Aston Villa's turnaround under Tim Sherwood has been incredible, and they put in their best performance of the season against Liverpool on Sunday. The Villains were the better side from start to finish, and very much deserved the 2-1 victory that earned them a trip to the FA Cup final.
Villa started as the much stronger side, putting Liverpool on the back foot constantly in the first half-hour. Their best chance was a two-on-one in the 16th minute, but Charles Nzogbia couldn't quite get his pass right, and Dejan Lovren was able to stop it from getting to Christina Benteke.
Despite Villa's great start, it was Liverpool who scored first, against the run of play and thanks to a pair of very bad errors. Philippe Coutinho got the ball into the box for his team, but both Jores Okore -- who came on for the injured Nathan Baker -- and Fabian Delph had chances to make an easy clearance, but both failed. Raheem Sterling collected the ball and found Coutinho, who placed a shot past Shay Given from 15 yards.
The Villains' response was almost instant, and they had a well-deserved equalizer before they headed into halftime. Delph redeemed himself by setting up the goal, playing an exchange with Jack Grealish before cutting back for Benteke to score from the top of the box.
Steven Gerrard struggled in the first half and Brendan Rodgers made a change to get him on the ball more, bringing on Mario Balotelli for Lazar Markovic and moving Gerrard into a regista role. That turned out to be a very poor decision. It only took nine minutes for Delph to win the ball in the space where Gerrard was supposed to be, then surge past him to get on the end of a pass from Grealish, dribble through a pair of defenders and beat Simon Mignolet.
Unsurprisingly, Liverpool had more of the ball from then until the end, but Villa defended well. Liverpool's best chance came on a corner, which Gerrard headed on target, but Kieran Richardson was able to clear it off the line.
Aston Villa: Given, Richardson, Baker (Okore 26'), Vlaar, Bacuna, Delph, Westwood, Cleverley, Nzogbia (Sinclair 75'), Benteke, Grealish (Cole 84')
Goals: Benteke (36'), Delph (54')
Liverpool: Mignolet, Lovren, Skrtel, Can, Moreno (Lambert 90'), Allen (Johnson 78'), Henderson, Markovic (Balotelli 46'), Coutinho, Gerrard, Sterling
Goals: Coutinho (30')
1. Jack Grealish has arrived - Aston Villa fans who have seen the team's Under-21 games over the last couple of seasons have been clamoring for more of Grealish, and it's been easy to see why. He's looked like a promising prospect in the chances Sherwood has given him to this point, but this was his best match yet. The 19-year-old was integral in the creation of both goals and was arguably their most dangerous player throughout the match. He's a star in the making.
2. It's time to say goodbye to Steven Gerrard - Brendan Rodgers tried him in different roles in each half. He was poor in both roles. This is par for the course for Gerrard, who looks to have aged every second of his 34 years and worn down from 800-plus competitive professional matches. There comes a time when every player, no matter how great they were, simply isn't good enough anymore. Gerrard simply isn't good enough anymore.
3. Believe in the Timpossible Dream - Tim Sherwood isn't terrific at speaking to the press without sounding a) like he's crazy, and b) very full of himself. But he did something positive with Tottenham last year, and he's doing a magnificent job with Villa at the moment. He has young players believing in themselves and everyone playing hard. Maybe this guy knows what he's doing.
SB Nation presents: Ranking the Champions League's top quarterfinal matchups