It could be that Chazal understood "image and likeness" as the Nefesh Hachaim does.
The Nefesh Hachaim 1 (1) says:
The use of the words tzellem and d’moot are not per their simple
meanings, for it is explicitly written (Yeshayahu 40:18): “And what
likeness will you compare unto Him.” Rather, their meanings imply a
similarity in some feature, as ...
Rashi explains that even though the malachim could not actually create Adam and he was not in their image, Hashem used this to teach a lesson in proper behavior.
Let us make man: Even though they [the angels] did not assist Him in
His creation, and there is an opportunity for the heretics to rebel
(to misconstrue the plural as a basis for their heresies), ...
For a person, "words" can exist in "inner space", and they can also exist in "outer space".
Le'mashal, for one who learns torah lishmah, the words are real and exist in inner-space, hence nothing else is needed. However, for one who learns torah she'lo lishmah, the words are extraneous and exist in "outer space" and ...