Delph delivers as Aston Villa turnaround Liverpool in FA Cup semi
Aston Villa came from behind to stun Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, sealing a return trip to the hallowed turf in six weeks’ time against Arsenal where they are 9/4 with Coral to cause another upset.
Brendan Rodgers’ Reds took the lead through Philippe Coutinho’s deflected effort, but Fabian Delph first set up Christian Benteke to equalise before striking himself in the second half.
It was a day for the underdogs, though Villa boss Tim Sherwood lost Nathan Baker to injury midway through a tentative first half. Liverpool reacted to the resultant enforced change with Jores Okore coming on for the West Midlands outfit, and Rodgers abandoning three at the back in favour of 4-2-3-1.
This seemingly had the desired effect, as on half an hour Coutinho finished a fine Reds move with Villa – Delph and Okore in particular – unable to clear their lines.
Liverpool’s lead was short-lived, however, as big Belgian striker Benteke levelled six minutes later. Jack Grealish started a move down the left, Delph made an overlapping run and pulled back for Villa’s in-form frontman to dispatch.
Coutinho and Benteke both missed respective other openings either side of half-time, with the tactical changes creating a more open contest. Villa completed the comeback 10 minutes after the interval with England midfielder Delph starting and ending another left channel move.
His through-ball found Benteke and a back-heel from Sherwood’s striker teed up young Grealish, who freed Delph with a clever reverse pass and he drove low beyond Simon Mignolet.
A stretched cup tie with end-to-end action followed, with Reds left back Alberto Moreno putting in a last-ditch tackle on an otherwise clean through Benteke to save his side.
Villa needed Kieran Richardson to clear a Steven Gerrard header from Coutinho’s corner off the line, ensuring the Kop idol will not have a fairytale finish to his Liverpool career.
Sherwood saw his side hang on for a famous win, with his decision to give Grealish first-team football entirely vindicated after Gabriel Agbonlahor missed out injured.
As an ex-Spurs skipper, the Villa boss will relish renewing an old rivalry with FA Cup holders Arsenal (odds-on at 3/10 to retain) in the final.
Defeat leaves Gerrard going out with a whimper, while Rodgers will not be bringing a trophy to Anfield and the second prize of Champions League football looking unlikely.