Soccer

Watford 0-3 Liverpool: Alexander-Arnold scores superb free-kick

Watford 0-3 Liverpool: Trent Alexander-Arnold hits superb free-kick while Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino also score as Jurgen Klopp’s side win despite Jordan Henderson’s late red card

  • Mohamed Salah scores opening goal of the game for Liverpool in 67th minute with close range finish
  • Trent Alexander-Arnold made it 2-0 in the 76th minute with excellent free-kick from 25 yards out 
  • Liverpool finished the game with ten men after Jordan Henderson was sent off for two yellow cards 
  • Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu has goal ruled out for offside in early stages of the game at Vicarage Road 
  • Sadio Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino all had chances for Liverpool in the first half
  • Watford have penalty appeal turned down when Will Hughes was caught by Andy Robertson 
  • Liverpool remain second, two points behind leaders Manchester City, while Watford go down to ninth 

It is not often that Liverpool flatter to deceive these days but this was one of those rare matches in this enormously promising season when the pretty numbers and records concealed something a little more gritty.

That is not a glaring criticism as such – great virtue in winning ugly, and all that. But for a long time, around 67 minutes in fact, this was harder than it might have been. So much so that Watford have the right to wonder.

What of the call by Jonathan Moss 10 minutes into the second half? Watford were second best by that point and were for just about the entirety of the match, but at 0-0 Andrew Robertson appeared to foul Will Hughes in the area and nothing was given.

Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates after he made it 2-0 with a superbly-struck free-kick

Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates after he made it 2-0 with a superbly-struck free-kick

Alexander-Arnold is delighted after his free-kick from 25 yards out doubled Liverpool's advantage against Watford

Alexander-Arnold is delighted after his free-kick from 25 yards out doubled Liverpool’s advantage against Watford

The youngster focuses intently as he scores his brilliant free-kick in the second half against Watford

The youngster focuses intently as he scores his brilliant free-kick in the second half against Watford

The Liverpool team celebrates with Alexander-Arnold following the England defender's free-kick

The Liverpool team celebrates with Alexander-Arnold following the England defender’s free-kick

It looked harsh based on restricted replays and it must have felt like a kick in the teeth for one of the division’s most impressive performers that they were subsequently pummelled by three goals, two of which were quite sublime.

The first, finished by Mo Salah on 67 minutes, was a tribute to stunning team play. With nine goals in all competitions, his season is not necessarily as underwhelming as we sometimes believe it to be. The second goal was all about the power of the individual, in this case Trent Alexander-Arnold, who scored a quite sublime free-kick. Roberto Firmino finished it off with a late header.

All in all, it was a comfortable win, and yet it was also a shakier performance than we have grown accustomed to from Jurgen Klopp’s side. They struggled badly in the midfield in the first half and in the second Jordan Henderson was sent off for a second yellow card – he will now miss next week’s Merseyside derby. The defence was also weak on occasional, barring Virgil van Dijk who produced another faultless performance against a team with five wins in seven home games. 

Good numbers for Watford, irrespective of this one going south. The numbers for Liverpool are far better and indicative of why this is turning into a special campaign. Klopp’s side have now kept 12 clean sheets in their last 18 league games – a measure of the defensive progress there is that they started last season by conceding three at this ground.

On another score, Liverpool have 33 points from 13 games—their highest-ever tally in the Premier League era and, of course, remain unbeaten. It’s deeply impressive, even if this was not the best showcase of what they do. 

Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring his seventh Premier League goal of the season for Liverpool

Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring his seventh Premier League goal of the season for Liverpool

Liverpool had to wait to break down the Watford defence but they eventually managed to do so as Salah found the net

Liverpool had to wait to break down the Watford defence but they eventually managed to do so as Salah found the net

Roberto Firmino celebrates his goal, which ensured Liverpool managed to take all three points against Watford

Roberto Firmino celebrates his goal, which ensured Liverpool managed to take all three points against Watford

Roberto Firmino made it 3-0 to Liverpool in the closing stages as his effort got the better of Ben Foster

Roberto Firmino made it 3-0 to Liverpool in the closing stages as his effort got the better of Ben Foster

The first half was largely wretched, save for the final five minutes when Liverpool produced three decent chances in a concentrated flurry and Watford had a decent effort of their own. Ahead of that burst of life, the most notable observation was that the Liverpool side coming out of the international break had only a little of the verve or solidity of the one that went into it.

The midfield, with the exception of Xherdan Shaqiri, was particularly culpable in both regards. Jordan Henderson, back for a first start in a month after his hamstring difficulties, was a shade off the pace in the attacks and together with Georginio Wijnaldum offered a less than effective screen for the defence as well.

In the opening two minutes Gerard Deulofeu had a goal rightly disallowed for offside after Watford built a strong position and a moment later the same player almost found a way through after a risky ball from Alisson put Roberto Firmino in danger next to his own area. Not exactly alarming and yet hardly the kind of vulnerabilities you’d expect in Klopp’s team this season.

