Sadio Mane’s scored twice as Liverpool were tested by Aston Villa's youth ranks, while Wolves beat Crystal Palace thanks to Adama Traore’s goal.
Sadio Mane’s double helped Liverpool survive a major FA Cup scare against Aston Villa’s plucky kids.
The Reds eventually clinched a 4-1 third-round win after Louie Barry’s equaliser for coronavirus-hit Villa threatened to embarrass the visitors.
Mane struck an early opener, but Liverpool needed three quickfire second-half goals from Georginio Wijnaldum, Mane and Mo Salah to end the hosts’ hopes of a stunning upset.
Villa’s first-team squad had been decimated by coronavirus, with nine players testing positive along with five staff, forcing the club to quickly call on the youngsters.
The game had been in doubt until Friday morning, but disciplined Villa produced a dogged display, with Barry, goalkeeper Akos Onodi and Mungo Bridge announcing themselves.
It owed much to Liverpool’s relaxed first-half approach – despite starts for Salah, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and James Milner – but Villa, made up of under-18s and under-23s, deserved their moment.
Several members of the squad are yet to pass their driving test and were dropped off at Villa Park by their parents, but they held their own for an hour against the Premier League champions.
Four of them – Barry, Ben Chrisene, Mo Sylla and Lamare Bogarde – were not even born when Milner made his debut for Leeds in 2002.
It was men against boys and Liverpool needed just four minutes to open the scoring when Mane headed in Curtis Jones’ right-wing cross.
Liverpool were in a no-win situation where they were expected to put several past Villa, but they struggled to go through the gears and when they did Onodi denied Fabinho and Mane.
The hosts grew in confidence, and stunned Liverpool to equalise five minutes before the break.
Callum Rowe’s excellent through-ball found Barry and the ex-West Brom striker – who joined Villa from Barcelona last year – held off Rhys Williams to calmly beat Caoimhin Kelleher.
It was a deserved leveller, with Liverpool lackadaisical, but the Reds finally took charge after an hour to score three times in four minutes.
Wijnaldum started the goalrush when he found the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Two minutes later Mane looped in a header for his second, and Salah wrapped it up when he turned in the area to fire low past Onodi.
Adama Traore’s superb first-half goal saw Wolves progress to the FA Cup fourth round at the expense of Crystal Palace.
A bitterly cold night at Molineux was warmed up after 35 minutes by the Spain international’s thunderous 18-yard strike.
The hosts were much the better side on the night against a disjointed Palace team which included nine changes and saw talisman Wilfried Zaha start the tie on the bench as goalkeeper John Ruddy, one of two changes made by Wanderers, was never troubled.
Wolves had seen a lot of the ball and made their dominance count after 35 minutes through Traore’s superb strike.
The 24-year-old skipped past Eze out wide on the right with a lovely piece of skill before shifting the ball onto his left foot and powering a shot beyond Butland from the edge of the penalty area.
Palace applied some late pressure as they looked for the equaliser but, as was the case all night, they lacked ideas and cohesion in the final third of the pitch.