Joe Gomez was rock solid while Mohamed Salah made all the difference, as Liverpool beat Watford 2-0 at Anfield on Saturday afternoon.
Liverpool dominated the proceedings from the word go, but were lucky to have not conceded two goals in the first 45 minutes, with Abdoulaye Doucoure and Ismaila Sarr inexplicably missing from close range. The Reds, though, went into half-time with a slender advantage, as Mohamed Salah produced a fine right-footed finish at the end of an express counter-attack.
Liverpool continued to have the bulk of the possession post the interval, only to be left frustrated by the resoluteness of the Watford defence. The hosts finally doubled their lead in the final minute of regulation time, with Salah completing his brace with a cheeky backheel flick after Divock Origi’s scuffed shot fell to him kindly.
The win meant Liverpool now have 49 points from a possible 51, while Watford remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Alisson Becker: 7/10
With Liverpool dominating the proceedings, Alisson was barely called into action. When he was, the Brazilian was equal to whatever the Watford attack threw at him, with the save from Gerard Deulofeu particularly standing out. Involved in the hilarious moment that nearly led to an own goal but he was not at fault.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7/10
An odd sort of performance by Alexander-Arnold. The English international held his own at the back and was rarely troubled by Deulofeu apart from the odd occasion. Going forward, he posed a great deal of threat, but did not create much. Delivery from set-pieces were disappointing. No harm done, though.
Joe Gomez: 9/10
With Dejan Lovren out injured, Gomez was the natural choice to partner Virgil van Dijk. And, the English defender actually ended up outclassing his senior central defensive partner. In a defensive masterclass, Gomez made seven recoveries, won 12 duels (aerial and ground), made four clearances and won three tackles. Colossal.
Virgil van Dijk: 6.5/10
It is rare that van Dijk is outdone by his partner, but that is exactly what Gomez did. The Dutchman was hardly bad, keeping the Liverpool defence organised for the most part, bar a couple of instances when Watford got in behind him. The pick of the lot, though, was the comical error that nearly led to an own goal. Incredibly lucky.
James Milner: 6/10
Klopp intended to give Andrew Robertson a bit of a breather, meaning Milner started as Liverpool’s left-back. The veteran displayed a lot of energy going forward, perhaps buoyed by the fact that he signed his renewal with the Reds on Friday. At the back, there were instances when Ismaila Sarr had his number. Fared much better after moving into midfield.
Jordan Henderson: 7/10
A decent showing by Henderson, who was under the pump at times in the first half before completely shutting Watford off in post the break. The Liverpool captain kept things simple on the ball, with some of his first-time passes being quite delightful as well. Just needs to move the ball quickly at times.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 5.5/10
All through the game, Wijnaldum was a hit and miss. The Dutchman worked his socks off in the defensive phase, recovering the ball a number of times. On it, though, he was atrocious at times and poor on most occasions. However, despite a blow-hot-blow-cold display, it was a huge setback when he had to be taken off at the hour mark with a rather concerning injury.
Xherdan Shaqiri: 6.5/10
Back into the starting lineup for the first time since the Merseyside derby, Shaqiri was a lively presence on the pitch. However, his end product was not always up to the mark, with the killer pass lacking from his arsenal. When he did find the game changing pass, Sadio Mane’s effort was chalked out as offside. An opportunity missed.
Roberto Firmino: 5/10
Another evening wherein Firmino’s struggles continued. Engaged in a personal duel with Christian Kabasele all through the first half, the Watford defender had his number. Moved into the hole in the second period, but continued to remain on the periphery. In serious need of a goal.
Sadio Mane: 8/10
Mohamed Salah may grab the headlines, but it was Mane who was the most dangerous player for Liverpool. In fact, Mane served the opening goal for Salah, taking several Watford defenders out of the game with his express run across the pitch.
A beautiful headed finish was the highlight in the second half, only for the goal to be ruled out as offside. Mane was then the big reason for the second goal as well, as he found Divock Origi in acres of space, before Salah doubled his tally. Deserved a goal out of his performance.
Mohamed Salah: 8/10
Despite playing fewer games than both, Mo Salah has scored more goals for Liverpool than Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres ⚽ pic.twitter.com/0Nh9myOLqi
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 14, 2019
Two top class finishes to earn Liverpool the win. The first was a second successive goal from his right foot, another brilliant goal. The second, a cheeky flick through Kabasele’s legs as a helpless Ben Foster watched the ball go into the net. Otherwise, Salah did pose a lot of threat, but was a tad too selfish at times as well. Nevertheless, his fine run of form continues, a huge positive.
Andrew Robertson: 6/10
Forced on to the field due to Wijnaldum’s injury, Robertson never quite got out of second gear, but was rarely put under pressure at the back.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7/10
On for Shaqiri, Oxlade-Chamberlain was a bundle of energy, constantly running at the Watford defenders while also sending in a couple of dangerous crosses. Worked hard off the ball as well.
Divock Origi: N/A
A late substitution, Origi had a role to play in Salah’s second goal, with the ball landing kindly for Liverpool’s match-winner after he had fluffed his lines.