Lots of positives to take for Watford despite 2-0 win against title candidates Liverpool at Anfield
Liverpool overcame a nervy start to see Watford off 2-0 at Anfield on Saturday afternoon.
The Reds took the lead courtesy of a Diogo Jota well-timed, albeit Ben Foster-assisted flicked header from Joe Gomez after 22 minutes.
The hosts' opener came as a tremendous blow to Roy Hodgson’s Hornets who had been pushing Liverpool quite hard up until that point with Ismaila Sarr, Cucho Hernandez and Juraj Kucka all missing chances to take the lead.
Substitute Fabinho extended Liverpool’s advantage when he coolly converted his penalty into the top corner in the last minute of regular time.
It was Liverpool’s 13th win in 14 home games in the league against the relegation-threatened Hornets and their sixth in a row against this opposition, who haven’t been successful on this turf since August 1999.
But there are quite a few positives to take, such as losing by such a small margin of defeat. Added to that was the the way they put Liverpool under pressure in the opening stages, their tactical astuteness which enabled them to stay in the game until the 89th minute and their ability to switch defence into attack.
But despite their positive start and attacking intent, zero goals still translate to zero points if you concede in football. And Brazilian wonder boy Joao Pedro will surely have a number of sleepless night after wasting a clear-cut chance on 57 minutes following a smart cutback from Senegalese international Sarr in the box.
With a prime Troy Deeney or Odion Ighalo of years gone by they may have gotten something out of this game.
But this was far from a routine straightforward victory for Jurgen Klopp’s men who had to bide their time before finding a way through.
After six minutes Sarr slammed a first-time volley over the crossbar from around 20 yards after a long ball over the top from Samir had caught out the whole Liverpool backline
The Reds responded through Curtis Jones barely a minute later. But he didn't do much better, blazing his shot over the top from outside the penalty area.
Watford sensed that Liverpool were there for the taking and fancied their chances but Southampton-hero Cucho Hernandez headed over at the near post from a corner.
The Hornets, although they created their best chances on the break and from set-pieces, were playing well and putting a shift in. Well-organised, hungry to win ball back and unafraid to take risks, they gave their travelling supporters plenty to be proud of.
But nothing to cheer about as Kucka, released into space on the left after a slick team move, drilled his effort straight at the advancing Alisson in what was another rued opportunity for the visitors, who have taken more points on their travels than at home this season.
But Diogo Jota, fresh from securing World Cup qualification with Portugal in midweek, dished out a lesson of ruthlessness and clinicality to Watford when he connected superbly with Gomez’s tailor-made cross to glance the ball over Foster and into the backn of the net midway through the first period.
The goal, which against the bounce of play, had an effect on Watford’s confidence who only had one more gilt-edged opportunity, through Pedro in the second period.
After misjudging the pace on Gomez’s cross, which led to the Reds’ opener, Foster redeemed himself on 38 minutes when he had his angle covered to deny Jota the brace with his chest from range.
After the restart Virgil Van Dijk sent a free header over from a corner on 56 minutes before Pedro fired wide of the far post after an excellent pullback from Sarr.
Not content with leading 1-0, Liverpool were looking to deliver the sucker punch to kill off the game.
But Jota missed a couple of headers before Fabinho stepped up from 12 yards to nonchalantly tuck his penalty away after the referee reviewed the pitchside monitor and deciding to award Liverpool a spot-kick after Kucka had wrestled down Jota in the area.
One thing is sure, if Watford are to go down, they won’t do it without a fight.