A goal on his competitive debut from Mohamed Salah was not enough for Liverpool to open their Premier League season with a win, as Watford snatched an injury-time equaliser in a pulsating 3-3 draw on Saturday.
The Reds’ record signing netted shortly before the hour mark with what looked set to be the winning goal, only for Miguel Britos to nod the ball in following a corner after goalkeeper Simon Mignolet failed to parry the ball away from his line.
Stefano Okaka had headed Watford into the lead and Abdoulaye Doucoure restored the home side’s advantage shortly after Sadio Mane scored a superb equaliser for Liverpool, who were without injured Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho.
The hosts were good value for their lead in Marco Silva’s first match in charge but the erratic Heurelho Gomes brought down Salah early in the second half to allow Roberto Firmino to equalise from the penalty spot.
Salah turned the ball home from close range two minutes later to put the visitors in front for the first time but, just as they looked primed to claim all three points in Jurgen Klopp’s 100th competitive match in charge, they were undone by more slack set-piece defending, as Watford grabbed a point.
FT | #watfordfc 3-3 Liverpool
Struggling to catch our breath after that one! A deserved point.
— Watford FC (@WatfordFC) August 12, 2017
The Hornets gave the Liverpool defence a scare seven minutes in, with Roberto Pereyra denied by a good block from Dejan Lovren after racing in behind Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The visitors failed to heed the warning, though. From the resulting corner, Okaka headed the ball into the net off Simon Mignolet from inside the six-yard box, with four Liverpool defenders standing and watching the striker.
Silva’s side were good value for their lead but Liverpool snatched an equaliser of the highest quality with their first shot of the match. Mane’s one-two with Moreno was flicked back into the Senegal forward’s path by Emre Can, and he swept the ball high past Gomes from 12 yards out.
Parity lasted less than three minutes, though. Tom Cleverley was played into the area by Okaka and his low cross from the right was kicked against the head of Joel Matip by Alexander-Arnold, allowing Doucoure to blast home past Mignolet.
Salah missed a clear chance for a debut goal in the first half but the Egypt international helped turned the game on its head within the first 12 minutes of the second half.
Gomes raced from his line to bring Salah down inside the penalty area, allowing Firmino to send the Watford keeper the wrong way from 12 yards and make it 2-2 10 minutes after the break.
Barely 90 seconds later, Watford’s defence was undone by a simple long ball to Firmino, and, as his lob over the stranded Gomes threatened to bounce wide, Salah arrived to bundle the ball over the line.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 12, 2017
A ferocious Alberto Moreno half-volley was tipped just over before Matip rattled the crossbar with a header, as Liverpool suddenly looked ready to run riot against a Watford side who appeared to be tiring.
Gomes kept out a Lovren header and Salah blasted over from 20 yards, but there was a nervy moment for Mignolet – confirmed by Klopp as Liverpool’s number one for the season – as he fumbled a high ball before gathering at the second attempt.
Watford applied some pressure, with Mignolet saving well from debutant Richarlison, but the hosts made the most of slack defending once more to salvage a point from the resulting corner.
Liverpool failed to clear their lines from the delivery and Richarlison’s shot came off Mignolet’s outstretched arm and cannoned off the woodwork, with Britos on hand to head the ball over the line and spark wild celebrations in the stands.
Key Opta stats:
– Watford are unbeaten in their last 11 opening-day league games (W5 D6).
– Liverpool failed to win an opening day Premier League game for the first time since 2012-13.
– No defender has provided more assists in the Premier League since the start of last season than Jose Holebas (five) – level with Walker, Trippier and Smith.
– Liverpool scored with their first shot of the game (Mane on 29 minutes).
– Mane has scored with his first shot on target in the Premier League in both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.
– Roberto Firmino has both scored more and assisted more Premier League goals than any other Liverpool player since the start of 2015-16 (22 goals, 15 assists).
– Mohamed Salah is the 12th different player to score on his Premier League debut for Liverpool.
– Only Jose Fonte (five) has given away more penalties in the Premier League than Heurelho Gomes (4) since the start of 2015-16.
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