Villa upset Liverpool in FA Cup semi
In a few miserable hours for Liverpool's players yesterday, their bid to return to the Champions League was damaged by Manchester City winning, and a loss to Aston Villa ended their only hope of silverware.
Instead of captain Steven Gerrard ending his Liverpool career on his 35th birthday in the May 30 FA Cup final, Villa will contest the showpiece against Arsenal for the first time in 15 years.
Philippe Coutinho put Liverpool ahead in the semi-final, but Fabian Delph set up Christian Benteke's equaliser and then scored himself to secure a 2-1 victory.
"Not a lot of people gave us a chance coming here to play against Liverpool," Villa manager Tim Sherwood said. "We will be the underdog (in the final). The pressure's on Arsenal to win the cup. They're the holders."
Villa want to return to Wembley Stadium next month still a Premier League team. Sherwood's side are only four points above the relegation zone with five games remaining.
Sherwood first took Villa out of the drop zone, and now there is a chance of a first trophy for the 1982 European Cup winners since the 1996 League Cup. Villa won the last of its seven FA Cups in 1957 and lost the 2000 final to Chelsea.
Prime Minister David Cameron, a Villa fan, broke off from the general election campaign to congratulate the team, tweeting: "A tremendous achievement."
Villa fought back from the blow of conceding to Coutinho, who started and completed the move for the opener. Lazar Markovic played in Raheem Sterling, who fed Coutinho to shoot past Shay Given.
Within six minutes, Villa were level. Fabian Delph played a one-two with Jack Grealish, before setting up Benteke to sidefoot home from 12 yards.
villa more dynamic
Villa were the more dynamic, energetic side, pressuring Liverpool, and another goal just seemed to be a matter of time. It came nine minutes into the second half.
Delph picked out Benteke from the halfway line, and the Belgium striker deftly back-heeled the ball to Grealish, who threaded it through for Delph to strike through a congested area into the net.
Gerrard, who is joining the Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of the season, tried to single-handedly rescue his final dream. The midfielder, who has spent his entire career at Liverpool, sent a free kick straight into Given's arms in the 80th minute, then had a header cleared off the line by Kieran Richardson.
Mario Balotelli did put the ball in the net, but it was ruled out for offside - summing up his misfortune at Liverpool this season.