Ollie Watkins scored a first-half hat-trick as Aston Villa maintained their perfect start to the Premier League season with a sensational 7-2 humiliation of champions Liverpool.
The Merseysiders were hoping to join neighbours Everton at the summit with four wins from four heading into the international break, but were left stunned and demoralised as Dean Smith’s side tore their defence to shreds with a remarkable performance.
It all started when Adrian, in for the injured first-choice keeper Alisson, gifted a pass to Jack Grealish to set up Watkins inside four minutes.
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The club record £28m signing from Brentford then added a second with a superb run and shot before Mo Salah reduced the arrears on 33 minutes.
However, Liverpool’s expected resurgence didn’t materialise as John McGinn’s deflected shot restored Villa’s two-goal cushion just two minutes later. Watkins then completed his treble on 39 minutes when the visitors’ shaky defence were caught out by a deep free kick.
The goals continued to flow after the break, with Ross Barkley marking his debut for the Villans with a fifth on 55 minutes.
Salah pulled another back for the away side but the impressive Grealish ensured he got in on the act with a late double.
The victory means Villa move up to second, three points behind Everton with three victories from three. Liverpool are down in fifth after seeing their own 100 per cent record spectacularly come to an end.
The Reds will now have to lick their wounds during the international break prior to a crunch derby at Everton on October 17. Villa will look to maintain their brilliant start when they visit Leicester on the same day.

TALKING POINT

Villa in dreamland, while Liverpool have big questions to answer before the derby. Liverpool’s high line has been a point of debate in terms of the risk value for some time, and Villa’s game-plan brutally exposed it here. The champions’ rearguard never looked comfortable, with Adrian showing he is a weak understudy to the injured Alisson. The fact the Brazilian stopper could miss matches beyond the international break will be a big concern for Klopp and Co after this mauling – but such a debacle goes beyond just the keeper. Indeed, the Reds boss knows there will big questions of his team’s entire defence heading in to the Goodison derby, and rightly so. Villa got in time and time again and could have ended up with double figures.
The clash at Everton was being billed as a top-of-the-table clash ahead of this game, but now it’s a huge test of Liverpool and how they will respond. The Toffees haven’t beaten their neighbours since 2010, but will be even more confident their in-form team can finally end that run in two weeks' time.
As for Villa, this is one to savour for some time to come. They only stayed up by a point last term, but this a big statement and shows their recruitment has been strong. They may even rue a league break now after such a morale-boosting result, but will feel they can have a successful campaign and avoid another scrap for survival.

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MAN OF THE MATCH

Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa). Terrorised Joe Gomez et al with some dangerous runs down the left channel. Took his goals clinically and is already going some way to justifying Villa’s big outlay to secure his services.

PLAYER RATINGS

ASTON VILLA: Martinez 7, Cash 7, Konsa 7, Mings 7, Targett 7, Luiz 8, McGinn 8, Barkley 8, Grealish 9, Trezeguet 8, Watkins 9. Subs: Nakamba n/a, El Mohamady n/a, Traore n/a.
LIVERPOOL: Adrian 4, Alexander-Arnold 4, Gomez 3, Van Dijk 4, Robertson 5, Fabinho 5, Wijnaldum 5, Keita 5, Salah 6, Firmino 5, Jota 6. Subs: Minamino 5, Jones 5, Milner 5.
Matchcast: Full match stats and commentary

KEY MOMENTS


4’ - Aston Villa 1-0 Liverpool. Adrian with an absolute howler. His slack pass towards Gomez goes straight to Grealish, who cuts it back for Watkins to roll the ball home.
22’ - Aston Villa 2-0 Liverpool. Wow. Watkins charges down the left, cuts in past Gomez and thunders a shot into the top corner. The champions are in trouble.
33’ - Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool. Salah reduces the arrears with a thumping finish after Jota's dangerous run and pass bounced his way via Keita’s blocked shot.
35’ - Aston Villa 3-1 Liverpool. Adrian denies Barkley, but from the resulting corner Villa restore their two-goal cushion. McGinn hits a volley from the edge of the box that deflects off van Dijk and wrong-foots Adrian.
39’ - Aston Villa 4-1 Liverpool. It's a hat-trick! Watkins is left unmarked to nod home Trezeguet’s cross from the left after Liverpool’s high line was caught out by a deep free kick.
55’ - Aston Villa 5-1 Liverpool. Barkley caps his debut with a deflected shot that loops beyond Adrian and into the far corner. Five-star Villa!
60’ - Aston Villa 5-2 Liverpool. Salah takes Firmino's pass and rifles it into the near-post corner. He's the only one showing some fight for the visitors it seems.
66’ - Aston Villa 6-2 Liverpool. It's SIX! Incredible. Grealish cuts inside and sees his shot take a huge deflection off Fabinho and fly in at the near-post corner.
75’ - Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool. It's seventh heaven for the home side. Grealish catches Liverpool's defence out again and clips a cheeky finish beyond Adrian.

KEY STATS

Liverpool are the first reigning English top-flight champions to ship seven goals in a league match since Arsenal against Sunderland in September 1953.
Watkins is the 10th player to score a PL hat-trick against Liverpool, and the first since Dimitar Berbatov in September 2010.
Liverpool conceded seven goals in a game for the first time since April 1963, in a 7-2 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.
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