In the build up to his team’s clash with Liverpool, Watford striker Troy Deeney attempted to up the stakes by declaring he was ready to go to war.
There’s just one problem with his futile attempts to psyche the Reds out; a war requires that at least two armies turn out on the field of battle. In truth, despite their late consolation, for long spells the Hornets may as well have stayed at home.
This was a consummate display from Jurgen Klopp‘s men. At times I was transported in time to the 1980s. It was breathless stuff with Liverpool, in complete control, toying with the opposition in a way that bordered on cruelty. Of course in the final analysis it may all come to nought.
There is after all a long way to go before honours are decided, but there is a sense of trust abroad at Anfield this season. We believe in this manager. We trust in these players.
Despite this being another potential banana skin, with Liverpool needing a win in order to capitalise on their rival’s slip ups and regain the initiative from Chelsea, not once did I ever think we would choke. This team not only rises to a challenge, they do so effortlessly and with a smile on their faces. But for all that, perhaps the most notable transformation is in the mood of the crowd.
It took Liverpool almost half an hour to break the deadlock. In years gone by the tension would have become unbearable by that point. Supporters, who had stood in the pubs around the ground prior to kick-off and watched Arsenal and Spurs drop points, would have grown edgy with each passing minute.
Every fluffed line would have been met with groans and each misplaced pass or corner with howls of derision. Not anymore. On Saturday the 6th November 2016, the Kop’s transformation from doubters to believers was complete and the players thrived because of it.
Chance after chance was fashioned and went begging, but instead of growing frustrated all sides of the ground just seemed to lap it up. The noise levels rose with each missed opportunity and when the Reds won a corner in front of the away supporters a huge roar went up.
Milner stood over the ball and instead of lofting it into the penalty area, opted for a short pass to Coutinho. The little magician whipped the ball into the box and Mane leaned across his defender to glance the ball into the top corner; a finish of real quality. We’d scored from a corner, again!
The goal was celebrated with all the zeal of a last minute winner, fists punching the air and high fives all round. It was only the beginning and Watford and Deeney were in for a torrid time.
Liverpool’s passing and movement was incessant for the full 90 minutes. It was relentless stuff and calling it ‘poetry in motion’ barely does it justice. One such move, just three minutes after the opener, saw Coutinho on the edge of the box. With defenders blocking is path, he somehow found space for himself and got off a shot that left Gomes floundering.
It’s frightening how important this lad is becoming. He will surely be targeted by the likes of Madrid and Barcelona in the summer and we can only hope that Jurgen can convince him that his future lies at Anfield, playing in the Premier League. More wins like this won’t do any harm of course.
2-0 up Liverpool were coasting and a rout was clearly on the cards. Prior to the game I wrote about a 4-0 victory over Watford back in 1987. I’d argued that this was the most flamboyant Liverpool side of my life. I even suggested we may never see their likes again. But by then end of a fist half, brimming with craft and class, against the current Watford incarnation, I was ready to eat my words.
Klopp is fashioning a side in the image of Liverpool’s best. It remains to be seen whether they will reach the levels of success of the fore-bearers, but in terms of quality and commitment they are not to be found wanting. Liverpool’s third was a glorious illustration of this point and the magic the German is conjuring.
With the half ebbing away, 2-0 looked like being a comfortable lead to take into the dressing room. But Liverpool and specifically Lallana had other ideas. The Reds broke forward with pace and the Hornets were retreating in panic. The former Southampton man, reborn under Klopp and now a firm Kop favourite, drove the ball in from the right. Emre Can rose and met the ball perfectly, guiding it into the net.
If supporters had any sense of trepidation about the outcome, this goal blew it all away. The Kop were jubilant and wasted no time in letting everyone know about it. “Liverpool, Liverpool, top of the league,” they roared. There may have been a full 45 minutes left, but none of us had any doubt where the three points would be heading or which position in the league Liverpool would occupy at full-time.
Gomes was replaced by Pantilimon late on in the half and the substitute keeper was almost caught out by another Liverpool attack. Can flashed the ball across goal, but nobody was there to convert. Half-time and three would have to do.
The second half couldn’t come soon enough for me. With the number of chances Liverpool create it was only a matter of time before somebody was on the receiving end of a mauling. Watford looked like the perfect fall guys and so they would prove to be.
Just 12 minutes after the restart Liverpool found themselves four up. This was a goal of sublime simplicity that had all of us purring. The Reds seem to stroke the ball around effortlessly in a way that sometimes leaves defences bewitched. They won a free-kick to the right of the visitors goal and what followed took the breath away.
The ball was pinged around at pace and found its way yet again to Adam Lallana, who slid it across goal to the waiting Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian dispatched it with ease. It was a thoroughly deserved goal. Coutinho rightly draws praise, he may be a sorcerer, but his fellow countryman is no apprentice. “Bobby,” as the Kop have christened him, was everywhere against Watford. It is a feat he repeats with ominous regularity and he is rapidly becoming indispensable. However, Liverpool now have a squad full of indispensables.
Firmino was at it again just a few minutes later. Liverpool were attacking with such speed now it was dizzying. The Brazilian raced onto a through ball and beat the defender with ease. For his size he has incredible strength and held the ball up long enough to size up his options. Mane’s anticipation saw him ghost into the box and Firmino calmly handed him the fifth goal on a plate.
5-0 is a magical scoreline. It conjures up memories of thrashings past and signals the total domination of the opposition. That’s why, when Watford grabbed a thoroughly undeserved consolation., Liverpool supporters greeted it with a collective sigh. “Give them nothing” was the cry that greeted every Hornets foray into Reds territory, so when we did eventually succumb to the now inevitable sucker punch, it was more than a mere annoyance.
Strangely the goal seemed to lift the visitors and for a brief period they dreamed of grabbing another. If they had it would have lent the scoreline a respectability they scarcely deserved.
Thankfully the Reds regained their initiative and were soon back on the offensive. Sturridge had entered the fray just before the Hornets grabbed their goal, He could have had a hat trick, crashing two stunning efforts off the woodwork. He was rightly lauded by most of the supporters, but around me some inexplicably seem to doubt his quality.
Sturridge may not be in Jurgen’s long term plans, but he will doubtlessly prove a lethal threat in the matches to come. Indeed it was Gini Wijnaldum, clearly desperate for his first goal for the club, who would profit from Daniel’s attacking play. The striker fired a shot that Pantilimon could only parry and the Dutchman was quick to react firing home at the Kop end.
His delight was obvious and Liverpool had restored their five goal lead. It was a thoroughly deserved win and a warning to the rest of the Premier League that this Reds side has the quality to stay the course.
Greater challenges lie in wait. They may not dare to even whisper it yet, but with the attacking threat this Liverpool team possesses, Kopites are now starting to think the unthinkable.