is only on about ten minutes, picks up a knock and is swiftly taken off. Duran and Callum Chambers come on for Douglas Luiz and Zaniolo.

09:37 PM BST

74 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

Visitors have very much gained back control of the game despite the noted Villa chances. A quadruple change ready for Liverpool. Nunez, Jones, Szoboszlai and Gravenberch ready themselves, Elliott, Gakpo, Diaz and Endo make way.

09:32 PM BST

69 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

Sub Zaniolo hits it straight at Alisson after Diaby finds him in free in the box. McGinn cynically drags down Diaz and picks up a yellow card.

09:29 PM BST

67 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

Diaby with some space down the right drives into the area and tries to beat Alisson at his near post but hits the side netting. It’s a wonder Liverpool haven’t conceded more deploying such a high line all evening.

09:28 PM BST

64 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

Nicolo Zaniolo comes on for Youri Tielemans, the scorer of Villa’s only goal thus far. Villa look like they are running out of ideas here. They’re looking sluggish. The crowd doing their best to keep them going. “No loss of hope or faith on the terraces” says Rob Hawthorne as the Villa faithful chant their hearts out.

09:24 PM BST

60 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

The farce of VAR is summed up by Liverpool fans inside Villa Park watching Sky on their mobile phones and boisterously celebrating an offside decision before the referee appears to know about it! Any chance of communicating to Simon Hooper a bit quicker?

09:22 PM BST

58 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

Var sure has been busy tonight. Liverpool have the ball in the net for what they think is their fourth but Luis Diaz was judged to be offside in the build up.

09:19 PM BST

54 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

Villa have another clear chance. Bailey once again causing trouble in the Liverpool area as he dummies Gomez and plays it to Watkins. The striker attempts a back heel into the net but its dribbles wide.

09:17 PM BST

52 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

Liverpool’s high line leads to more trouble. Tielemans plays in Bailey who thinks he’s offside so decides not to play it. Diaby emerges to try and take the ball on but Bailey then decides he wants it. He beats his man in the box and plays it across to Watkins who dispatches but it’s struck off for the intial offside. Bailey is livid with Watkins, for what I don’t know. His lack of communication maybe?

09:12 PM BST

GOAL! 48 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3

Harvey Elliott cross from the dead ball finds the head of youngster Jarell Quansah. The defender rises to meet it, his header hits the post and goes in to double Liverpool’s lead. That’s his first Premier League goal.

Jarell Quansah
Jarell Quansah - James Baylis/AMA

09:09 PM BST

45 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

We’re underway for the second half. John McGinn, despite having difficulties in the first half after a knock, remains on the field for the second period.

08:56 PM BST

Half-time: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

With more high lines than a trapeze show, both sides look dangerous and vulnerable making it an entertaining game. Villa must fancy turning this around in the second half given it means more to them. Liverpool are looking quite good with the ball. Without it? Not so much.

08:55 PM BST

45+5 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

One final moment of drama before the half time whistle is blown. Another well worked Liverpool move, this time starting with Trent who chips it from the edge of the area to Gakpo. He plays it across the six yard box to Salah who has a tap in. But he misses! His blushes are spared somewhat by the flag being raised for offside but it doesn’t take away from how bad the miss was. Have we just seen the two misses of the season in one 45 minute spell?

08:49 PM BST

45 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

Diaz in loads of space down the left, it’s 2 v 1, he plays a ball off the outside of his right boot to Salah but it’s a little heavy. Salah’s attempt is blocked.

Diaby, who looks like he’s playing a more advanced role than Watkins at this stage, is played through once more, he takes a nice first touch to take it away from Gomez then fails in his attempted back heel to Watkins who would have been in a great position if the ball had reached him

08:45 PM BST

43 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

Diego Carlos just indulged in what is affectionately known at Villa Park as ‘doing a Ronnie Rosenthal’.

08:44 PM BST

40 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

Trent decides to go for it from range, it flies just wide. Seconds later Diaby is played through on goal but his effort is ballooned over.

