Full time: Watford 3-3 Liverpool
Two games, 13 goals. No, not the 1990 FA Cup semi-finals but the first two matches of the 2017-18 Premier League season. This was a scruffy yet very entertaining match, and a draw is probably about right. Thanks for your company. You can follow the 3pm kick-offs with Barry Glendenning. Bye!
90+5 min Britos looked offside when Richarlison put the ball across goal, though whether he was technically active, I don’t know. It’s absurd to say he wasn’t, because he was jockstrap-tight to Mignolet, but the law is the law is an ass.
The corner was mishit to the near post, where Wijnaldum’s attempted headed clearance hit Richarlison. He smacked the ball across goal and Mignolet, who stuck out an arm instinctively, diverted it onto the bar with his right bicep. It bounced down and was forced over the line by Britos. It’s his goal.
GOAL! Watford 3-3 Liverpool (Britos 90+4)
Watford have equalised from the corner!
90+3 min Richarlison is fouled by Gomez down the Watford left. Holebas free-kick loops up in the air and is punched clear by Mignolet. It comes to Britos, who whips a shot towards goal from just outside the box. Mignolet moves to his left to punch it behind with both fists.
90+1 Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has had a good game, is replaced by Joe Gomez.
90 min There will be five minutes of added huff and puff. Watford look like they have shot their bolt.
88 min Simon Mignolet is booked for timewasting.
86 min James Milner replaces Mo Salah, who will be the subject of many headlines tomorrow (and this afternoon, haven’t you heard of the internet grandad?) if the score stays like this.
86 min Salah wafts a long, diagonal pass to Mane, who moves into the area and plays a precise pass that allows Wijnaldum to strike first time from the edge of the box. He slices it miles wide.
83 min Liverpool’s defence looks more in control than at any stage in the match, which doubtless means Watford are about to equalise.
81 min Divock Origi replaces the weary Firmino, who made one and scored one in the second half (and also made the penalty that he eventually scored). He’s a beautiful player that lad, so underrated.
78 min “It was Alexander-Arnold and not Firmino who took the corner that Matip headed onto the crossbar,” says Thomas Johannessen. “Should’ve gone to Specsavers :p”
That’s the problem: I did.
77 min Salah could have had a hat-trick today. Mane plays him in with another fine through pass, and he stabs the ball into the side netting at the near post. He was under pressure, and the angle was tight.
75 min I wouldn’t like to be punched in the face by Andre Gray. His muscles are almost bursting through his shirt.
74 min “One more year is better than selling Coutinho now with no replacement,” says Tim. “That was the mistake with Suarez, trying to replace him with Rickie Lambert and Balotelli. Maybe say give us one more year, and we’ll line up a replacement (or hope Gruic turns out well). I think the fact Can has yet to sign a new contract probably doesn’t help…”
I would certainly try that. Whether he’ll accept is another matter.
73 min A mix-up between Mignolet and Lovren, who can’t work out who should deal with a routine straight pass and almost end up giving it to Cleverley. The ball bounces kindly for Liverpool and Mignolet is able to claim it at the second attempt.
71 min Salah, found in loads of space on the edge of the area by Can, wallops a bouncing ball a few yards over the bar. After a slow start he has been increasingly influential.
70 min Another chance for Liverpool. Alexander-Arnold’s excellent corner from the right is flashed across goal by the head of Lovren, and Gomes moves smartly to his right to push it away.
67 min Holebas is fouled near the corner flag by Salah. Firmino heads the free-kick clear.
65 min From the resulting corner, whipped in by Firmino, the stooping Matip shoulders the ball onto the crossbar.
64 min Liverpool are slowly rediscovering their swagger. Moreno brushes aside Fermenia on the edge of the box and slashes the bouncing ball towards goal with his left foot. Gomes leaps to his right to make an excellent save.
63 min It’s time for Watford’s record signing Andre Gray, who replaces Stefano Okaka.
