With Manchester United and Manchester City both dropping precious points against relegation-threatened Swansea and Middlesbrough along with Arsenal tasting defeat in the North London derby, tonight was a chance for Liverpool to take a huge step in their bid for Champions League football.
An early injury to Philippe Coutinho would have rattled even the most cool-headed of fans. In his absence, the team struggled to find their rhythm, with Watford battling well to close down space and deprive Liverpool of any clear-cut chances on goal. However, the team’s superior quality did shine through in the end, with Adam Lallana hitting the bar before Emre Can produced a moment of brilliance to open the scoring.
The German acrobatically latched on to Lucas’ lofted through ball in stoppage time at the end of the first half and it proved enough to give Liverpool another boost in their hunt for a top-four finish. The Reds remain in third place, three points clear of City and four points ahead of United.
Here are the observations from the match.
Emre Can makes another case for a new contract
How many times have we said this now? With each passing week, Emre Can seems to step it up a notch and deliver a belting performance to steer Liverpool toward another win. Tonight was the perfect illustration of that with his goal proving to be the only difference between the two sides.
14 yards out, Can produced an outstanding bicycle kick to launch the ball into the top left-hand corner and beyond the reach of Gomes.
However, it was far from just his goal that stood out today. The 23-year-old achieved a passing accuracy of 86%, covering 11.9km while registering 3 shots – two of which were on target. Once again, Can showed the steely side to his game, competing well in the middle of the park. His drive and energy were key to Liverpool seeing out a late onslaught from the home side. Tying him down to a new deal has to be a priority this summer – the strike alone is worthy of it.
Simon Mignolet: A Changed Man
In his three years at the club, Mignolet has often failed to deal with aerial balls into the box. Flapping and flailing, the Belgian usually depicts a man completely lost at sea. However, that was no such case at Vicarage Road. This time out, he dealt tremendously with high balls into the box, punching well to provide an authoritative and commanding presence in between the sticks.
It seemed destined to end in a 1-1 draw when Capoue unleashed a long range shot that was set to float just under the bar. But Mignolet got up well to produce a fingertip save and make himself the unsung hero on the night. That’s three big saves in recent weeks now – firstly at Stoke to deny Berahino a late equaliser, then at West Brom where he got down well to stifle Matt Philipp’s effort.
So often the catalyst for mayhem at the back, this time Mignolet was spreading calmness to those around him – a true mark of how far he has come in recent weeks. More of the same please, Simon.
Lallana back with a bang
Coming on for Coutinho inside the opening twenty minutes was a big ask for a player who’s been out for four or five weeks. However, Lallana showed no signs of rustiness, producing a lively performance which was almost capped off with a goal when his long-range volley cannoned off the crossbar.
A vintage Lallana performance full of hard work and endless running, it was the perfect way to cap off his return to the side. Jurgen Klopp was visibly delighted to have him back among the subs prior to kick-off and it’s no wonder why with performances like that.