Liverpool were made to work but run out 2-0 winners against Watford in the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp’s side in the process maintained their record as the only unbeaten side across England’s top division.
Watford, who sit bottom of the championship, made the Reds earn all three points and will rue missing some big opportunities that came their way.
As we catch our breath, here are five things we learned from this encounter.
1. Warming up nicely
Questions were being asked of Mohamed Salah not so long ago, incredible as that may sound. But when you think about it, the reasoning is understandable, the Egyptian forward was operating well below his usual standards. His norm is no longer the same as 90% of forwards out there, whether you agree or not, it’s the level below football’s two aliens (Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo). So, when he’s not scoring on a regular basis, people will start to wonder.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 14, 2019
However, recently, that adage ‘form is temporary class is permanent’ has come into play. Salah’s opening goal, a curling right-footed effort near the stroke of half-time, was him at his very best. The goal itself came from a now familiar swift transition play, with Sadio Mane the role of provider, it also meant he’d now registered in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time this season. This goal was also a landmark moment as Salah would pass Luis Suarez in the club’s all-time top scorers list, the Uruguayan marksman had bagged 82 goals across 133 matches in all competitions, Salah now has 84 in 126 appearances having completed a brace in the 90th minute.
2. Only got themselves to blame
Nigel Pearson, being the pragmatic he is, wasn’t expecting to leave Anfield with a result, but after the showing they put in, he’d be kicking himself. Watford, who let’s not forget are rock bottom in the championship, couldn’t believe they were able to create a plethora of chances at the Premier League leaders home. And the Hornets should have compounded Alisson to yet another failed Anfield clean sheet.
HALF-TIME Liverpool 1-0 Watford
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 14, 2019
The first moment that got away fell to Abdoulaye Doucouré, a minute before Salah had put the hosts ahead, he’d miskick completely in front of goal after being picked out by Étienne Capoue, if that wasn’t bad enough, it got worse minutes from the break when Ismalia Sarr, eight yards from goal, fluffed his lines, missing the ball completely much to his manager’s bemusement.
3. Robbo’s importance highlighted
Heading into this weekend’s game Andrew Robertson was one of two Liverpool players, alongside Virgil van Dijk, who had started in their opening 16 league matches. Given what a busy month December is shaping up to be, it was inevitable manager Jurgen Klopp would begin a game with the Scottish left-back sitting near him, especially after his fellow full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold had that honour last time out against Bournemouth (albeit he’d get on before the half-time break).
In his place came James Milner, no stranger to playing that role, but the multifunctional former England international brings something different to the table, Robertson a flying left-footed defender is Milner’s antithesis. Although the Reds ‘number seven’ is comfortable in passing and crossing with his left boot, it’s pretty much obvious he prefers to cut onto his right-foot, which naturally brings a new dimension to Liverpool’s attack as well as forcing Sadio Mane – stationed in front of him – to alter his movement.
To his credit, and helped by Watford setting up to sit deep, Milner crossed the halfway line on multiple occasions, but from an attacking perspective he was lacking. That balance, forged between two attacking full-backs, was missing. Liverpool at their best is Robertson and Alexander-Arnold switching play, with those pinpoint crossfield passes, at regular will. It forces their opponents, whether home or away, onto the backfoot subsequently enabling their forward three into action.
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4. Ton up
Anfield has been a fortress this season even if Liverpool haven’t always kept visitors at bay in terms of goals conceded. Today’s win stretches their winning streak in the Premier League to 16 matches, overall 49 consecutive games unbeaten, and you wouldn’t bet against them notching up a half-century when Wolves visit on December 29.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 14, 2019
Nuno Espírito Santo will know if his side are trailing at half-time, all three points are certain to remain in Merseyside, and that’s because the Reds have now reached a century when it comes to winning after leading a Premier League home game at half-time.
Both teams here couldn’t be further away from each other. Liverpool are this season’s Christmas number one. More often than not whoever is topping the championship at this stage goes one to lift the Premier League title. There are, of course, exceptions — in the three previous occasions (2008-09, 2013-14 and 2018-19) it’s not happened the Reds were leading. So, you can’t blame them for having that thought in the back of their mind.
Lots to like about that performance but we fall just short.
— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) December 14, 2019
As for Watford, they’re as good as down, if history is to go by. No team has ever stayed up after picking up nine points across their opening 17 league games. Fulham were in this same predicament a year ago, before dropping to the second tier, ten points adrift of safety. The Pozzo family aren’t exactly whom you’d describe as being ahead of the curve, but the apoint of Pearson — who knows the Championship like the back of his hand — might end up being an astute piece of business.