FULL TIME: Liverpool 5-0 Watford
The thing is, Watford didn’t play that badly. Liverpool were simply too good. Mo Salah was simply too good. He scored his 33rd, 34th, 35th and 36th goals of the season, helping his team into third place in the Premier League. They’re two points ahead of Tottenham and seven clear of fifth-placed Chelsea, though both of those teams have a game in hand. Anfield celebrates accordingly. Watford stay in 11th, eight points clear of the drop zone. Mo Salah, though.
90 min: Robertson nearly gets in down the left, but can’t get a shot away. There will be two added minutes.
89 min: Some crisp, quick passing between Salah and Milner down the right, and suddenly Ings is free. But the flag goes up for offside, correctly. What Ings would give for just one of Salah’s goals tonight.
88 min: Henderson rakes one towards Salah from deep. Salah is this close to reaching the ball and rounding Karnezis on the edge of the box, but the keeper bravely smothers at his feet.
87 min: Milner hoops a pass down the middle. Mane breaks into the box. A soft cushion and he’s shooting for goal, but he can’t take the ball down. A broad smile from Mane; it doesn’t really matter.
GOAL! Liverpool 5-0 Watford (Salah 85)
Milner strides down the middle and lays off to Salah on his right. Salah plays a first-time diagonal chip to Ings, who is in the area and has a smash at goal. Karnezis parries, but the ball falls to Salah, who blasts hard into the net. Four goals today, plus one assist.
84 min: Mane scoops a lovely pass down the inside-right channel to Ings, who is free. He takes a touch and looks to send a power swerve into the top left. A very decent effort, but he’s denied by the strong arm of Karnezis. That’s a fine save.
83 min: Salah picks a poor Doucoure pass and races into space. He’s got Oxlade-Chamberlain to his right, and Ings screaming for it on the left. He opts for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who runs down a blind alley. You could sense the crowd willing the pass to Ings.
81 min: Janmaat replaces Britos, who won’t be sorry to be saying goodbye to Salah.
80 min: Okaka glides into the Liverpool box from the left. He’s got an opportunity to shoot, and takes it, but Matip arrives from nowhere to block.
79 min: Firmino is replaced by Ings, who hasn’t scored a goal since 2015. The roof will come off if he breaks that injury-hit run this evening.
GOAL! Liverpool 4-0 Watford (Salah 77)
Mane dribbles into the Watford box from the right and lays off to Salah. He thinks about shooting, but drops a shoulder to see off Prodl and Doucoure, before poking a cute effort into the bottom left. Salah has now scored 27 Premier League goals this season, though this is his first hat-trick for the club!
76 min: Mane romps into a lot of space down the centre. He’s got the chance to release Firmino down the inside-left channel, but can’t get the pass right. Liverpool come again, Salah threatening to break down the right. The ball ends up with Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has a lash from the position he scored from against Manchester City. It’s straight at Karnezis.
74 min: Watford enjoy another spell of pinging it around nicely … but once again they don’t really threaten Liverpool at the back. They’ll be ruing their slow start, because they’ve looked neat and ambitious since the restart.
72 min: Pereyra threatens to make good ground down the left, but he’s robbed by the non-stop Firmino, who is some player in both attack and defence.
70 min: Both teams make their second change of the evening. Okaka comes on for Deeney, then Oxlade-Chamberlain replaces Wijnaldum.
69 min: The snow is beginning to pelt down again. Salah tries to release Firmino into space down the left, but overhits the pass. There’s not much going on.
67 min: Watford are bossing possession at the moment. Crosses are flung into the Liverpool box from either wing; Gomez and Wijnaldum have to win some big headers with Deeney knocking around. Anfield has fallen a bit flat again as a result.
65 min: Richarlison is replaced by Will Hughes, who was once heavily linked with Liverpool while at Derby County. A chance for Hughes to show Liverpool what they’re missing.
64 min: Pereyra makes space down the left and curls into the centre. Deeney is lurking, but Robertson calmly intercepts and takes the sting out of the Watford attack.
63 min: Watford knock it around the middle of the park for a while, but don’t really go anywhere. They’ve looked much more confident since the restart, mind.
61 min: Gomez curls a cross into the Watford box from the right. Firmino, rushing in at pace, tries to guide a header into the left-hand portion of the net. But he doesn’t get enough on the effort, and it flashes left of the target.
