Liverpool, top of the league! Liverpool, Liverpool, top of the league! From 14 points back, the Reds have loaded the pressure on Man City with a 10th league win in a row.
Liverpool 2-0 Watford
Anfield, Premier League
Saturday, April 2, 2022
Goals: Jota 22′, Fabinho 88′
Strength in depth, bench of dreams
Kelleher, Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Tsimikas, Fabinho, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaz, Mane.
Honestly, if that was most of a starting line-up against Watford, most fans would be fairly confident of winning.
Instead it was Liverpool’s bench, packed full of experienced, match-winning options, world class players and quality options all across the pitch.
This time it was Origi, Minamino and Elliott who missed out entirely, with the latter pressed into under-23s duty instead just to get some game time.
The league’s best No.6, an all-time top wide forward and Mr. 800-plus himself coming on isn’t bad at all – they’ll all be needed for starting games soon.
O Jogo Bonito
The first half was pretty comfortable for the Reds despite what some TV commentaries may have tried to insist: lots of possession, created a few openings, dealt with Watford‘s couple of chances on a counter-attack and a corner.
Scored a goal too, let’s not forget.
And, coincidentally or otherwise, the stand-out performers for the Reds were the contingent of Portuguese-speaking talents throughout the spine.
Alisson made a big block from a one-on-one right before the opener, while his distribution was also key to our quick attacks.
Thiago was an absolute nonsense, with first touches and fizzed passes unequalled by anyone on the pitch, with added ball-winning, recycling and pushing forward into dangerous areas for good measure.
Best player of the match.
Alongside him, Bobby Firmino was a stand-out, nipping in multiple times to get possession back, showing his top technique to evade bodies and find space – and Diogo Jota stole in to head the opening goal.
Just to add to the theme, Fab banged in a late penalty off the bench.
Klopp wanted the noise
Pre-game, the manager had said we’d need the noisiest possible atmosphere for a 12.30 kick-off which was vital for our title ambitions, but could also be really tough to navigate.
And it was: first game back after an international break, an opponent desperate for any kind of result in the battle against relegation and the added pressure of knowing a win would take us top.
Anfield hasn’t always been particularly vociferous this season for the run of the mill league matches.
But the boss got his wish this time – more or less – as the atmosphere was definitely a couple of notches up, particularly during the second-half lulls which can sometimes get very quiet.
Instead it seemed the crowd was all on-side and doing their bit to raise momentum and tempo, urging the Reds forward to victory.
All change on the right flank
The first half of the season, Liverpool’s right wing was irrepressible. Here it was decent, but very, very much changed from that period.
First up, we need to note Mo Salah‘s form isn’t anywhere near what he’s capable of.
He’s had a bad few days so can totally be excused for not being on it, but this dates back a few weeks now. The touch isn’t quite there, the confidence in the shot isn’t like it was. He was unsustainably good pre-December, so we don’t expect that level of ruthlessness again, but even so he’s on a downturn at the moment.
And then, of course, we had no Trent.
Not that you’d know it if you only saw a long-distance replay of the goal, given Gomez’s unbelievable cross for Jota’s header.
The No12 was largely very good at right-back, with a couple of good defensive moments, one yellow card for a pull-back and some excellent work down the flank in attack.
Title talk and Benfica next
Ten straight wins in the league at Anfield and it’s 19 unbeaten now in the top flight on home soil, stretching back to last term.
Liverpool FC are top of the Premier League.
It’s only likely for a couple of hours, but it doesn’t matter right now – the important think is the transference of pressure to City, the realisation for those players that their failings have let a 14-point lead slip.
Klopp and Co have to immediately switch focus though, with the Champions League also in our sights.
Benfica is fast-approaching and we’d expect a few changes there again, with Trent, Fabinho and perhaps Luis Diaz, given his familiarity with the opponents, among those we’d expect to return to the line-up.
Onwards – it’s all still on.