Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool reach new heights as Watford walloped

A year on from Crystal Palace defeat Liverpool light up Anfield in six-goal rout

Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates after scoring Liverpool’s sixth goal in the Premier League game against Watford at Anfield. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates after scoring Liverpool’s sixth goal in the Premier League game against Watford at Anfield. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

 

Liverpool 6 Watford 1

It is almost a year to the day since Jürgen Klopp stared in disbelief at Liverpool fans streaming out of Anfield before the end of a defeat by Crystal Palace. No one quits early any more. With his side top of the Premier League and turning on the style on a weekly basis, these are the days for Liverpool to savour.

Watford were not simply the fifth of six visitors beaten at Anfield this season but the latest team to feel and suffer the punishing effect of the formidable attack constructed by Klopp.

Walter Mazzarri’s side came with a proud defensive record to protect. It was obliterated inside 45 minutes as Liverpool swarmed to the Premier League summit for the first time since May 2014 with the kind of performance that suggests they might enjoy the view for a good while yet. Doubts do surround Liverpool’s defensive ability at set pieces but there was not a soul inside Anfield who would complain at getting first place and one intense attacking display after another in exchange.

Once again, the incomparable front trident of Sadio Mané, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino punctured holes in the opposition backline. All three were on the scoresheet and Liverpool were three up before the break as Watford wilted under relentless pressure.

The only surprise was that the visitors’ record of not conceding a Premier League goal stretched to five hours and 25 minutes as Liverpool had eight presentable chances to score before Mané commenced the onslaught with a cute header.

The Senegal international scored the fifth, too, before being substituted to a standing ovation. “If we still had Suárez,” the Kop sang, “he’d be on the bench.” That may have been tongue in cheek but the tribute to Liverpool’s collective power was merited.

Watford also lost goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes to what appeared a serious injury to his right knee on a galling afternoon for the men from Vicarage Road. They would have been behind early had Firmino, Lucas Leiva, deputising for the ill Dejan Lovren in central defence, or Coutinho not missed clear openings. Confirming Liverpool’s threat is not confined to the front three, Emre Can and James Milner also had sight of Gomes’s goal before the dam burst.

Mané was involved in almost every Liverpool break in the first half. He broke the deadlock when Daryl Janmaat switched off at a short corner between Milner and Coutinho, enabling the former Southampton forward to steal a yard on the defender and steer the Brazilian’s cross home with a cute header.

Three minutes later it was two as Nathaniel Clyne, Mané, Adam Lallana and Firmino combined to invite Coutinho to attack Watford’s central defence. Liverpool’s No 10 duly obliged, cutting on to his right and driving a powerful low shot through the legs of Younès Kaboul and into the centre of the visitors’ goal. Gomes was unsighted but also beaten easily, as his knee gave way while attempting to correct his body shape. The goalkeeper was helped off in clear distress by two members of Watford medical staff.

Can put the game beyond Mazzarri’s team before half-time when he read Lallana’s deep cross to perfection and headed the ball back across Gomes’s replacement, Costel Pantilimon, at the far post. It could have been four in the first half but for Pantilimon tipping away a Milner free-kick that looked destined for the top corner.

Number four did arrive from another flowing move, Lallana sweeping a low cross along the six-yard box for Firmino to convert at close range 12 minutes after the interval, before the Brazilian turned provider to set up Mané’s second of the game. Jordan Henderson released Firmino clear on the right after winning a clearance from Pantilimon; the Brazilian looked up, surveyed his options and rolled a perfect ball on to Mané’s run for the striker to beat the goalkeeper convincingly.

To their credit, Watford did not take the hammering lying down and Loris Karius had to produce the first impressive saves of his Anfield career from Étienne Capoue and Miguel Britos before Janmaat, in acres of space inside the Liverpool area, steered a consolation into the far corner. But there was never any chance of Klopp’s side easing off.

Daniel Sturridge twice struck the crossbar after coming on for Lallana and it was his shot, parried by Pantilimon, that enabled his fellow substitute Georginio Wijnaldum to score his first Liverpool goal from the rebound.

Six goals and at number one. It is a different stand that Klopp sees when he turns around to check for early leavers these days. It is also a different team in front of him and a different belief all around.

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