A Liverpool side missing Alisson, Curtis Jones, Thiago Alcântara and Fabinho secured an absolutely dominant 5-0 away victory over EPL strugglers Watford that at times resembled a training run.
The visitors threatened early on, dominating possession and fashioning a few half-chances. Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, as always, looked to get behind their opponents and open the scoring.
So, in the eighth minute, it was no surprise the dynamic duo combined yet again. After getting the better of ex-Spurs man Danny Rose in a duel, Salah’s delightful ball found Mané, and the Senegalese made no mistake with a classy first-time finish from just outside the area for his 100th Premier League strike.
The likes of Ismaïla Sarr, playing in the No.9 role, and Dennis were completely and utterly unable to get into the game for the hosts.
At the ten minute mark, Liverpool were enjoying more than 80 per cent of the ball.
On one occasion Dennis had a chance to play a through-ball to Sarr but his effort was massively overhit, drawing the ire of Sarr.
New Watford boss Claudio Ranieri, in his first game in charge in Hertfordshire, looked tense on the sideline throughout the opening half.
Irishman Caoimhin Kelleher, getting his chance between the sticks for the Reds, had precious little to do.
Mané was involved again as Liverpool went 2 to the good in the 37th minute. His lovely reverse ball made it easy for James Milner to square for Roberto Firmino, who notched perhaps the easiest goal of his career from two yards out.
Milner, somewhat surprisingly, was playing very well.
At the back, the Virgil van Dijk-Joël Matip centre-back partnership dealt with anything – it wasn’t much, to be fair – that came their way.
(Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Adam Masina made way for Tom Cleverley at halftime, with Ranieri clearly unsatisfied with his side’s first-half effort.
It was much of the same after the restart, with Watford camped in their own end.
A third Liverpool goal wasn’t far away.
Ben Foster couldn’t deal with Andrew Robertson’s redirected ball into the area, and Firmino was there for another close-range finish.
There was a hint of offside, with Salah in an illegal position as Robertson delivered the pass, but the VAR was happy for the goal to stand.
Just a couple of minutes later, Salah was at it once again. Three Hornets defenders could not deal with the Egyptian’s dancing feet in the box, and he unleashed a beautiful curling strike past the helpless Foster.
Mané could, and probably should, have made it 5 after some awful Watford play allowed the visitors in behind again.
Watford then had a few chances but ultimately did not trouble the scorers.
Firmino sealed his hat-trick with another easy finish in injury time to heap more misery on the hosts.
To be fair to the Brazilian, though, he was always in the right place at the right time.
With three points in the bag, two big away clashes will now come thick and fast for Liverpool. A mid-week trip to the Wanda Metropolitano to face Atlético Madrid in European action is followed by a titanic Premier League battle with old rivals Manchester United at the Theatre of Dreams next Monday morning (AEDT).
For the home side, the loss ensures they will remain entrenched towards the bottom of the Premier League table for at least another week. And things may get worse before they get better.
Watford will be wanting to pick up some points in their next two games against Everton and Southampton, with a seriously ominous run of fixtures looming.
The Hornets will go to the Emirates, host title hopefuls Manchester United, and travel to the King Power to face Leicester City. Visits from Chelsea and Manchester City then follow.
We’re not even 25 per cent of the way through the season, but it’s looking like some Ranieri magic could well be required to keep Watford in the top flight in 2021-22. It’s too early to condemn them to the drop, but wow, the next couple of months are looking scary.
Two Premier League games on tap overnight – including the first game of the Saudi era at St James’ Park.
Tonight’s Premier League action
12am (AEDT): Everton vs West Ham – Goodison Park, Liverpool
2:30am (AEDT): Newcastle United vs Tottenham Hotspur – St James’ Park, Newcastle