59 min: Firmino jigs his way down the left and reaches the byline. He slips over on the slushy turf, but still manages to whip a leg at the ball, which clanks onto Mariappa’s thigh, and then the defender’s hand. Firmino wants a penalty, and claims loudly, but he’s not getting it. Mariappa surely had no chance of getting his hand out of the way, and it didn’t look deliberate.
58 min: Prodl strokes a gorgeous crossfield ball down the left for Holebas, who has a lot of time and space to size up his cross. It floats into the arms of Karius. Liverpool are offering up opportunities for Watford to get a little foothold back in this game, though.
56 min: Deeney lays off to Pereyra down the left, the latter very nearly busting clear into the Liverpool box. It’s not likely to end 3-0, this game, with both sides are looking like they fancy themselves in attack now.
54 min: Gomez gets the better of Holebas under a high ball down the right. He strides into the box and looks for Firmino in the middle. Prodl steps in and clears.
52 min: Pereyra curls fiercely towards the top right. He’s got Karius beaten all ends up, but his effort clips the top of the bar and out for a goal kick. So close to getting Watford on the scoreboard. That was a wonderful free kick. He’s been highly impressive, Pereyra, the standout for Watford today.
51 min: Holebas is given too much time and space as he wanders in from the left. He decides to lash a low shot towards the bottom left. It’s inches wide, though Karius had it covered. Liverpool then play themselves into trouble at the restart, Gomez getting stripped by Richarlison on the Watford left. Richarlison is about to break into the box, so Gomez hauls him back. The defender is booked, and this is a free kick in a dangerous position to the left of the Liverpool box.
GOAL! Liverpool 3-0 Watford (Firmino 49)
What a goal this is! Salah once again has Britos on toast down the right. He reaches the byline, takes a touch inside, and whips low to the near post, where Firmino, his back to goal, backflicks into the bottom left. Karnezis was taken out of the game in an instant.
48 min: Robertson, deep on the left, nearly releases Salah down the right with a Gerrardesque crossfield rake. Mariappa does very well to intercept.
46 min: Henderson crosses deep from the right. Firmino tries to guide a header into the top left, but it’s straight at Karnezis. And he’s offside anyway.
And we’re off again! Liverpool get the party restarted, kicking towards the Kop in this second half. Which is usually how they like it. Salah’s two first-half goals, incidentally, mean he’s now broken the record for most goals in a debut season for Liverpool: 34 in all competitions, beating the mark of 33 set by Fernando Torres.
Half-time reading: It’s 20 years since one Arsenal fan erupted in innocent glee and became an instant Premier League icon. Rob Smyth tells his story like only Rob Smyth can.
HALF TIME: Liverpool 2-0 Watford
Mo Salah, eh?
45 min: That goal is an untimely blow to Watford, who were beginning to ask some questions of Liverpool. There will be one minute of added time.
44 min: The Kop serenade their goalscoring hero, but then make sure to give their left-back his due as well. Robertson has made some impression at Liverpool this season.
GOAL! Liverpool 2-0 Watford (Salah 43)
They’re not grumbling now! Mane threads a lovely pass down the inside-left channel for Robertson, who hares down the wing and curls a superb cross through the six-yard box towards Salah, who comes in from the right to sidefoot powerfully home.
42 min: Mane zips down the left. He’s got Firmino free in the centre, but blasts an awful cross harmlessly over his teammate. A few more moans from the Anfield faithful.
40 min: The corner leads to another corner; the second corner comes to nothing. Watford will be happy enough with the way this is going right now, given the start they made to the match.
39 min: Watford press Liverpool back, but the hosts break at speed. Milner rakes a lovely pass down the left for Salah, who races down the wing, glides inside, and tees up Firmino on the edge of the box. Firmino takes a touch to make some room, and lashes a shot towards the top left. Karnezis palms brilliantly over the bar!
37 min: Watford sting the hands of Karius for the first time! Pereyra crosses deep from the right. Richarlison rises and whistles a header towards the top left. Karius plucks it from the sky easily enough. Both teams have now had one effort on target; so much for all that early Liverpool domination, though of course they did score with theirs. But it’s beginning to look like a tough test for the hosts.
36 min: Salah skates past Britos down the right with ease. His cross is cleared. Henderson tries again, crossing high from the right. Mane brings the ball down and cuts inside looking to shoot, but he was miles offside.
