By Matt Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez
Liverpool got back to winning ways after overcoming a fighting Watford side 5-0 at Anfield. The win sees the Reds remain a point clear ahead of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Sadio Mané grabbed the first two goals of the game, netting in both the ninth and 20th minutes. Divock Origi rewarded Klopp’s confidence in him by scoring the third of the game, before a rapid double by Virgil Van Dijk sealed off all three points for the table-toppers.
Jürgen Klopp made two changes from the side that drew at Old Trafford. Trent Alexander-Arnold returned to right back, with James Milner being pushed into midfield, preferred ahead of club captain Jordan Henderson. Klopp’s second change saw Origi pick up a rare start, as he joined the front line due to an injury to Roberto Firmino.
Watford, who have been in fine form of late, started the game in a very organised manner, defending as a unit and looking to hit on the counter. Despite this, their centre backs were caught sleeping in the ninth minute, as they allowed Mané to drift in between them to open the scoring.
The returning Alexander-Arnold picked up the ball on the wing from Milner and whipped in a cross in signature fashion. Mané, who made a run in between Watford’s two central defenders, climbed unchallenged and nodded the ball past a helpless Ben Foster who could only watch as the ball nestled into the corner of his net.
The goal seemed to spur the Reds on, with Alexander-Arnold being heavily involved whenever Liverpool would burst up field.
The returning right-back proved his importance to the side again moments later as he assisted Liverpool’s second goal in the 20th minute. A dizzying run by Salah saw the Watford defence retreat before dispossessing the Egyptian. Gini Wijnaldum picked up the loose clearance and fed Alexander-Arnold who provided a first time cross to Manè.
The Senegalese hitman mis-controlled the ball before brilliantly making amends, quickly turning and back-heeling the ball round over a floundering Foster.
Anfield was bouncing as Liverpool not only took a commanding lead, but also put in a hungry performance, with the players on the pitch chasing every ball as they went in search of more goals.
Salah came the closest to getting a third in the first half. A long ball over the top by Alexander-Arnold fell perfectly for the Egyptian to run onto. Salah burst into the box and held off Adam Masina before striking a shot goal-bound. Unfortunately for the Reds, the ball cannoned off the post and was cleared by a panicked Watford backline.
With this being said, a late attacking flurry by Watford gave the hosts something to think about as the Hornets proved that the match was far from over.
Gerard Deulofeu and Troy Deeney began to link up well in the closing minutes, with the latter of the two having a golden opportunity in the 41st minute – blasting wide a low cross from inside Alisson’s six-yard-area, meaning the half ended 2-0.
The start of the second half saw liverpool come flying out the blocks as they started the second 45 minutes much like they ended the first – pressing high and attacking as a unit with pace.
Liverpool continued to pressure the Watford backline and eventually got their third through Origi in the 66th minute. The Belgian received the ball on the edge of the box with only one thing on his mind. Dribbling away from Daryl Janmaat and into the box, Origi held off pressure from Will Hughes and Abdoulaye Doucoure before unleashing a low shot into the corner of the net.
Despite going further behind, the Hornets continued to give Liverpool’s defence something to think about – this time in the form of Andre Gray. The Englishman was sent through on goal and released a goal-bound effort which required Alisson’s intervention.
Moments later, the Brazilian was called upon yet again, denying Gray for a second time in quick succession after the Englishman beat the offside trap and fired from point blank range.
The packed Anfield crowd cheered Alisson’s saves as if they were goals, but minutes later they indeed found themselves celebrating a fourth Liverpool goal. A free-kick on the edge of the Watford goal saw Alexander-Arnold register his third assist of the game, this time putting the ball on a plate for van Dijk who commandingly nodded home in the 79th minute.
The Kop had barely finished bouncing before they were cheering yet again in the 82nd minute. A Liverpool free-kick was dealt with poorly by the Watford defenders as the hosts kept control of the ball outside the box.
The ball was then played to Robertson who whipped in a textbook cross which fell perfectly at the head of van Dijk who grabbed his second goal in quick succession to make it 5-0.
The result sees Liverpool remain top of the Premier League and having sizeably closed the goal difference between themselves and Manchester City. The Reds now look ahead to Sunday, where they travel across Stanley Park to face local rivals Everton in the Merseyside Derby.