08:41 PM BST

38 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

Elliott booked for delaying the restart. Villa attack again, Diaby played in but his cross is blocked in the box. Villa looking the more likely right now.

08:38 PM BST

34 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

McGinn’s in-swinging free kick is cleared by Liverpool but falls out to Watkins, the striker play through Bailey who fizzes it past Alisson. Diego Carlos only needs the slightest of touches to put it over the line put he makes a meal of it. What a miss!

Carlos misses from inches away
Carlos misses from inches away - Andrew Boyers/Reuters

08:36 PM BST

32 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

McGinn has his effort from the edge of the area blocked after taking too long to pull the trigger. Villa, again, picking themselves up after the second Liverpool strike, putting some nice passages of play together.

08:28 PM BST

27 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

Liverpool’s defence looks ragged every time Watkins breaks into a sprint. Villa’s likewise when Liverpool have decent possession. Expect more goals.

08:27 PM BST

GOAL! 23 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2

Mac Allister’’s first time pass goes to the feet of Gakpo, the Dutchman lays it off to Salah who plays a beautiful cross-field pass to Diaz. Diaz tips it to Gomez on the overlap whose low cross finds Gakpo again to tap in for Liverpool’s second. A lovely Liverpool move ends in a finish but it goes to Var. After some time Simon Hooper eventually gives the goal.

Gakpo slots home for visitors' second
Gakpo slots home for visitors' second - Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

08:21 PM BST

19 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 1

Bailey plays a lovely ball through to Watkins but his pace and power is a matched by Van Dijk and the defender blocks his effort. Moments later, Diaby slides the ball to Bailey a few yards from goal, he turns and shoots but the shot is blocked again.

08:19 PM BST

17 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 1

Villa looking much more up for it now, as are the crowd. It looked for a moment there like we might be looking at an exhibition from the visitors. What a difference a goal makes.

08:15 PM BST

GOAL! 12 mins: Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 1

Watkins dances past Trent Alexander-Arnold out wide, dashes for the end line and plays the ball to Tielemans around the penalty spot with space and time. He does as expected, placing it into the bottom left corner past a rooted Alisson. 1-1.

Tielemans celebrates the equaliser
Tielemans celebrates the equaliser - Rui Vieira/AP

08:13 PM BST

10 mins: Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 1

Yet again too easy for Liverpool. Salah chips the ball to Diaz with acres of space but her fluffs the effort. Gakpo follows up but hits the post. It’s offside anyway.

08:11 PM BST

8 mins: Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 1

Diaby beats Gomez on the right and crosses to Bailey inside the area, but his shot hits his standing foot and goes wide. Villa have steadied the ship a little since that shakey opening five.

08:08 PM BST

6 mins: Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 1

Fair play to the Villa fans. After the initial stunned silence following the howler there was a stirring rendition of Emi Martinez being the world’s number 1. Judging by Liverpool’s start he will have plenty of chances to make amends.

08:06 PM BST

3 mins: Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 1

Salah glides past Digne like he’s not even there, hits a shot from insid ethe box off his favoured left but a deflection takes it just wide. From the corner Elliott finds Mac Allister who dinks the ball into the area, it finds Gakpo who heads over.

08:04 PM BST

GOAL! 2 min: Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 1

A calamitous start to proceedings for Villa. Elliott’s cross takes an ever-so-slight deflection off Pau Torres and finds the hands of Martinez but the keeper makes a horrendous mistake, letting the ball slip from his grasp and subsequently punching into his own net.

08:00 PM BST

Kick off! Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 0

And we’re away!

07:55 PM BST

Predicting Rob Hawthorne Hanks-related lines tonight

Celebrity Villa fan Tom Hanks has just given a pitchside interview bemoaning the lack of coverage of his side in the United States. One suspects there will be plenty of references to the Hollywood superstar’s movies during the TV commentary this evening (and tomorrow’s match reports)...

Let’s make a pre-emptive strike using our best Rob Hawthorne impression.

“Will it be a case of ‘Catch Me if You Can’ from Unai Emery to Ange Postecoglou in the race for the Champions League?”