35 min: Milner and Firmino combine crisply down the left to earn Liverpool’s fourth corner of the match. Salah whips it high to the far post, but Firmino can’t rise high enough to meet it. Goal kick.
33 min: Matip goes route one, and sends Firmino free down the middle. Mariappa gets back and hooks the ball over the bar, as the flag goes up incorrectly for offside. Anfield is beginning to bubble with a little concern and a lot of frustration.
32 min: Pereyra nutmegs Mane outrageously near the right-hand corner flag, and tears into the Liverpool box. His low cross is spanked clear by Matip. But Watford are very much in this match now.
31 min: Henderson clanks into Richarlison, and that’s a chance for Watford to load the box. The free kick’s sent to Prodl, on the right-hand corner of the Liverpool area. Prodl heads across. Deeney is lurking … and offside, though Matip clears anyway.
29 min: A poor pass upfield by Matip is intercepted, and Pereyra makes his way into the Liverpool half. He’s got an opportunity to release Richarlison down the left, but overhits the pass, which sails into the stand. Liverpool have got a bit sloppy, and got away with one there.
27 min: Can is down, feeling his left leg. Or is it the small of his back? Either way, he looks as though he won’t be able to continue. He limps off, to warm applause. Klopp gives an unhappy player a warm hug and a kind word, before he disappears down the tunnel. Milner comes on in his place.
25 min: A loose pass from Wijnaldum allows Femenia an opportunity to scoot down the right. For a second Liverpool look in a bit of bother, but Robertson is across quickly to intercept and blooter clear.
24 min: Gomez throws long into the Watford area from the right; the visitors deal with it easily. Anfield has fallen a little quiet. The local heroes made a fast start, and they’re hogging the ball, but Karnezis hasn’t had a whole lot more to do since conceding.
23 min: Henderson clips a pass down the inside-left channel for Mane. A better touch from Mane and he’d have been away, but Mariappa knocks it out for a corner anyway. The set piece ends up at the feet of Wijnaldum, 20 yards out. He has a whack, but it’s blocked the second it leaves his boot.
21 min: The set piece isn’t all that. Wijnaldum tries to keep the pressure on Watford with a determined dribble into the box from the left, but there’s no space opening up for him, and eventually the ball clanks away from him.
20 min: Mariappa takes Mane down with a fairly basic challenge, 25 yards from goal on the left. Salah floats the free kick to the far post, where Firmino is lurking. Holebas is forced to head behind for a corner.
18 min: Salah spins away from Holebas on the right with a slick turn, but runs into trouble in the final third. It’s been all Liverpool, but Watford haven’t given up any more chances since the early goal. Now they just need to get a little something going in attack.
16 min: Henderson sends Salah scampering down the right again. He’s got the run of Britos. He slips a pass inside for Firmino, who is free in the box but offside, and correctly flagged.
15 min: Liverpool continue to dominate possession. Can tries to release Firmino down the inside right, but there’s nothing doing. They quickly get the ball back. Gomez whips a cross into the mixer from the right, but it’s too far ahead of Mane and Firmino and Karnezis is out quickly to snaffle.
13 min: Can spreads the play down the left. Salah is working this flank now, and earns a corner off Holebas. From the set piece, Salah and Firmino try to one-two their way free down the left, but Doucoure reads the play well and the move breaks down.
11 min: Henderson chips diagonally towards Salah on the right. Salah has no right to keep the pass, overhit, in play, but he does. He then very nearly tricks his way past Britos, who does very well to intercept given his early troubles in this particular duel.
9 min: A bit of space for Kiko Femenia down the right. He loops into the Liverpool area. Pereyra tries to get a header on target, but his effort sails harmlessly wide left and high. Liverpool have had 58% possession in these early exchanges.
7 min: The snow’s stopped falling. I doubt we’ve seen the last of it. There’s still some on the ground. Liverpool make some more pretty trails at the back. Watford haven’t really had a sniff yet. Henderson rolls a pass down the inside right but it’s a tad overhit, allowing Karnezis to smother just before Salah can get on the end of it.
5 min: Salah had been on a two-game goal drought. Two games!
GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Watford (Salah 4)
Mane chips the ball down the inside-right channel for Salah, who briefly threatens to break into the area for a shot. But Britos heads him off. No worries, though, because Salah is soon coming back at the same player again. Set free down the right by Mane, he enters the box, sits Britos on his behind with a left-to-right drag, then slots the ball under Karnezis for the opener.
2 min: Liverpool stroke the ball around the back for a bit. As it rolls around, it makes light trails on the whitening turf. A fairly sedate start.
And we’re off! The snow comes down heavy at a blustery Anfield, as Watford get the ball rolling. The visitors will be kicking towards the Kop in the first half. Ian Copestake writes: “Not a lot seemed to be made of how miffed Oxlade-Chamberlain was at being removed from the Old Trafford game. Imagine his face must be a picture now he is benched.” I hope he’s wrapped up warm.
Before the kick-off, a minute’s applause for John Molyneux, Liverpool’s loyal right-back during the club’s Second Division wilderness years in the late 50s and early 60s. A warm moment in the bitter cold. RIP.
The teams are out! Liverpool are in red, Watford hornet yellow. Everyone’s happy, draped as they are in their first-choice livery. It’s a very cold day on Merseyside, perhaps most charitably described as changeable: when BT Sport started broadcasting, icy snow was whipping across Anfield. Then it fell relatively calm. But now there are more snow showers, so it’ll be an interesting evening all right. Anyway, we’ll be off in a minute, but before we start, some promising news for those Liverpool fans desirous of finishing in this season’s top four, as Burn Lamche would very much like to take issue with the preamble of this MBM: “Chelsea fan here. We aren’t resurgent.”
Javi Gracia speaks! “We try to improve our away form. The last game against Arsenal, we created many chances. We didn’t score but we created chances. If we continue in the same way, we will be able to score goals and get points.”
Jurgen Klopp speaks! “The changes are nothing to with last week. Dejan is not available, so that’s the first reason. And that’s about it: the rest, we looked at what we might need against Watford, and that’s the outcome. Maybe they will play with five at the back. It will be another challenge. They are good on the counter, they have quality and we respect that. but we are difficult to play on a good day.”
Liverpool mix it up a bit in the wake of last weekend’s defeat at Manchester United, making four changes to their starting XI. Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Joel Matip replace Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who all drop to the bench, and Dejan Lovren, who misses out altogether.
Watford make just the one change to the team named for their 3-0 defeat at Arsenal. Miguel Britos comes in for Darryl Janmaat, who is on the bench.
Liverpool: Karius, Gomez, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Subs: Milner, Klavan, Moreno, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mignolet, Ings, Alexander-Arnold.
Watford: Karnezis, Britos, Prodl, Mariappa, Holebas, Doucoure, Capoue, Femenia, Richarlison, Pereyra, Deeney.
Subs: Gomes, Janmaat, Cathcart, Gray, Hughes, Carrillo, Okaka.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
It’s Liverpool versus Manchester City! But before the big showdown in the Champions League, Jurgen Klopp’s side have to concentrate hard on getting into the competition again next season. A top-four place in the Premier League is by no means a shoo-in, with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur relentless, and Chelsea resurgent. So they desperately need three points tonight, in order to open up a seven-point gap over Chelsea in fifth.
On the face of it, Watford shouldn’t provide too much of a problem, given they lost at Anfield 6-1 last season, and tasted defeat in their three visits previous to that. They haven’t won at Anfield since Tommy Mooney shocked Gerard Houllier’s side back in 1999 on Sami Hyppia’s debut.
But Watford gave Liverpool some serious concerns on the opening day of the season at Vicarage Road, Miguel Britos snatching a late equaliser in a thoroughly deserved 3-3 draw. They’ve also given the Reds a proper spanking in recent memory: 3-0 just before Christmas 2015. And their recent Premier League form is very impressive: three wins in their last five games, a run which included a 4-1 evisceration of Chelsea, plus victories over Everton and West Brom.
All of those triumphs were at home, though; the only two away games during that sequence ended as losses at West Ham and Arsenal. Couple that dismal form on the road with Watford’s poor record at Anfield, and there’s why Liverpool are strong favourites tonight. Klopp’s team might betray some nerves, though, given their recent loss at Manchester United and their desperate need for points. So this represents something of a free hit for Watford, who are under no pressure whatsoever and on their day are nobody’s fools. It could be a very interesting evening. It’s on!
Kick off: 5.30pm.
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