Ranieri's addiction to Premier League given a shot of reality as Liverpool put Hornets to the sword
Watford (0) 0
Liverpool (2) 5 Mane 9, Firmino 37, 52, 90 Salah 54
The Hornets slipped to the tamest of defeats in Claudio Ranier's first game in charge as Roberto Firmino bagged a hat-trick in a rampant Reds victory.
If home fans were expected a few fireworks and some in-your-face resistance for the new boss, they were left sorely disappointed. Their team barely laid a glove on the dominant visitors, who enjoyed 83 per cent possession.
It took them nearly an hour before they registered a shot – the effort from distance by Juraj Kucka receiving ironic cheers from home fans.
It was the toughest of baptisms for the returning Italian and may not get much easier in the weeks ahead. The next seven games include matches against Arsenal, Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs. He has his work cut out to make a quick impression.
Ranieri is one of the enduring storylines of the Premier League.
There he is, a man on the cusp of his 70th birthday abandoning a nice life in his native Italy at Genoa to take on another English club rescue mission.
It can’t be the money or the fact the Hornets have Italian owners which has brought the former Premier League title winner to Vicarage Road – much those factors will have helped.
The willingness to endure another home upheaval and take on another difficult challenge at his age speaks volumes of his addiction for the English game and his love of the limelight it brings.
And let’s face it, the league is a better place for his presence.
Last time out, it was a disaster, lest we forget. He was unable to keep Fulham from nose-diving back to the Championship and did not last long at Craven Cottage.
But, of course, the miracle of Leicester City in 2016 will forever be the item on the CV that keeps clubs sounding him out.
Whether that counts for anything this time around remains to be seen.
Liverpool wasted no time in underlining their superiority, with Mo Salah giving Danny Rose a torrid time down the Watford left.
After eight minutes he sent a perfect ball into the box with the outside of that magical left boot and Sadio Mane was on hand to tuck past Ben Foster.
The Hornets keeper did well to prevent Salah from soon doubling the lead and Rose made some amends for his unhappy start by blocking another effort from the Egyptian.
There were only brief breaks in the dominance, but neither Ismailia Sarr nor Emmanuel Dennis could get into dangerous spaces.
The Reds kept probing and it was no surprise when Firmino tapped in goal number two after 37 minutes – set up by James Milner with a cross from the left.
Naby Keita skidded a deflected effort onto the bar as more goals seemed inevitable and two more duly arrived in the space of a couple of minutes early in the second half.
First, Firmino slipped the ball home after Foster had only been able to parry an attempted intercept from Craig Cathcart into space.
Then we were treated to the full Salah wizardry as the twisted and turned around several players inside the box before burying a curled shot into the far corner.
Sarr did force a save from Caoimhin Kelleher late in the day, but the narrative had long been decided and there was still time for Firmino to steer in a Nico Williams cross to the far post for the simplest of trebles.
Watford: (4-4-1-1) Foster – Femenia (Ngakia 56), Troost-Ekong, Cathcart, Rose – Sarr, Kucka, Sissoko, Masina (Cleverley h/t) – Hernandez – Dennis (Joaoa Pedro 69). Subs not used: Louza, Sema. Gosling, Fletcher, Tufan, Bachmann
Liverpool: (4-3-3) Kelleher – Alexander-Arnold (Oxlade-Chamberlain 64), Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson (Tsmikias 64) – Milner (Nico Williams 83), Henderson, Keita – Salah, Firmino, Mane. Subs not used: Konate, Gomez, Adrian, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Jota, Origi