Football Features

Liverpool beat Watford to go top thanks to ‘one of the Premier League’s most clever players’

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:41, 2 April 2022

Diogo Jota was the match-winner as Liverpool beat Watford 2-0 to go top of the Premier League table.

The win gave the Reds a two-point lead atop the league, at least for a few hours. But it was a game where Jurgen Klopp’s men weren’t at their best but were lifted to victory by a towering display from Diogo Jota.

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Liverpool’s little man in attack again stood tall, giving the Reds the lead in the 22nd minute with a delicious header from a Joe Gomez run. Starting out wide (for once), Liverpool’s tiniest target man made a true centre-forwards run behind a centre-back and was right there to meet a delightful cross in from his team-mate.

Jota didn’t leap, more hopped, and gracefully nodded the ball across goal and into the back of the net. Ben Foster could do nothing and that goal was the difference between the sides before Fabinho sealed victory with a late penalty (won by Jota, of course).

The goal was great but what made it more amusing was that he really should have scored more! Jota was on for a hat-trick, all headers, missing a glorious chance when a Jordan Henderson free-kick found him unmarked just short of the hour and then a couple minutes later just failing to make the right contact with another cross.

It was fitting for Jota, as the Portuguese superstar has now scored more headed goals than anyone else in the Premier League this season with 4. In fact if you go back to the start of last season, only Dominic Calvert-Lewin with 8 has headed it into the back of the net more than Jota has (7 times) and if you take it from the date Jota signed for Liverpool, then the Portuguese is joint-top with Christian Benteke.

It also meant that, this season, Jota is one of just four players to have scored 4+ goals with his right-foot, left-foot and head. And the other members of that quartet are Robert Lewandowski, Edin Dzeko and Patrik Schick; all forwards well over 6 foot compared to Jota who is 5’10 on a good day! Jota truly is the tiniest target-man.

“You have to admit, that’s unbelievable movement,” said Rio Ferdinand about Jota’s goal against Watford on BT Sport coverage, “it’s the willingness to get into those areas. He could have been clattered there by [Ben] Foster. Brave.”

“You class him as a winger but he’s more like a fox in the box,” added Peter Crouch; “a bit old-school, he’s got great movement and he can finish.” The traditional target-man went on: “how brilliant is he in the air for a man of his size? He’s unbelievable.”

Gianfranco Zola was also impressed by the intelligence of Jota’s movement: “He’s one of the most clever players in the Premier League, without a doubt. He always does the right movement at the right time.”

But the Italian icon also spoke of the timing of the leaps Jota makes. “It’s down to timing and power in the legs. We saw another time he was already in the air when the defender was about to jump.”

Jota himself told BT Sport: “I told [Joe Gomez] before the game he was going to get an assist. Against Nottingham [Forest], I had a few crosses from him that I didn’t know what to expect. Today I was confident and I told him, and fortunately for us it happened.”