62 min “Couldn’t agree more with Tom Walker re Klopp and Sakho,” says Tim. “I am a fan of Klopp, but he does seem to be shooting himself in the foot with Sakho, and for not seeming to consider anyone other than Van Dijk. I also disagree with the pre-match Coutinho discussion. For as long as Liverpool keep selling their best players each summer, they’ll never aspire to more than the occasional fourth place. While we are no spendthrifts, Man City have spent three times as much as we have this summer just on full-backs. And it’s not our fault if Barca screwed up with Neymar’s buyout clause (I see Isco’s is now £600m, how long before PSG pay that too?).”
If you keep him and he refuses to play, what do you do then? It just becomes a damaging distraction. At best you can ask him to give you another year, like Ronaldo and Suarez, before selling him.
61 min Alexander-Arnold is booked for a foul on Richarlison.
61 min Salah just fails to reach Alexander-Arnold’s curling through pass. He is lightning.
59 min That’s what Liverpool can do. They’ve been poor for most of this game but lead due to isolated moments of brilliance from their superb front three.
Mo Salah gives Liverpool the lead on his debut. Lovren wafted a pass down the inside-left channel to find Firmino in far too much space. He controlled it beautifully and lifted a lazy chip high over the outrushing Gomes. It wasn’t going in, but it didn’t matter because Salah followed in to bundle the ball over the line.
GOAL! Watford 2-3 Liverpool (Salah 57)
This is Liverpool.
GOAL! Watford 2-2 Liverpool (Firmino 55 pen)
Firmino drives a solid penalty into the bottom-left corner, with Gomes going the other way.
PENALTY TO LIVERPOOL
Anthony Taylor took an age to give this. Firmino stabbed a great pass round the corner to Salah, who knew Gomes was coming and deliberately pushed the ball away from goal. A split-second later Gomes took him out, and it was a clear penalty.
51 min It’s hard to reconcile this Liverpool performance with their exciting pre-season. They look really sluggish by their high-octane standards.
49 min Richarlison, the exciting young Brazilian, replaces Pereyra.
49 min A good move from Liverpool. Eventually Wijnaldum plays a nice pass to Salah, who shuffles the ball to the side and curls a decent effort a few yards wide of the far post.
48 min More injury problems for Watford, who lost Janmaat in the first half. Now Roberto Pereyra has limped off, and is going to be replaced in a minute.
47 min “Liverpool just need a really good centre-back,” says Tom Walker. Hard to get in the current market, though there is this bloke that plays for France, was immense for Crystal Palace at the end of last season going relatively cheap…oh…wait… I fail to understand why Klopp hasn’t had more scrutiny over his handling of the Sakho situation. Less feted managers would have had the third degree from the press over the inability to resolve a personal issue with a player that the club desperately need, who appears committed, and who surely deserves a second chance with the club. Whatever Sakho’s past transgressions he’s no Balotelli.”
46 min Liverpool kick off from right to left.
“I guess Okaka could only be considered ‘inactive’ if you don’t consider a 215-pound goalscorer distracting to defenders,” says Johnathan Kaszynski. “He definitely influenced the play with his presence in an offside position. No goal for me.”
Sadly, Johnathan, the laws of the game are not interactive. I agree with you that the law is dubious, but it’s also pretty clear and it was undeniably a fair goal.
“I think I’d quite like us to sell Coutinho tomorrow and invest in some half decent defenders as a matter of urgency,” says Fiona Pow. “Our backline’s inadequacy is so familiar it’s almost comforting.”
Like a loveable dog that keeps soiling your favourite rug?
Your half-time homework
Your Sunday starts here
As you may know, our much-loved colleague Dan Lucas died suddenly in March at the age of 31. In south London tomorrow, there will be a cricket match in his memory, and to raise money for charity. Here are some details from his girlfriend Liz.
Dan loved his cricket – whether it be his passionate writing for the Guardian OBO, his enthusiastic commentary for Guerrilla Cricket or in his day to day encyclopaedic cricket chat with friends and family – it’s fair to say he adored the sport. The wonderful guys over at Guerrilla Cricket came up with the idea of holding a cricket match for Dan each year to remember him and his love for the game.
