A disappointing Liverpool fell to a 3-0 defeat away to Watford on Sunday afternoon, with Odion Ighalo in emphatic form at Vicarage Road.
Watford 3-0 Liverpool
Premier League – Vicarage Road – Sunday 20th December 2015
Goals: Ake 3′, Ighalo 15′, 85′
Taking on an in-form Watford side at Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon, Liverpool looked to rectify a poor performance in the 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion the previous week, and Jurgen Klopp will have drilled into his side the importance of an immediate recovery.
Making four changes to his side from that afternoon at Anfield, the German gave Adam Bogdan his first Premier League start for the Reds.
There were also returns for Mamadou Sakho, Lucas Leiva and Roberto Firmino, with Klopp fielding a fluid 4-3-3 formation.
Against a side above them in the league and in a much better condition than in their last meeting almost nine years ago, Liverpool had their work cut out for them.
Three minutes after Mark Clattenburg blew the whistle for kickoff, Liverpool were behind, with a suspicion of a foul covering for Bogdan’s error in dropping the ball from a Watford corner.
Nathan Ake, on loan from Chelsea, benefiting from the Hungarian’s sloppy work and stabbed home from three yards out.
This visibly rattled the Reds, who struggled to build any positive moves in the final third throughout the opening stages, while centre-back partners Martin Skrtel and Sakho were outmatched by the strength of Hornets’ strikers Ighalo and Troy Deeney.
Ighalo, Watford‘s leading goalscorer this season, added a second on 15 minutes, outmuscling Skrtel on the charge before firing low beyond Bogdan.
The travelling support were silenced as Vicarage Road’s yellow and black contingent roared their side on.
Bogdan’s calamitous start set the tone, with the backup goalkeeper continuing to inadvertently create chances for Watford, and was lucky to see his poor punch go unpunished on 32 minutes.
Struggling with a knock throughout the closing stages of the half, Skrtel eventually relented and called for the physio on 40 minutes, with Klopp bringing on Divock Origi in his place to prompt a change of emphasis in attack.
Despite seeing more of the ball however, Liverpool were second best in every area in the first half, and will have been pleased to hear Clattenburg’s call for the interval.
Sending his side out early for the second half, Klopp will have been encouraged by Liverpool’s response, with Divock Origi making a nuisance of himself in attack with pace, power and intelligent movement.
But this positive play did not last long, with Watford regaining control and pushing the Reds back throughout, with Sakho and makeshift centre-back Lucas Leiva failing to contend with Ighalo.
The sight of Christian Benteke warming up on the hour mark proved a relief, with Liverpool lacking physicality in the final third and a poor Roberto Firmino found wanting.
Watford almost had a third two minutes later after Sakho’s slip let Ighalo through, but Bogdan was on hand to make a vital stop.
Emre Can came closest for Liverpool with a long-range effort on 71 minutes, but the ever-strong Heurelho Gomes kept it out with a confident save.
Klopp made his final roll of the dice minutes later, bringing on Benteke and Jordon Ibe for Firmino and Adam Lallana.
It proved futile, however, with Liverpool limp in their attempts to restore parity, and Ighalo added the killing blow on 85 minutes by nodding his second goal beyond Bogdan to put Watford 3-0 up.
It was a deserved victory for Watford, and now Klopp goes back to the drawing board with a home clash with league leaders Leicester City to come on Boxing Day.
TIA Man of the Match: Divock Origi
Watford: Gomes; Nyom, Britos, Cathcart, Ake; Capoue, Watson; Abdi (Behrami 80′), Deeney, Jurado (Anya 76′); Ighalo (Guedioura 88′)
Substitutes: Arlauskis, Holebas, Behrami, Guedioura, Anya, Diamanti, Oulare
Liverpool: Bogdan; Clyne, Skrtel (Origi 41′), Sakho, Moreno; Henderson, Lucas, Can; Lallana (Ibe 74′), Firmino (Benteke 74′), Coutinho
Substitutes: Fulton, Toure, Randall, Allen, Ibe, Origi, Benteke