They are off to conquer the world on Monday but first Liverpool had to conquer Watford, and although it was a long way from the best performance we have seen from the runaway league leaders this did make it a remarkable 16 wins from 17 games so far.
From the Premier League to Qatar for the Fifa Club World Cup, and two goals from Mohamed Salah to send Liverpool on their way, in a scruffy game against a Watford side who looked much more certain of themselves under new manager Nigel Pearson. The video assistant referee Jonathan Moss intervened to disallow a Sadio Mane goal after half-time and it was not until late in the game that Salah flicked in the second and passed the VAR examination successfully.
It had taken a long time to be sure of the victory, and Liverpool’s defence had not seemed as assured as usual, but with an attacking force like this there is always a remedy in reserve.
There were certainly chances for Watford, most notably the first half swipe that Ismail Sarr took at the ball just three minutes after Salah had scored his first. Hard to explain how the Senegal international missed this one. There was a less promising second chance in the moments that followed but the opportunity was missed again. On the touchline Pearson turned in disbelief to his staff.
The new Watford manager played a 4-4-1-1 formation with Abdoulaye Doucoure behind Troy Deeney and all of them behind the ball when Liverpool were in possession. The league leaders looked most vulnerable to its last placed team down the left flank where James Milner was picked at left-back and Andy Robertson given a rest until his second half introduction. It was there that Capoue got in to cut the ball back from Sarr.
Deeney had failed to make contact with a cross from Sarr on six minutes, another good chance that passed Watford by. It was from the corner from Sarr’s miss that Liverpool eventually found their way through. A header from Roberto Firmino, a ball hit first time over the top by Mane and then Salah switching the ball on to his right foot with the Watford defender Kiko Femenia largely bewitched by it all. The finish was curled past Ben Foster
The VAR Moss decided that a very small margin of Mane’s armpit was offside when he headed in Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross on 50 minutes, by which time the celebrations had been completed and the teams were awaiting kick-off. Liverpool wobbled a bit after that. Salah missed a couple of good chances, Firmino too. Georginio Wijnaldum had to come off with injury. On the touchline, Klopp berated Shaqiri and Salah.
Watford were never out of contention until the second goal. There was a fine performance from Joe Gomez alongside the rather less composed at times Virgil Van Dijk. Gerard Deulofeu was always a threat on the occasions he got the ball. Christian Kabasele had a solid game at centre-back. The chances that Watford had stumbled over in the first half never came again after the break. When substitute Divock Origi mishit a simple chance on 90 minutes, Salah flicked it in with his instep and through the legs of Kabasele for the decisive goal.
Klopp's side continues marching on
Liverpool are now unbeaten in 34 Premier League games (W29 D5), the third-longest run in the history of the competition after Arsenal (49) between May 2003-October 2004 and Chelsea (40) between October 2004-October 2005.
Watford need some points very soon
9 - Watford have won just nine points from 17 games this season – each of the nine previous teams to accumulate nine points or fewer after 17 Premier League matches were eventually relegated. Sinking.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 14, 2019
Mohamed Salah on his first goal: 'I've been practicing with my right foot'
We can tell Mo, we can tell. That first goal curled an outrageous amount. Here it is again:
How quickly things change!— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 14, 2019
Mo Salah punishes Watford's missed chances as he capitalises on Liverpool's lightning break �� pic.twitter.com/Ehxr6GdZyL
Mohamed Salah was the difference
Watford had their chances but could not score. Salah produced two superb finishes to secure the win for his side.
Lots of positives for Watford, but they need to find someone to finish of their chances.
Liverpool just keep marching on. Premier League secured by February?
FULL TIME! Liverpool 2 Watford 0
Mane shoots at Foster before Salah is ruled offside 30 seconds later. No hat-trick today.
And that is the match. Watford were good, Liverpool were better!
Somehow this goal might be better than Salah's first
Mo Salah is there again!— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 14, 2019
The chance seemed to be gone but it's a brilliant finish from the Egyptian! pic.twitter.com/Y1YxBpzE4l
90+3 min: Liverpool 2 Watford 0
Liverpool are just controlling the ball at the back, as they edge closer and closer to the three points.