On August 13th 2017 we are going to hold a cricket match for Dan. The event will see two teams play against each other for 30 overs, made up of Dan’s Guerrilla colleagues, his friends, family, fellow Guardian writers and OBO readers. The event will also aim to raise money for Juvenile Diabetes research (JDRF). On the day, they’ll be an afternoon tea, BBQ, music, raffle and a quiz with some wonderful cricket and music themed prizes.”
The prizes include:
- Signed David Squires prints and books
- A England T20 picture signed by the England team
- Signed Test shirts
- Signed Duckworth Lewis, Divine Comedy and Feeder memorabilia
- Two VIP tickets to see the Divine Comedy
- Afternoon tea for two at Lord’s
It’ll be a very happy, very sad day. I’ve even done a special Radiohead quiz! If you’d like to go, you can email Liz for details of the venue and start time.
Half time: Watford 2-1 Liverpool
The goalicious start to the Premier League season continues. We’ve had ten in one and a half games, and I’d bet my bottom Rolo that there will be more in the second half. Watford deserve to be ahead, having done a savvy counter-attacking job on a subdued Liverpool. See you in 10 minutes for the second half.
45+3 min Oof, that was close to an equaliser. Firmino swerves a left-wing corner towards Mane, who flicks an excellent header across goal and just wide of the far post.
45 min Apart from that wonderful goal from Mane, Liverpool’s football hasn’t been heavy metal so much as ambient. They can play a lot better than this, and I suspect they will in the second half.
42 min Replays show that Watford’s second goal was fine. Okaka was only in an offside position at a point when he was inactive.
40 min “Amongst all football’s metrics (how did we ever appreciate the game without them?), is there one for ‘Team minutes spent in opposition penalty box’?” muses Gary Naylor. “Strikes me that adding one more man to an attack turns bad final balls into good ones – and goals. I always felt much of Beckham’s crossing reputation was built on having lots of targets.”
Yes, there’s something in that. The great 1998-2001 United team usually had four, sometimes five or six players, in the box. Beckham didn’t hit targets so much as areas, but he got such devastating whip and dip that they were very hard to defend.
38 min Salah misses an excellent chance to score on his debut. Matip played a sharp pass into Firmino, who tried to stab it first time through to Salah. Holebas got his feet in a muddle, allowing Salah to rob him and scoot into the area. He tried to poke the ball past Gomes with his left foot, and instead toebunged it high over the bar.
36 min “Is this game going to follow the route of last night’s ding-dong?” asks Hubert O’Hearn. “I hope so. Tuned in late, but just in time for Mane’s goal. Have a great season (that applies equally to Reds and MBM journos)!”
It’s a tough old season for MBM journos. No winter break, not even a summer break with the World Cup. It’s a good thing we all love our work so much because it’d be hard work otherwise.
34 min There’s a suggestion that Watford’s goal might have been offside. It can’t have been Doucoure, as he was always behind the ball, but maybe somebody in the middle was offside when Cleverley put in the low cross that led to the goal.
The goal was created on the right, where Amrabat wrestled Moreno to win a loose ball. He stabbed it back to Doucoure, who marched forward and angled a good pass to find Cleverley in space on the right of the box. His dangerous low cross pinballed around the six-yard box and fell perfectly for Doucoure, who swept it into the net from close range.
GOAL! Watford 2-1 Liverpool (Doucoure 32)
Watford are back in front straight away!
That really was a beautiful team goal. Liverpool moved the ball around 30 yards from goal before exploding into life. Moreno fed a short angled ball towards Mane, who dummied it and kept running. Can stabbed the ball brilliantly round the corner to find Mane, who controlled the ball and then opened his body to finish emphatically into the far top corner. There was plenty of wit in that move all right.
GOAL! Watford 1-1 Liverpool (Mane 29)
This is a magnificent goal!
28 min There has been a lack of wit in Liverpool’s attacking play. They haven’t played well at all, at least not yet.
“Liverpool only play second halves, once they have been abused by Klopp,” says Ian Copestake. “Their priority is not to be 4-0 down at the break.”
