KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: Aston Villa outran Liverpool 2-1 to reach the FA Cup Final against Arsenal after a second semi-final which, while it lacked the intrigue of Saturday’s extra-time entertainment, was replete with drama of its own.
Not only Villa’s success on picking themselves up under Tim Sherwood but the sight of Liverpool’s season, which had begun so full of hope, continuing to collapse.
Champions League qualification appears increasingly beyond them and manager Brendan Rodgers and his men will not even have the prospect of the FA Cup Final to brighten the end of skipper Steven Gerrard’s last season.
While Villa rose to the occasion in magnificent style Liverpool had only themselves to blame for defeat.
Paul Lambert’s ‘old boys’ commanded the opening halfhour but then Liverpool snapped out of defence and an unselfish touch from Raheem Sterling put in Philippe Coutinho to stab them into the lead. Then, however, Liverpool committed the fatal sin of complacency to concede an equaliser six minutes later.
Neat work by Jack Grealish and Fabian Delph set up the impressive Christian Benteke for his ninth goal in seven games. Shortly after half-time the same trio worked to put Villa ahead. This time Benteke and Grealish were the creators and captain Delph the scorer.
Luck was not with Liverpool. Gerrard had a header cleared off the goal-line in the 85th minute then substitute Mario Balotelli had a goal disallowed, wrongly as TV showed, for offside.
Cup history runs in the veins of Villa’s 19-year-old, Birmingham-born Grealish. His great-great-grandfather, Billy Garraty, was hailed as the man of the match when Villa beat Tottenham in the 1905 FA Cup Final.
Maybe he can emulate family history against another north London club back at Wembley on May 30 . . . coincidentally, the sad Gerrard’s 35th birthday.