90+2 min: Liverpool 2 Watford 0
Four minutes of added time is announced as Salah is named man of the match. Two outrageous finishes from one of the Premier League's best.
He's onside. But lets take five minutes to check anyway.
GOOOOOOAAAAAL! Salah Liverpool 2 Watford 0
Liverpool break forward. The ball is laid back for Origi who shanks his shot. It rolls to Salah who does a deft flick past the defender and goal keeper. Cheeky finish, pure class.
90 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Origi is on for Firmino as Liverpool look to see out the game.
Here is Van Dijk's moment of madness
Heart in mouth moment!— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 14, 2019
A lapse in concentration and Virgil van Dijk nearly puts it past Alisson �� pic.twitter.com/x9Lfp71XAu
88 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Liverpool are time wasting at home to Watford! You love to see it.
The corner is hammered away at the front post and Mane is offside from the ball back in.
Doucoure is off and Quina is on.
86 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Another free kick to Watford in a good position. Can they finally produce some quality from a set-piece?
Hughes crosses in but Firmino nods it away. The ball is sent long, all the way to Ben Foster.
A long ball is put in and Hughes heads it behind for a corner to Liverpool.
84 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Liverpool are nervy! They almost play straight to Watford in their own box. What is going on out there!
They then burst into Watford's box. Foster comes out and claims a Salah shot before it can get any momentum.
82 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Watford have a free kick in Liverpool's half. Hughes bends the ball in, it is headed up and Sarr hammers the volly well wide.
80 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Capoue makes an important intervention, halting a Liverpool attack.
Liverpool are content to pass the ball around the back for a while, they are in the lead after all.
Watford break and Gray plays the ball to no-one. Then Van Dijk passes the ball past Allison and it nearly trickles in. Corner to Watford. Wow that was a stinker of a pass.
Deulofeu then its the post directly from the corner. Some curl on that! What a bizarre two minutes.
77 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Liverpool are back in Watford's box. Salah's shot is blocked to Oxlade-Chamberlain. His cross is importantly headed away from Mariappa.
Liverpool take the corner short but nothing comes of it. Watford pick the ball up and counter. Sarr is played in but another terrible touch ends the attack. The forwards from both sides have squandered chances with poor control multiple sides this half. Strange.
74 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
The game has become a little scrappy but with possession exchanging hands back and forth between the sides.
Liverpool will be frustrated they have not put the game away, but equally Watford should definitely have scored at least one goal today.
Chance! Firmino gets the ball on the six-yard box, he takes a touch and the shot he gets away is very tame. The Brazilian should have hit it first time.
Deeney is off and Gray is on.
71 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Drop-ball! The ball hit the ref so an uncontested drop-ball to give Watford the ball ensues.
Watford have managed to sustain some possession and importantly they are slowing down the tempo of the game.
69 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Liverpool are back in enemy territory again, they are playing with real confidence now.
A cross comes in but his headed out to Henderson who half-volleys it way over the bar.
Salah unleashes Robertson but another poor touch lets the home side down. Oxlade-Chamberlain is on for Shaqiri.
67 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Salah is played through for the fourth time in five minutes but Foster heads it away - the Egyptian star was offside anyway.
The pace of this game has become rapid. Watford cannot cope as the Ox prepares to come on.
65 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Liverpool get another chance. Salah is pulled back but the balls run to Firmino who also takes a touch that is far too big and Foster claims it. The Kop are enraged about the man-handling of Salah but Firmino had a clear advantage.
Watford have suddenly become very open and Klopp's side are cutting through them with ease.
63 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Mane plays through Firmino, he is pushed wide before shooting with his left foot. Foster makes a comfortable save.
Milner plays in Salah and you just expect him to score - but he takes a touch that runs away from him and Foster gets there. Salah claims he was pulled back but there was not too much in that.
Salah gets another chance but pull it wide with his right.
61 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
The game has stagnated a little but then Sarr is put through. He takes the ball around Van Dijk before going to ground. No foul there.
Liverpool now attack with some fluency but a Mane flick cannot find the intended target.
59 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Wijnaldum is going off after picking up an injury. Robertson is on and Milner will shift into the midfield. This could work for Liverpool, they have missed Robertson today.