“Can Villa ensure Spurs’ top four hopes are Cast Away?”

“Are Villa ready to make a Splash at Europe’s top table?”

07:33 PM BST

Klopp one booking away from spoiling Anfield farewell

Klopp will need to be careful on the sideline tonight. One booking for him and he will potentially spoil an emotional farewell at Anfield on the final day of the season. With Simon Hooper as tonight’s referee, the Liverpool manager feels he may need to be extra careful.

07:24 PM BST

No pressure could lead to proper Klopp football

This could go one of two ways for Liverpool. With a demob happy manager and a team guaranteed to finish third, the release of pressure could lead to some care-free, full throttle Klopp football.

Alternatively, there could be a few players treating tonight as a warm-up to this summer’s Euros. With so little at stake, how much would Liverpool be up for a fight if Villa make it a feisty game?

If the home side do not look like they want victory more from the first whistle, it would be inexcusable.

07:19 PM BST

Klopp looks forward to final away game as Liverpool manager

07:18 PM BST

Emery speaks on securing Champions League spot

07:14 PM BST

Youri Tielemans returns to the starting XI for Villa

After missing out on the last two games for Aston Villa due to a groin injury, Belgian Youri Tielemans returns to the starting line up. Could he play a big part in the host’s push for Europe tonight?

Tielemans returns for Villa
Tielemans returns for Villa - Neville Williams/Getty Images

07:06 PM BST

Tom Hanks, a Villa fan?

Jason Burt’s photo of the Forrest Gump star from the press box at Villa Park.

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks

07:03 PM BST

Liverpool team

07:02 PM BST

Villa team

07:01 PM BST

Europe awaits

A win tonight for Villa will mean they will play Champions League football for the first time since the 1982-83 season where they reached the quarter finals. The season before they actually won the competition, beating Bayern Munich in the final thanks to a Peter Withe finish.

Villa Park before the game
Villa Park before the game - Carl Racine/Reuters

06:47 PM BST

A season to remember for Villa

It’s been a momentous, record-breaking season for Aston Villa, achieving their most points and wins in a season since the 1992-93 season.

06:30 PM BST

McGinn: Villa must find fire to book Champions League spot

John McGinn has urged injury ravaged Aston Villa to “find the fire” and finally secure Champions League qualification.

Ahead of their 55th game of a tiring season, Villa face Liverpool tonight with the incentive of guaranteeing a top-four finish with a win.

Villa’s dreams of reaching a European final were ended by Olympiacos last week and Unai Emery’s squad are being pushed to the limit by a deepening injury list.

Tyrone Mings, Emiliano Buendía, Boubacar Kamara, Jacob Ramsey and Morgan Rogers are all ruled out of Villa’s final home game of the season. Youri Tielemans, Nicolo Zaniolo and Alex Moreno could return but winger Leon Bailey is the latest doubt.

Yet McGinn is demanding one final push from his team to sign off a memorable season on a high.

“It has been a long hard season and certainly one to be proud of but we don’t want to stop short,” he said. “We know what we have to do and we’re so close. It is in our hands and we owe ourselves a performance after the effort throughout the season, the graft every single day coming in.

“We want to get the job done ourselves and get into the top four, which would be an unbelievable achievement, though it won’t take the disappointment away from Thursday night.

“The fans have been there the past few weeks and it is up to us to deliver now. You can wave as many scarves as you want, shout our names as loud as you want, but it is up to us to find that fire and get us over the line.”

Tottenham’s win over Luton on Saturday leaves them four points behind Villa with two games left to play.

Villa have picked up two wins from their last six Premier League matches and produced a jaded, lethargic performance in the semi-final second leg against Olympiacos last Thursday.

McGinn has admitted they should have already booked their place in next season’s Champions League.

“That is the frustrating thing, we could have had it wrapped up before now,” he said. “There has been a determination for five or six weeks, but the Premier League is extremely difficult.

“We have certainly had some setbacks along the way but this group will keep fighting.”

Team news to follow shortly.

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