The Premier League’s bottom club remain eight points adrift of safety with 12 games left after first-half strikes from Daniel Sturridge and James Milner, followed by four goals in 15 second-half minutes from Emre Can, Divock Origi, Nathaniel Clyne, and Kolo Toure comprehensively condemned the club to their 16th defeat of the season.
Garde took full responsibility for a result he described as the worst of his managerial career but is still not giving up hope of salvaging Villa’s top-flight status.
“I feel humiliation when you concede six goals without scoring, this is very painful,” said the Frenchman.
“I saw that [a lack of fight] as well. In the previous weeks and games it was not the case but I always knew this is a very fragile situation and to keep fighting is not easy.
“As a manager, probably yes it’s my worst defeat. It’s a very bad defeat but then we have no time to complain too much, we have to be professional until the end and I will find 11 players for the next game that want to fight.
“We have 12 games to go and still the possibility to win those games so we have to fight for it.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp saved special praise for the returning Sturridge, who was starting his first league game since the goalless draw in the Merseyside derby back in October.
The injury-plagued striker demonstrated his natural instinct in front of goal with the opener at Villa Park, which will serve as a timely boost to his new boss with the Europa League knockout stages and Capital One Cup final on the horizon. “We need the goals of Daniel and he needs the goals, that’s clear,” said Klopp.
“It’s not a surprise that he can score goals but it’s surprising how good his movements are with the team when he starts. He’s a real striker and that’s really good to see. When he hides himself on the pitch it’s always difficult to defend against because you don’t know where his next movement is.
“Today he was brilliant and you saw he was not too happy when we took him off. It made sense to take him out after 60 minutes. It was perfect for him.”
Having threatened on several occasions in the midweek FA Cup defeat to West Ham, Sturridge took just 16 minutes to make his mark, showing clever movement to ghost in between Joleon Lescott and Aly Cissokho and nonchalantly head home Philippe Coutinho’s pinpoint cross.
The goal — Sturridge’s fifth in his last four league games against Villa — allowed Liverpool to take full control of proceedings in front of an already resigned home crowd and the visitors doubled their lead nine minutes later.
Milner curled in a free-kick from the left flank causing confusion in the Villa box as Mark Bunn missed his punch when he jumped with Mamadou Sakho and watched the ball sail past him untouched and into the bottom corner.
Garde’s side have shown sporadic signs of improvement since the turn of the year and were looking for back-to-back league wins for the first time since May. That would have provided them with a fighting chance of survival, but time is now running out for the Frenchman and his beleaguered side after another hapless display. Villa’s lack of organisation and defensive discipline was brutally exposed in six second-half minutes to turn a straightforward Liverpool victory into a rout.
In the 59th minute, Can dispossessed Leandro Bacuna inside the Villa half and found Roberto Firmino on the left. The Brazilian waltzed inside and teed up his Turkish team-mate to drill home a first-time shot from the edge of the box.
Seconds after replacing Sturridge, Origi raced on to a sublime through ball by the menacing Coutinho and calmly slotted past the helpless Bunn. Just 156 seconds had elapsed before it was five. Villa’s defenders failed to shut down Clyne’s industrious burst into the box and allowed the full-back to get his initial shot away before watching him anticipate the rebound and poke home.
Further inexcusable Villa marking from a corner allowed Toure the freedom of the penalty box to complete the humiliation with the simplest of headers. Villa finally mustered an effort of note in the 77th minute when substitute Scott Sinclair’s curling strike clipped the top of the crossbar, cueing sarcastic cheers from the few thousand home supporters left in the stadium.
“I’m in a position where I have responsibility,” added Garde.
“I’m very sad like all the fans who were at Villa Park today. I feel sorry for them.”
Bunn 4, Richards 3 (Hutton 85), Okore 3, Lescott 3, Cissokho 3, Westwood 3, Gana 4, Bacuna 4 (Lyden 66 5), Veretout 5, Gil 5, Agbonlahor 5 (Sinclair, 58 6).
Mignolet 6, Clyne 7, Toure 7, Sakho 6, Moreno 6, Can 7, Henderson 6, Milner 7, Coutinho 8 (Stewart 66 5), Firmino 7 (Benteke 74 5) , Sturridge 8 (Origi 62 7).