The respite came from Shaqiri. His colleagues didn’t chip much into the creative effort, but he was sharp, aggressive and repeatedly the best catalyst for Liverpool until his substitution, with all three of their three best openings in the first 45 minutes coming from his work. 

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson was sent off in the closing stages of the game for a second bookable offence

Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson was sent off in the closing stages of the game for a second bookable offence

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp congratulates Alexander-Arnold on his goal after the full-time whistle

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp congratulates Alexander-Arnold on his goal after the full-time whistle

Xherdan Shaqiri sends in a ball for Liverpool as the visitors attempt to break the hosts down during the Premier League clash

Xherdan Shaqiri sends in a ball for Liverpool as the visitors attempt to break the hosts down during the Premier League clash

Liverpool's Salah attempts to make an impact as he's surrounded by Craig Cathcart and Etienne Capoue

Liverpool’s Salah attempts to make an impact as he’s surrounded by Craig Cathcart and Etienne Capoue

Capoue battles for possession with Liverpool winger Sadio Mane during an intense encounter at Vicarage Road

Capoue battles for possession with Liverpool winger Sadio Mane during an intense encounter at Vicarage Road

In the first instance, it was a dipping in-swinger of a cross to Mo Salah that had Ben Foster in a panic. The Watford keeper was almost beaten by the delivery in flight but was able to get enough of a finger on the ball to divert it away from Salah at the far post.

A second throughball on 41 minutes made a chance for Sadio Mane that was well saved by Foster and from the resulting Shaqiri corner Salah had a header blocked.

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Mohamed Salah put Liverpool in the lead following a well-worked move

Mohamed Salah put Liverpool in the lead following a well-worked move

Watford (4-4-2): Foster 7; Femenia 6, Cathcart 7, Mariappa 7, Masina 6; Hughes 6.5 (Gray 75, 6), Doucoure 7, Capoue 7, Pereyra 6.5; Deulofeu 6.5 (Success 57, 6), Deeney 6

Subs: Gomes, Chalobah, Quina, Navarro, Kabasele

Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Alisson 6; Alexander-Arnold 7, Lovren 6, Van Dijk 7.5, Robertson 7; Henderson 4.5, Wijnaldum 6; Shaqiri 7 (Milner 74, 6), Firmino 7 (Matip 90), Mane 7; Salah 7 (Fabinho 86)

Subs: Mignolet, Clyne, Keita, Sturridge.

Sent off: Henderson

Ref: Jonathan Moss 5

MOM: Virgil van Dijk 

Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster rushes out of his area to clear the ball with Salah in close vicinity 

Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster rushes out of his area to clear the ball with Salah in close vicinity 

Roberto Firmino showcases his excellent close control as Gerard Deulofeu and Etienne Capoue look to win the ball

Roberto Firmino showcases his excellent close control as Gerard Deulofeu and Etienne Capoue look to win the ball

Liverpool winger Sadio Mane attempts to find the net with an acrobatic effort against Watford

Liverpool winger Sadio Mane attempts to find the net with an acrobatic effort against Watford

Among those few chances, Watford had arguably the best attack of the bunch, with Liverpool exposed by a Dejan Lovren slip before the ball was rotated to Roberto Pereyra with a decent sight of goal. He shot with the outside of his boot and Alisson saved. Had Virgil van Dijk not been so solid, then it is a certainty that Watford would have had more than that to show for their half.

The second period had more of a pulse. Far more. Watford had an appeal for a penalty rejected, which appeared fortuitous for Liverpool after limited initial replays indicated that Andrew Robertson had clattered Will Hughes in the shin. 

Gerard Deulofeu finds the net for Watford in the opening stages of the game but his effort was ruled out for offside

Gerard Deulofeu finds the net for Watford in the opening stages of the game but his effort was ruled out for offside

Jordan Henderson looks to push forward for Liverpool while being tracked by Watford's Abdoulaye Doucoure

Jordan Henderson looks to push forward for Liverpool while being tracked by Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure

From there, Liverpool made the most of their second life. The opening goal was delightful in the scale of its creation, with Robertson carrying the ball deep into Watford’s half before playing out to Roberto Firmino, who broke the defensive line with a pass of perfect weight into the path of Mane. His cut back went straight to Salah and he finished for his ninth goal of the season in all competitions. He has not been at his best in this campaign, but with six goals in six games across the league and European fixtures, it is hard to buy too firmly into reactionary arguments about his longevity.

Alexander-Arnold got the second nine minutes later and it was really quite something. From 25 yards out he found the top right corner. A stunning strike.

Firmino wrapped it up by squeezing a header past Foster after the latter pulled off a good save from Mane, though a layer of gloss was stripped off between the goals when Henderson was shown his second yellow card in the space of 22 minutes for a foul on Etienne Capoue. He will now miss the derby game with Everton next weekend.

Watford try and restrict the influence of Salah, with Cathcart and Doucoure closing the Egypt international down

Watford try and restrict the influence of Salah, with Cathcart and Doucoure closing the Egypt international down

Liverpool supporters express their frustration with the recent 'golden handshake' given to Richard Scudamore

Liverpool supporters express their frustration with the recent ‘golden handshake’ given to Richard Scudamore

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