Liverpool cruised to an emphatic 6-0 victory at Villa Park as the home side’s pathetic capitulation left them seven points adrift at the bottom of the table, eight away from safety and utterly bereft of hope as they stare relegation in the face.
But at Villa Park on Valentine’s Day, there wasn’t much love in the air as the home team’s fans departed in droves rather than witness the latest nadir of a so far wretched season for one of English football’s most historic clubs.
As good as Liverpool’s attacking play was, with manager Jurgen Klopp starting Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho in combination for the first time, Villa’s collective defending was so shambolic that attention must inevitably centre on the Villans’ shortcomings.
Sturridge – whose two previous Premier League goals this season came in Liverpool’s home victory over Villa last September – scored the Reds’ first after 16 minutes, guiding a header from a beautifully whipped left-wing Coutinho cross past Villa ‘keeper Mark Bunn.
Former Villa man James Milner doubled the lead with 25 on the clock, swinging a free-kick into the box that evaded everyone, including a flapping Bunn, for a soft second goal.
Just before the hour, Emre Can got in on the act, receiving the ball from Firmino on the edge of the box and sending a right foot shot past Bunn.
Four minutes later, Divock Origi was brought on for Sturridge, whose lack of match fitness meant he lasted just an hour. Villa were quick to welcome the Belgian to the party.
Origi’s first touch took him clear of the woeful Villa back line, which had pushed up the pitch only to be completely exposed by a simple Coutinho through ball. The Belgian’s second touch made it 4-0.
The fifth was reminiscent of playground football, as Nathaniel Clyne’s shot was saved, only for a panicked defensive scramble from the home side to ensue around the six yard area, from which the ball emerged for Liverpool’s right-back to tuck home with ease.
As if things could barely get any worse, Kolo Toure was left completely unmarked at a corner kick and duly headed in Liverpool’s sixth on 71 minutes.
Klopp’s team have been rightly criticised for their defending at set plays this season, but there cannot have been a more abjectly defended set piece all season than Villa’s organisation for Toure’s goal.
With 15 minutes to play, Liverpool’s German manager brought on former Villa striker Christian Benteke, whose move from Villa Park to Anfield last summer for £32.5m has so far proved an expensive failure.