26 min “Football players’ contracts are fixed-term contracts, which means they either expire at the date agreed upon or can be terminated extraordinarily,” says Konstantin Sauer. “Regular terminations are not possible for both club and player. As there are certain prerequisites for fixed-term contracts, especially their renewal. there’s an ongoing legal dispute about that question between Bundesliga club Mainz 05 and their former goalkeeper Mueller.”
25 min Mignolet makes a vital interception to deny Okaka a second goal. Oh, he was miles offside, forget it.
22 min “Not even one and a half games into the season and there seems to be a trend of unbelievably crap defending at set pieces,” says JR. “It’s like they don’t even care. People just standing around. It’s crazy. Perhaps one of these big clubs should sign up Tony Pulis as set-pieces coach.”
It’s kids these days. They just don’t respect set pieces any more.
21 min The game still feels a bit formless, even though we’re halfway through the first half. Liverpool are having a bit more of the ball, though with no sign of penetration. I can’t remember Salah touching the ball.
19 min “Afternoon, Rob!” says Matt Dony. “Afternoon, all! Afternoon, Premier League! Obviously, in an ideal world, Coutinho would want to stay, play a great season, and finish it off with some kind of silverware. That plan has fallen at the first, so take the money and run. £90m is crazy money, and the attack has options. Lallana has consistently improved, and maybe the extra responsibility will push him even further. He can find the defence-splitting pass when teams sit back and lock down. Mane and Firmino marry work-rate to flare, and I’m excited about Salah. I’ll miss Coutinho, but not as much as I missed Suarez, and definitely not as much as I (still!) miss Torres. Ah. Just saw the score while writing this. Yup. Welcome back, Premier League. It’s like you never left.”
18 min The injured Janmaat is replaced by Kiko Femenia at right-back.
17 min In the absence of Coutinho and Lallana, Liverpool’s midfield lacks a bit of pizazz. They haven’t really got going yet.
16 min There’s a break in play while Janmaat receives treatment. Jurgen Klopp takes the opportunity to remind his team to EFFING DO SOMETHING.
14 min Watford have been the better side since the goal, with Liverpool looking a little sluggish at this juncture.
12 min “Hi Rob,” says John Barry. “A footballer could certainly resign, like any other person. But given that the club holds his registration, he wouldn’t be allowed to play for any other team in a FIFA-backed league. He could go to a non-FIFA league, like Alfredo di Stéfano and others did going to Colombia, but there aren’t really any of those leagues around these days. Oh and the club wouldn’t pay him anymore, either…”
Well that’s the clincher. A man needs his £300,000 a week to buy bread and water for his family.
11 min That was a bad goal to concede. I’m not sure why Firmino was marking Okaka in the first place, as he is a beast, but he didn’t do his job properly anyway. He just allowed Okaka to run off him, and from that range Mignolet had no chance.
It was an offensively simple goal. Holebas swung a right-wing corner into the six-yard box, where Okaka ran away from Firmino at the near post and thumped a header straight through Mignolet. Dreadful defending from Liverpool.
GOAL! Watford 1-0 Liverpool (Okaka 8)
New season, old problem: Liverpool have conceded from a set piece.
8 min Mignolet makes a good save to deny Pereyra. He received a good through pass from Okaka in the inside-left channel, twisted Lovren one way and then the deny other and then drove a low left-footed shot that was deflected behind. Actually the touch was by Lovren rather than Mignolet.
7 min A good couple of minutes for Watford, with Matip heading away a dangerous cross from Janmaat.
5 min Watford have started pretty defensively, with the lone striker Okaka already looking a bit isolated. They have some decent options on the bench if they need them later in the game, including Andre Gray and Richarlison.
4 min “Just thinking about Coutinho has me wondering why footballers can’t resign from their contracts like normal workers?” says Even teachers can hand in their notice, though at fixed points in the year. Surprised that no one has legally tested that in the current climate.”
They could give their notice by email as well.
3 min Liverpool have had plenty of possession in the first few minutes. Janmaat fells Mane, who has started on the left because of the signing of Salah.
