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Liverpool increased the likelihood that Aston Villa will be relegated from the Premier League by producing a 6-0 thrashing of Remi Garde’s men in Birmingham.
A header from Daniel Sturridge, making his first Premier League start under Jurgen Klopp, and a James Milner free-kick left the Reds two goals to the good at the break.
Emre Can fired in a fine third a couple of minutes prior to the hour, before substitute Divock Origi scored on the break and Nathaniel Clyne tapped in the fifth.
Kolo Toure’s first Liverpool goal made it six for the staggeringly comfortable visitors, completing the scoring on a dreadful day for Remi Garde and his embattled troops.
Villa remain rock bottom of the top-flight table, eighth points adrift of a spot outside of the drop zone.
For Liverpool, the victory was a significant boost to their hopes of securing a berth in European competition next season.
The Merseysiders hit the front in the 17th minute, as Philippe Coutinho’s accurate delivery was headed neatly into the bottom corner by the unmarked Sturridge.
The advantage was doubled seven minutes later when Milner’s free-kick from the left wing evaded all in the crowded box and nestled inside the far post.
Jordan Henderson and Alberto Moreno both missed very good opportunities to further stretch the dominant visitors’ lead, before a strong stop from Mark Budd denied Sturridge prior to the interval.
Villa briefly threatened at the beginning of the second period, with Simon Mignolet struggling to gather a Leandro Bacuna effort, but the away side moved further ahead through a crisp 20-yard drive from Can, after a poor touch from Bacuna had allowed Roberto Firmino to tee up the German.
Origi raced on to an incisive pass in behind from Coutinho and finished well, with Clyne further adding to Villa’s misery by tapping home after Bunn had done well to keep out the England man’s initial effort.
Toure took advantage of an extremely poor lack of marking to nod in Henderson’s driven corner, accelerating an exodus of home fans that had commenced following Can’s successful strike.
Scott Sinclair produced a decent attempt, hitting the outside of the post with a curling strike, to give the home supporters who had remained some joy.
The consolation was not to arrive, however, on a day that will effectively confirm to many of the Villa faithful that they will be attending Championship matches next season.
By David Maher