Another record for this incredible Liverpool team was up for grabs at Vicarage Road, but instead they were embarrassed by an efficient Watford side who scored three unanswered goals on Saturday evening to become the first side to beat the Reds in the Premier League this season.
Jürgen Klopp’s side were hoping to record a 19th-consecutive victory in the league, which would have been a new record, but, instead, a brace from the excellent Ismaïla Sarr and Troy Deeney’s first ever goal against Liverpool saw Nigel Pearson’s Hornets record a stunning victory.
After a stop-start first half, the visitors were blown away by clinical finishing from the side dressed in yellow and black, in what fans will be hoping is a real wake-up call for the Liverpool players.
As was the case against West Ham United last time out, there was a nervousness about Liverpool’s play, which was especially highlighted by a few early scares in the opening minutes.
First Gerard Deulofeu cut in from the left to curl the ball narrowly over the crossbar, before casual play from Gini Wijnaldum almost allowed Will Hughes to take the ball off him in his own penalty area, before he managed to claw it back and stop the midfielder from having a one-on-one chance 10 yards from goal.
The Spaniard Deulofeu caused all sorts of problems for Trent Alexander-Arnold down the Watford left, dribbling directly at the full-back and coming inside onto his favoured right foot at any and every opportunity to either set up a teammate or have a shot himself.
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The Reds would not have an opportunity of note until the 20th minute — a corner eventually found its way to Mohamed Salah at the far post, but his touch took him wide and he could only find the side netting while stretching on his weaker right foot.
Indeed, it was Watford — through pacy winger Deulofeu — who were causing most of the problems in the first half, but his evening would turn sour just after the half-hour mark after an awkward fall from a challenge with Virgil van Dijk.
The Spaniard had to be stretchered off the pitch and replaced by Roberto Pereyra after his leg buckled. It looked rather innocuous at first, but the obvious concern from players and medical staff alike seemed to indicate that the injury may be more serious than it initially looked.
That was the last incident of real note in a scrappy first half, until the final minute of time added on. A delivery into the box was spilled by Alisson as Troy Deeney looked to run through, and the Hornets’ captain had the chance to loft the ball over the Brazilian, but the Reds’ No.1 got up quickly to block the rebound before Deeney’s rushed chip fell wide of the far post.
A number of fouls committed by both sides prevented a tepid game from ever getting into a rhythm — the opening 45 minutes did not make for entertaining viewing.
Nigel Pearson’s side begun the second half where they left off in the first, as Ismaïla Sarr got on the end of a perfectly-weighted through ball with less than a minute of the second period on the clock, but his well-struck effort was palmed over the crossbar fairly comfortably by Alisson.
It would be the Senegalese international who scored the opening goal seven minutes later. Dejan Lovren was paying far too much attention to Troy Deeney on a long throw-in, allowing Abdoulaye Doucouré — who had stolen a march on Fabinho — to steal in and put it on a plate for Sarr from three yards.
Watford’s No.23 got his second jut before the hour mark, after Deeney kept the ball in and set his teammate through. Alisson came rushing out, but Sarr kept his composure and coolly flicked the ball over the goalkeeper to send the home fans into raptures, and cast considerable doubt on Liverpool’s chances of continuing their unbeaten Premier League run.
It took until the 65th minute for Liverpool to really threaten Ben Foster’s goal. Substitute Adam Lallana unleashed a venomous effort from 30 yards which rattled the post, reminding the Hornets that, although they were ahead and looked comfortable, they were still in a game.
But it would get worse for Liverpool, and it was their own ineptitude at fault for the third goal. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s brainless backpass gave the ball straight to Sarr, who recognised he could not score in his position. He laid it off instead to Deeney, who fired home his first ever goal against the Reds.
The introductions of Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino did little to help Liverpool, who should have conceded a fourth as Sarr ran through the offside trap yet again, but could only curl wide of Alisson’s goal.
Liverpool next face Chelsea away in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup on Tuesday, but will especially be hoping to bounce back from this humiliation by next weekend — they return to Premier League action with a home fixture against AFC Bournemouth.