BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - A superb first-half hat-trick from Ollie Watkins helped Aston Villa to a stunning 7-2 victory over Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday to end the champions’ 100% start to the season in extraordinary fashion.
Villa narrowly avoided relegation last season and finished 64 points behind Liverpool, who conceded seven goals in a match in any competition for the first time since 1963.
“It’s hard to lose the way we lost tonight. First and foremost well done to Aston Villa, we have to give them the credit they deserve. It was one of those performances where we weren’t 100% at it from start to finish,” Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk told Sky Sports.
“Overall, we’re all disappointed, we shouldn’t have lost with the numbers that we did but it’s about sticking together and making sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Liverpool began badly at Villa Park as a poor pass from Adrian -- deputising for Alisson in goal for the visitors after the Brazilian picked up a shoulder injury -- gifted Watkins his the opener in the fourth minute.
Adrian has made five errors directly leading to opposition goals in his 21 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions, the same number as Alisson in 92 games for the club.
Ahead of the Spaniard, a full-strength Liverpool defence was carved open again moments later, with former Everton midfielder Ross Barkley -- making his debut after joining Villa on loan -- gifted another chance, but he dragged his effort wide.
“All the things you should not do in a football match we did tonight,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said. “The first goal had an impact but it shouldn’t. We conceded goals like that in the past, but the reaction wasn’t good, and we lost the plot.”
If there was an element of good fortune about Watkins’s first goal in a Villa shirt, his second was all his own fine work, as he cut inside before firing into the top corner to stun the champions and make it 2-0 in the 22nd minute.
Mohamed Salah’s fine left-foot finish seemed to get Liverpool back in the game in the 33rd minute, but John McGinn’s deflected strike two minutes later restored Villa’s two-goal advantage.
Watkins completed a perfect hat-trick inside 39 minutes with his head, becoming the first player to score a Premier League treble against Liverpool in over a decade, and Barkley made it five 10 minutes into the second half.
Salah did give Liverpool hope on the hour mark, but a late double from Jack Grealish completed the scoring.
“I think when the first one went in I pinched myself a bit because of how early it was,” Watkins said. “I’m delighted to contribute and that we won at the end of the day. It’s unbelievable to score and get a hat-trick.”
Villa rained in 18 shots on the Liverpool goal and could have added more before the final whistle as they climbed to second in the standings after a third successive win.
“When Juergen Klopp says wow to you you know you’ve done something right,” Villa manager Dean Smith said. “The lads were superb, they executed the game plan perfectly.”
Liverpool are fifth.
Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Ed Osmond
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