Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Aston Villa destroyed Premier League-leading Liverpool 5-0 at the Carabao Cup, handing the Reds their worst loss since 2017.
Aston Villa claimed a spot in the Carabao Cup semifinals with the victory Tuesday at Villa Park in Birmingham, England. Liverpool's senior players have a match at the Club World Cup Wednesday in Qatar, leading the Reds to fill their lineup with young players for the match against Aston Villa.
The Reds' starting lineup averaged 19.5 years old, the youngest cast in Liverpool history. Liverpool under-23 team boss Neil Critchley coached the team instead of normal manager Jurgen Klopp.
"I'm incredibly proud of that performance," Critchley told reporters. "I thought for large periods we were well in the game. I thought the start to the game was brilliant and I think we were actually the better team for the first 12 or 13 minutes..."
The 5-0 setback was the Reds' largest-ever Carabao Cup loss, surpassing a 4-1 setback to West Ham in 1988 and 6-3 loss to Arsenal in 2007. It was Liverpool's most-lopsided defeat since a 5-0 result against Manchester City in September 2017. Liverpool had their worst loss in 1954, when the Reds fell 9-1 to Birmingham.
"Everyone expected us to win the game and it was a bit of a 'no-win' situation for us," Aston Villa manager Dean Smith said. "If we won, people expected you to. If you didn't, it was an absolute disaster. The word I used for the players was attitude and I thought we did a good professional job.
"It will boost everyone's confidence. [Aston Villa] has a proud history in the competition -- we've won it five times -- and it's great to be back in the semifinals."
French forward Jonathan Kodjia scored twice for Aston Villa. Conor Hourihane and Wesley Moraes also added goals for Aston Villa. Liverpool fullback Morgan Boyes had an own goal in the 17th minute.
"We haven't chosen [to play this lineup], that's what's been decided by the club, that this is the best solution for the club -- and try telling those players in that dressing room [Tuesday] that it was a bad thing for them," Critchley said.
"You can't swap that experience for anything, that was a special evening for them and we are the beneficiaries of the success of the first team. We're jumping on the back of the rollercoaster a little bit, but that's what's been decided. We're here and I don't think we could have done too much more [Tuesday]."
The Reds battle Monterrey in the Club World Cup at 12:30 p.m. EST Wednesday in Doha, Qatar. They match up against Leicester City at 3 p.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 26. The Reds return to Champions League play with a first-leg round of 16 matchup against Atletico Madrid at 3 p.m. Feb. 18 in Madrid.