Liverpool kept their Premier League undefeated run intact with a 2-0 win over Watford at Anfield in Saturday’s early game.
A brace of goals from Mohamed Salah was enough to seal the win for the Reds in a limp, tired looking performance against the Premier League’s bottom team.
Jurgen Klopp elected to change formation to a 4231, and make three changes from the Champions League victory away in Salzburg. Naby Keita dropping out for Xherdan Shaqiri and Andrew Robertson being replaced by James Milner at left back and Joe Gomez replaced the injured Dejan Lovren as the right sided centre half.
The Hornets, whose new manager Nigel Pearson made his debut in the dugout, created ample chances, but with Alisson in strong form and their finishing particularly lax they were unable to score and take advantage of the mythical “new manager bounce”.
The table toppers main worry from the game will be the results of the injury picked up by Georginio Wijnaldum, who went off with what looked like a muscle injury in the second half.
Liverpool invariably struggle for rhythm in early kicks off and today was no different. Heavy touches and misplaced passes were the main features of Klopp’s team’s opening half.
Watford looked threatening and had no inhibitions about pushing forward, but the toothless finishing that sees them at the bottom of the league haunted them again.
Given how deep the visitors sat — with goalkeeper Ben Foster’s time wasting particularly frustrating the Anfield faithful — the home team’s route to goal felt like it would be through a counter attacking opportunity, despite how rare these chances occurred.
Abdoulaye Doucouré missed an excellent chance from a full back in front of the top goal and Watford’s misery was compounded moments after when Salah opened the scoring.
Roberto Firmino, who looked jaded throughout, audaciously flicked a clearance from a corner into the path of Sadio Mane. Breaking at pace, the winger found Salah just outside the box. The Egyptian, cutting onto his weaker foot, beautifully curled an effort past Foster to give the hosts a scantly deserved lead.
To their credit, Watford didn’t go into their shells after the concession of a goal and should have scored themselves near the half time whistle. After Alisson parried a cross in the box, the ball fell to Ismaila Sarr six yards out. The former Rennes man horribly skewed his effort, though, and Liverpool held their 1-0 lead going into the break.
The Reds thought they had started the second half in the ideal manner when Mane excellently headed home a Shaqiri cross from just inside the box. VAR was consulted, though, and the Senegal international’s armpit was deemed to be offside and the goal was chalked off.
The Hornets then nearly claimed an equaliser when Virgil van Dijk’s back pass made Alisson scramble across his goal to prevent an own goal. From the resulting corner, Gerard Deulofeu’s delivery hit the host and Liverpool breathed another sigh of relief.
The European Champions — living up to their mentality monsters moniker — are known for their resilience under pressure. They showed this attribute in spades by holding on and then killing the game late with Salah’s second goal.
Mane’s run and cross on the right hand side found substitute Divock Origi in the box. The Belgian swung wildly at the ball and it fortuitously fell into the path of Salah, who opportunistically back heeled a finish into the Kop end goal.
It wasn’t a pretty performance, but the win is what matters and it extended Liverpool’s lead at the top of the table to ten points, given Leicester drew at home to Norwich in their 3pm game.
Liverpool team: Alisson, Alexander Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum; Shaqiri, Firmino, Mane; Salah.
Substitutions: Robertson for Wijnaldum, Oxlade Chamberlain for Shaqiri, Origi for Firmino.
Subs not used: Adrian, Williams, Keita, Lallana.