Aston Villa have Champions League 'in our hands' after dramatic late draw with Liverpool

Unai Emery's side score two late goals to earn a 3-3 draw and put them on the cusp of a top-four finish

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Aston Villa captain John McGinn said all the players will become Manchester City fans for one day after Monday night's dramatic 3-3 draw with Liverpool left the club on the brink of qualifying for the Champions League.

Villa looked set for a fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions as an Emiliano Martinez own goal and strikes from Cody Gakpo and Jarrell Quansah put Liverpool on course for victory in Jurgen Klopp's final away game in charge.

But substitute Jhon Duran scored a late double to push Unai Emery's men closer to Europe's top table for the first time since 1983. Victory for title-chasing City at Tottenham on Tuesday will secure Villa's place in the top four.

It's been an excellent season for Villa but they have started to stumble as the strain of combining a challenge for the Champions League alongside a run to the Europa Conference League semi-finals has taken its toll.

"Just a brilliant effort towards the end," said Villa captain McGinn. "It's been a tough couple of weeks. The manager won't admit it but the boys are out on their feet, giving absolutely everything.

"We'll have our Man City tops on tomorrow night."

Martinez's return to fitness after he missed last weekend's 1-0 defeat at Brighton should have been a major boost for the home side. But the Argentine World Cup winner's howler handed Liverpool the opening goal after just two minutes as he fumbled Harvey Elliott's deflected cross into his own net.

Villa did respond positively as Ollie Watkins burned Quansah for pace and pulled back a cross for Youri Tielemans to equalise.

However, momentum swung back in Liverpool's favour in an end-to-end encounter when Gakpo tapped in after Martinez could only parry Joe Gomez's effort.

Villa were 3-1 down just three minutes into the second half as Quansah rose highest to head in Elliott's free kick.

There was still time for Villa to mount a memorable comeback as Liverpool's own defensive weaknesses were laid bare.

Had it not been for an injury to substitute Nicolo Zaniolo, Duran may not even have entered the field. But the Colombian produced a stunning finale as he pounced on a mistake from Alexis Mac Allister to drill home from the edge of the box.

Duran did not know much about his second as Moussa Diaby's pass ricocheted in off his thigh, but Hollywood star and Villa fan Tom Hanks was one of the 40,000 who did not care.

"Big Jhon is a bit nuts," McGinn said. "He's a nightmare sometimes to have in your team but he's got moments of quality."

A point for Liverpool may be meaningless in their quest to win the title as wins for Manchester City and Arsenal over the weekend mathematically ended the chance of Klopp departing as a Premier League winner.

Yet, it could still be significant in the title race as it keeps Tottenham's chances of Champions League football alive ahead of City's trip to north London on Tuesday.

"It got away from us tonight, there's no doubt about that," said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. "We make a mistake for the 3-2 and in that moment we open the door for them, the atmosphere was there and they score the equaliser."

Even if Spurs spring a huge surprise, Villa still have a top-four finish in their hands when they visit the in-form Crystal Palace on the final day of the season on Sunday.

Villa's eight-goal superior goal difference means a draw at Selhurst Park should be enough even if Tottenham win in their two final matches against City and relegated Sheffield United.

“It’s in our hands and we have to try and focus on our work tomorrow. We’re going to train in the morning and recover and to prepare the match on Sunday," Emery said.

“We’re going to analyse deeply the match we played today and the opponent, Crystal Palace. We’ll try to get there feeling strong to get the option we have.”

Updated: May 14, 2024, 4:31 AM