Mohamed Salah struck once in each half as Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Watford.
Liverpool 2-0 Watford
Premier League (17), Anfield
December 14, 2019
Salah 38′ (assist – Mane)
Salah 90′ (assist – Origi)
With Klopp making three changes to his side from Salzburg, the Reds lined up in a 4-2-3-1, with the addition of Xherdan Shaqiri to the usual front three.
Perhaps understandably given the early kickoff and the turnaround from midweek, a festive Anfield saw a quiet game unfold in the opening exchanges, though Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino all took up dangerous positions.
The windy conditions played into Liverpool’s hands in terms of the long-ball approach, with Watford‘s back line struggling to judge the flight of the ball as Salah buzzed into space behind.
That provided the pathway to the opener, with a cleared Watford corner finding Mane down the left and after a simple pass to Salah, the Egyptian did the rest, cutting onto his right and bending a beautiful finish beyond Ben Foster.
Luck certainly went in the Reds’ favour, too, with both Abdoulaye Doucoure and Ismaila Sarr mis-kicking cutbacks inside the penalty to ensure the half ended with a home advantage.
HT: Liverpool 1-0 Watford
The second half almost began in perfect fashion, with a carbon copy of Gini Wijnaldum‘s header against Barcelona, but a questionable VAR call saw Mane’s header chalked off following Shaqiri’s brilliant delivery from the left.
Wijnaldum himself was forced off soon after, with the Dutchman going down clutching his hamstring, likely adding to the Reds’ list of long-term injuries along with Fabinho, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren.
The game grew increasingly fraught as Watford took a more aggressive stance, and Alisson was drawn into a series of vital saves, as he was at Salzburg.
A bizarre unforced error from Virgil van Dijk gave the visitors a corner directly from which Gerard Deulofeu struck the post, as a rare nervousness pervaded Anfield, and the anxiety of old crept through the crowd.
But the introduction of Divock Origi and a shift to a 4-5-1 sparked a decisive second for Salah, with his improvised flick clinching the victory, along with a third clean sheet in a row.
TIA Man of the Match: Mohamed Salah
Referee: Andre Marriner
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum (Robertson 59′); Shaqiri (Oxlade-Chamberlain 70′), Firmino (Origi 88′), Mane; Salah
Subs not used: Adrian, Williams, Lallana, Keita
Watford: Foster; Cathcart, Mariappa, Kabasele; Femenia, Hughes, Capoue, Doucoure (Quina 87′), Sarr; Deeney (Gray 75′), Deulofeu
Subs not used: Gomes, Dawson, Foulquier, Chalobah, Success
Next Match: Aston Villa (A) – League Cup Quarter-Final – Tuesday, Dec 17, 7.45pm (GMT)