In Watford’s first match under the control of new manager Marco Silva, they put on a Jekyll and Hyde performance that ended with them stealing two points in stoppage time from an off-the-mark Liverpool.
Vicarage Road was the stage for yet another dramatic act in this weekend’s Premier League opener as Watford faced off against Liverpool in their first match under their new boss Marco Silva.
From the start of the game Watford looked the hungrier and more energetic side as they initially set up a high defensive line and pressed aggressively, highlighted by an early foul by Stefano Okaka on opposing keeper Simon Mignolet.
The Hornets’ early energy was rewarded as they snatched the first goal of the game through an Okaka header off a corner kick just eight minutes into the fixture. The corner originated from a quick counter attack started from the Italian striker as he played a through ball in towards an onrushing Roberto Pereyra who put Dejan Lovren in a blender before popping off a shot at goal. Liverpool set up in their usual zonal marking system that would fail them yet again as their dreadful defending gifted a free, uncontested header for Okaka right in front of a flat-footed Roberto Firmino.
The home side’s bright start was dulled by an early injury to right-back Daryl Janmaat who was subbed off in the 18th minute for new signing Kiko Femenia.
Just as Watford seemed to be sitting comfortably in the driving seat, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane stunned Vicarage road with a goal in the 29th minute. Mane picked the ball up just outside the box and created something out of nothing as he drove towards the box. He played a quick one-two with Alberto Moreno, then dummied the ball for Emre Can to free the Senegalese star inside the box. He then placed a fine strike into the back of Gomes’ goal.
However, the Reds were found asleep just 2 minutes later as they conceded a messy goal to Abdoulaye Doucouré. A simple throw-in on the left side of Liverpool’s box found its way to the edge of the box, but a missed tackle from Moreno left space in behind for a wide-open Tom Cleverly. The Englishman played a ball into the heart of the box to bounce around the Liverpool defenders before landing at the feet of Doucouré for a simple tap-in.
Watford would take control for the remainder of the half as Liverpool constantly launched long ball after long ball unsuccessfully as the Hornets superb press negated the Liverpool midfield from playing their short passing game.
Despite the lack of any spark in Liverpool’s attack, they found one last chance just before the break as Firmino picked out Mane on a beautiful inswinging corner for the winger to just barely head wide.
Both sides kicked off the second half unchanged from the first half, but an early injury for Watford midfielder Roberto Pereyra saw him subbed off for another new signing in Richarlison.
Jurgen Klopp’s men started off the half brightly taking more control of the ball as Watford seemed to take a different approach to the second half and sit back and invite pressure.
Such a passive approach would fail them as Liverpool won and converted a penalty in the 54th minute. New signing Mohamed Salah was finally able to put his pace on display as he connected with a Firmino through ball just before Gomes’ attempted interception. The Brazilian keeper lunged in, taking away the Egyptian’s heels instead of the ball. The Brazilian number 9 stepped up to the spot and successfully slotted home his penalty into the bottom corner sending Gomes the wrong way in the process.
Liverpool’s blitz continued as the Brazilian and Egyptian combined again just 2 minutes later to take the lead. Firmino found himself open as he made a clever run in behind the Watford backline to be found by a long Dejan Lovren ball over the top. Alone in a one-on-one with Gomes’ the ex-Hoffenheim man chipped the keeper in an attempt that was seemingly going wide before an onrushing Salah rescued the ball and tapped it in.
In a role-reversal, the Reds proceeded to dominate the second half as—unlike the first half—their midfield and front three were consistently getting touches on the ball. Meanwhile, the Hornets repeatedly tried to launch deep counter attacks to utilize the pace of new signing Andre Gray, who was subbed on in the 63rd minute for Okaka.
Klopp’s men began to miss many precious chances to kill off the game in a barrage of counter attacks and corner kicks. They particularly came close in the 64th minute when Joel Matip won a near post header off a corner that just rang off the crossbar and out.
Liverpool would live to rue those missed chances as Watford’s pressure late into the game rewarded them with an equaliser 3 minutes into stoppage time. The Reds’ were stung again through a corner kick as Georginio Wijnaldum failed to deal with the corner at the near post, allowing an opportunistic Richarlison to blast the ball towards the goal. It went off of a swinging Mignolet and onto the underside of the crossbar for an arguably offside Miguel Britos to stumble into the goal and steal two points off of Liverpool.
Watford put on a two-faced—yet, impressive— performance under their new boss to take a point off of a Liverpool side who put in a performance to perfectly summarize their previous season.
Both sides will be looking to improve on their performances this afternoon, but Watford will certainly be leaving this game the more satisfied.
main talking point
Soft set-pieces: In yet another Premier League goal fest, set pieces were the main focus as both sides conceded at least one goal off of a dead ball situation. Liverpool will most likely take the headlines as set-pieces have consistently been the Reds’ Achilles Heel for years, but Watford were susceptible from the dead ball as well.
Yes, none of Liverpool’s goals came from a corner or free-kick, but they could have easily scored from one of the many headers the Reds won from near post corners. Matip’s header off the crossbar should really have sounded the alarms at Vicarage Road and the Hornets should find themselves lucky that Liverpool failed to convert off their corners.
Klopp’s men have consistently been beat down by the press for their shortcomings defending set pieces and based off this game — rightly so. All of Liverpool’s conceded goals originated from dead ball situations: their first and third from corners, and their second from a throw. It is a massive problem Liverpool need to fix if they want to have any hope at a title ever, so do not be surprised if Klopp’s hunt for Virgil van Dijk picks up in the coming days.
Possession: Watford: 46% Liverpool: 54%
Shots: Watford: 9 Liverpool: 14
Shots on target: Watford: 4 Liverpool: 5
Corners: Watford: 3 Liverpool: 3
Fouls: Watford: 14 Liverpool: 8
Watford line-up (4-2-3-1): Gomes 5, Janmaat 5 (Kiko 6), Kaboul 6, Britos 7, Holebas 6, Chalobah 6, Doucoure 8, Amrabat 6, Pereyra 6 (Richarlison 6), Cleverley 7, Okaka 8 (Gray 5)
Liverpool line-up (4-3-3): Mignolet 5, Alexander-Arnold 6 (Gomez -), Matip 6, Lovren 6, Moreno 6, Henderson 7, Can 6, Wijnaldum 6, Salah 8 (Milner 5), Firmino 7 (Origi 5), Mane 7