High-flying Liverpool welcomed mid-table Watford to a frosty Anfield for a game that promised to bring goals. The last meeting between these sides ended in a 3-3 draw and the Reds have continued that trend of high-scoring games all season. They sat fourth in the table heading into this clash, but knew that a win would see them leapfrog Tottenham. The Hornets meanwhile were looking for a positive result
Salah scores early to hand Liverpool the lead
Despite the freezing conditions at Anfield there was a scintillating atmosphere inside the historic stadium, and it didn’t take long for the home side to give the Kop something to cheer about. Unsurprisingly it was Mohamed Salah who grabbed the opener, twisting and turning in the box to cut a path through the Watford defenders and slam the ball home past Orestis Karnezis. It was a stunning individual effort from the Egyptian, who wrong-footed Miguel Britos in a manner reminiscent to that of Lionel Messi’s goal against Bayern Munich.
The early goal instantly turned the game into an end-to-end affair, the tempo of which was just as frantic as it had been when these two teams met at the start of the season. Despite going behind Watford continued to put men behind the ball to make it difficult for Liverpool, who utterly dominated the possession in the opening 20 minutes. After a passage of intense attacking pressure the Reds slowed the game down, electing instead to knock the ball around in midfield.
The Egyptian doubles the home side’s advantage
This trend continued towards the half hour mark and the visitors found it incredibly difficult to get any sort of foothold in the game. Jurgen Klopp’s side meanwhile continued to look dangerous going forward, with the pace of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah causing the Hornets’ defenders problems. To their credit Watford did gradually grow into the game and both Richarlison and Roberto Pereyra looked bright in the final third. The pair almost combined for an equaliser after a great cross from Pereyra, but Richarlison’s header flew straight into the palms of Loris Karius.
As Javi Gracia’s men became more adventurous with their attacking endeavours, so too did Liverpool look more of a threat on the break. Roberto Firmino almost punished Watford at the end of one such lightning-quick move, having received a perfect pass from Salah, but the striker’s effort was matched by Karnezis. It didn’t take long for the Reds to double their lead however, and it came courtesy of Salah once again. A brilliant, whipped cross from Andy Robertson found the winger at the back post, and he tapped the ball into the empty net to double Liverpool’s lead just before the break.
Liverpool strike again to end Watford’s hopes
The second half began not with a determined comeback effort from Watford, but instead with a flurry of chances and attacking pressure from the home side. Once again the Reds struck after a quick counter attack, but this time Salah turned provider for Roberto Firmino. The winger did brilliantly down the right flank and opened up space for a cross, which found Firmino at the near post, and the forward really had no right to score. He managed it however, nipping in ahead of the defender and flicking the ball round Karnezis into the far corner. It was a wonderful piece of skill, and one that looked to have out the game out of sight for the visitors.
Gracia’s side did respond well to the setback however and they almost grabbed a goal back immediately through Roberto Pereyra. The former Juventus midfielder curled a venomous free-kick over the Liverpool wall and onto the crossbar, beating Karius but missing the net by a matter of inches. The Watford chance seemed to spark Liverpool back into life and they settled back into the lion’s share of possession and seized back control of the game. A brilliant cross from Joe Gomez almost handed Firmino another goal, but the Brazilian mistimed his header and squandered the decent opportunity.
Salah takes his tally to four in front of the Kop
The second half mirrored the first somewhat in that after their third goal Liverpool again slowed the tempo of the game. Their slick passing and intensive pressing game allowed Klopp’s men to utterly dominate the match, pinning Watford back into their own half, and they soon capitalised with their fourth goal of the game. Once again it was Salah who benefitted, grabbing his hat-trick with another brilliantly worked effort. This time the Egyptian fooled three defenders, cutting back onto his left foot before squeezing a seemingly impossible shot into the bottom corner.
The fourth goal well and truly finished Watford off, but Liverpool didn’t look as if they were content with that score line. Even as the clock ticked down towards the final whistle, the Reds pushed for another goal, peppering Karnezis’ goal with shots as everyone wanted to get in on the act. Danny Ings, on as a substitute, went close but was denied by the Greek shot stopper. Typically however it was Salah who grabbed the final goal, bringing his tally to four for the evening. The chance came after a rebound from Karnezis, but the winger had played a stunning pass to Ings in the build-up that had all but warranted a goal in itself. In the end he slammed the ball home, finishing off Liverpool’s emphatic and highly impressive victory.
This was one of the most emphatic victories that Liverpool have registered this season and was yet further proof of the unbelievably talent of Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian scored four of his side’s five but, frighteningly, they could have had even more. The win took them above Tottenham and into third spot, and a top four finish should surely be within their grasps.
For Watford this experiment simply didn’t work. Javi Gracia elected to play three at the back, which allowed Salah to utterly dominate Miguel Britos. The Hornets should amass enough points to stay up relatively safely, but this won’t do much for their confidence heading into the international break.
Liverpool: Karius, Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Can (Milner, 27’), Henderson, Wijnaldum (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 71’), Salah, Firmino (Ings, 79’), Mane
Watford: Karnezis, Britos (Janmaat, 81’), Prodl, Mariappa, Holebas, Doucoure, Capoue, Femenia, Richarlison (Hughes, 65’), Pereyra, Deeney (Okaka, 70’)
Goals: Salah (1-0, 4’), Salah (2-0, 43’), Firmino (3-0, 49’), Salah (4-0, 77’), Salah (5-0, 85’)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Yellow Cards: Gomez (51’)
Red Cards: None
Liverpool: Karius 7, Gomez 8, Matip 8, Van Dijk 8, Robertson 8.5, Can n/a (Milner 7), Henderson 7, Wijnaldum 7 (Oxlade-Chamberlain n/a), Salah 10, Firmino 9 (Ings n/a), Mane 9
Watford: Karnezis 6, Britos 5 (Janmaat n/a), Prodl 5, Mariappa 5, Holebas 5, Doucoure 6, Capoue 5, Femenia 5, Richarlison 6 (Hughes n/a), Pereyra 7, Deeney 5 (Okaka n/a)
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