EPL: Aston Villa keep Champions League hopes alive with draw against Liverpool

Aston Villa staged a dramatic late comeback against Liverpool at Villa Park to earn a vital point in the race for fourth place in the Premier League.

Villa could have confirmed Champions League football for the first time with victory and there was a carnival atmosphere before kick-off as Hollywood legend and celebrity supporter Tom Hanks addressed the crowd.

Unai Emery’s side looked to be leaving the door open for rivals Tottenham as they trailed 3-1 with five minutes left but two goals from substitute Jhon Duran snatched an unlikely draw.

The early party mood was punctured inside two minutes after a horrendous error by goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, who somehow fumbled Harvey Elliott’s deflected cross into his own net in front of a stunned Holte End.

Villa responded when Youri Tielemans powered home an equaliser after 12 minutes but Liverpool restored their lead as they cut the home defence wide open, Cody Gakpo tapping in Joe Gomez’s cross.

The home side looked tense but still created chances, Diego Carlos and Moussa Diaby both guilty of glaring misses as they pressed for an equaliser.

Liverpool made Villa’s task even harder when they extended their lead three minutes after the interval, young defender Jarell Quansah towering above Lucas Digne to score his first Premier League goal.

Substitute Duran set up a grandstand finish when his low shot beat Alisson with five minutes left then Villa Park went wild as Diaby’s shot deflected in off the striker.

Villa are still in pole position to reach next season’s Champions League as they stand five points ahead of Spurs, who have two games left, and will hope reigning champions and title favourites Manchester City can aid their cause when they play the top-four rivals on Tuesday night.

The point Aston Villa earned with this dramatic late turn of events edged them closer to the Champions League and was the result of endeavour and a refusal to accept defeat.

Liverpool’s fans spent much of the night serenading outgoing manager Jurgen Klopp in his penultimate game in charge, enjoying their side’s lead but seemingly none too concerned at the late concession of two points.

Klopp was a calm figure on the sidelines, well aware of the fact a yellow card could deprive him of his place in the technical area for his final Anfield appearance against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday.

Anfield will be in the mood to give Klopp the send-off he deserves and most travelling supporters here seemed to use this game as the chance to clear their throats and go through their song-sheets in a dress rehearsal for the German’s final bow.

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