2 min “Completely agree with the assessment that selling Coutinho and signing a few £30-40m players,” says Matt Turland. “However, they’d need those deals done pre-sale or they’ll see a huge inflation in prices. Just look at Barca. Pre-Neymar, I don’t think they’d have expected to have to pay in excess of £100m for Dembele or Coutinho. But now they’re flush with cash (or, shpuld I say, flush with even more cash), clubs will rinse them. Or not. Who knows.”
That’s a good point. That said, I think Neymar and a few other deals have thrown everything so far out of whack that nobody has a clue what a fair price is anymore. It’s like when those two beards starting charging £4.50 for a bowl of cereal. It was chaos.
1 min Peep peep! Watford, in yellow, kick off from right to left on the television screen. Liverpool are in red.
The players emerge from the tunnel, their business faces diligently applied for the new season. Let’s have a game of football!
“Good afternoon Rob and congratulations on the Sambas,” says Paul Ewart. “Phil Coutinho is, of course, a regular winner of The Golden Samba, awarded annually by supporters. Does something similar happen at Guardian Towers? Lots of pressure on Henderson today. I expect he’ll be the deep-lying playmaker in Coutinho’s absence. Look out for quick switches to Mane & Salah to stretch the play. Moreno’s name in a starting XI fills me with horror, but he has had a strong pre-season.”
They’ll miss Lallana too. His movement is so important to this team. You’d expect them to have enough today though. As for the Golden Samba, what a great idea. We could let the readers vote for
their favourite writer each year.
the writer they’d most like to eliminate
The first email of the day!
“Welcome back Rob; I’m sure I’m not the only one giddy with excitement for the first lunchtime kickoff of the new season in The Greatest League on Earth,” chirps Matt Tolen. “What’s your take on the Coutinho situation? I’d be devastated to see the league deprived of one of its most watchable talents, but if I was FSG, I’d take £100m and invest in a top goalkeeper, centre-half, and Duracell Bunny-type defensive midfielder. Salah, Mane, Firmino, Lallana, Sturridge and Solanke have the ability to survive post-Coutinho life, but without a reinforced backline Liverpool will fall short of a proper title challenge.”
Yes, agreed. In a post-Bosman world, there’s just no point holding on to a player who wants to leave. And, as you say, there is a great opportunity to buy a few £30-40m players before that part of the transfer market catches up with the inflation at the top end. Klopp has a very good eye for players in that price bracket, too.
Words are overrated
Some more pre-match reading
Watford (4-2-3-1) Gomes; Janmaat, Kaboul, Britos, Holebas; Doucoure, Chalobah; Amrabat, Cleverley, Pereyra; Okaka.
Substitutes: Pantilimon, Prödl, Femenía, Watson, Capoue, Richarlison, Gray.
Liverpool (4-3-3) Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Substitutes: Karius, Klavan, Gomez, Milner, Grujic, Solanke, Origi.
Referee Anthony Taylor.
Ah, the first day of a new season. A time to dream; a time to lovingly unwrap your 48th consecutive pair of Adidas Sambas; a time to wonder whether effing Barcelona are going to nick your best player again. It’s pretty sad that Liverpool’s opening game at Watford will be partially overshadowed by Philippe Coutinho’s decision to submit a transfer request. It’s another reminder that, in Football Inc., the actual football becomes less important with every passing year. (It’s also why the transfer window should shut in the first week of August, but that’s another story.)
Coutinho isn’t fit for today’s match against Watford, which is probably a blessing for all concerned. Even if they lose him to Barcelona, Liverpool have a chance of winning their first title in 28 years. At their best they are the most exhilarating side in the country. Their concerns are a lack of consistency and a return to the Champions League, which means an increased workload for a pretty thin squad. Oh, and effing Barcelona.
Watford’s ambitions are slightly more modest. After nine managers in five years, they just want a bit of stability. The brilliant Marco Silva should give them that, and perhaps even their greatest days since Graham Taylor was manager in the 1980s. He has made some intriguing – and intriguingly English – signings, including Andre Gray and Will Hughes. Mo Salah should make his Liverpool debut too, but most of the talk will be about a man who isn’t playing.
Kick-off is at 12.30pm.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010