Here is the VAR review
Fine margins!— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 14, 2019
Liverpool denied a second with Sadio Mane centimetres offside.
56 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Watford have a free kick but it goes straight through to the keeper.
Nigel Pearson week two plan: get someone on the pitch who can take corners and free kicks.
They have been dreadful from deadball scenarios today.
Ominous for Watford... they cannot afford to miss chances
99 - Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 99 Premier League home games when leading at half-time (W90 D9), since 1-2 defeat to Arsenal in December 2009. Assured. pic.twitter.com/qtJlDzbNSc— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 14, 2019
54 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Deulofeu is played through but he cannot slide the ball past Allison. Another superb chance goes begging. It was a lovely through ball over the top but again no finish to match the build-up.
52 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
That is a shame, it was a brilliant header from Mane. Watford survive. Nigel Pearson is a fan of VAR I imagine...
He looked offside from the first angle - but on from the second. This is going to be tight.
And the goal is DISALLOWED! NO GOAL! Mane was just off.
GOOOOOOOAAAAAAL! Mane Liverpool 2 Watford 0
The ball is but into the box by Shaqiri and Mane heads it home. What a header!
49 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Doucoure has another chance - he goes for goal but the shot is saved. Deeney screams in anguish as he was ready for the cut back. Another chance squandered.
Liverpool then have a chance but the shot is deflected for a corner.
47 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Alexander-Arnold puts in an excellent early cross and it is headed behind for a corner.
Deeney heads it away and Sarr is unleashed by Hughes. Gomez makes a strong tackle, putting an end to a promising counter.
Second half is underway
Liverpool get us restarted and they are immediately on the attack.
The players are back out onto the pitch
Klopp looks very calm, albeit a little cold.
Mohamed Salah really, really likes playing against Watford
7 - Mohamed Salah has scored seven Premier League goals against Watford; against no side has he netted more in the big 5 European leagues (level with Bournemouth). Breakthrough. pic.twitter.com/hxM51AuQA8— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 14, 2019
Watford have had chances
I'd go as far as to say that Watford have been the better side - given their league position and squad. However, they have been terrible in Liverpool's box whereas Salah produced a world-class finish.
Liverpool could end up running away with this game but Watford should not give up hope. A goal is on the cards for the away side if they can find their shooting boots at half-time.
HALF TIME! Liverpool 1 Watford 0
One minute of added time goes by without incident. And that is the half. The game really go going there. Chances at both ends.
Salah's must-watch goal
How quickly things change!— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 14, 2019
Mo Salah punishes Watford's missed chances as he capitalises on Liverpool's lightning break �� pic.twitter.com/Ehxr6GdZyL
44 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
And now Liverpool have a chance to socre. Salah plays in Mane who takes it around Foster but the scrambling Watford defence get to the ball and it is eventually cleared. This game has been quality in the last 10 minutes or so.
42 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
The game has opened up a little since the goal. Watford need to hang in there because the plan was working.
And here is another superb chance. The ball is crossed in and Allison palms the ball out to Sarr who misses the ball. He only manages to but some back spin on the ball but the follow up is sent into the stands. What a chance! He should have scored.
Sums up Watford in the box. They have fluffed their lines on three or four occasions.
40 min: Liverpool 1 Watford 0
That goal was just outrageous. Another fantastic finish from Salah this week.
Watford do not deserve to be behind really but they have spurned their chances and Liverpool have made them pay.
GOOOOOOAAAAAAL! Salah Liverpool 1 Watford 0
Salah is played through, he turns back onto his right foot and he whips the ball into the far corner. What a goal!
It looked like the ball was going well wide and it just crept in. One clean counter, one goal.
37 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Big chance! Watford break through and the ball is laid back for Doucoure who should hit the target. The ball goes nowhere. The resulting corner is cleared up field.
36 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Mane goes through but nothing comes of it. Liverpool regain possession and Firmino wins a corner from inside the box. Another good challenge.
Alexander-Arnold's corner is met at the front post, the ball runs back to the right back who crosses in only for Foster to claim it at the back stick.
34 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Doucoure bursts down the left and puts a ball into the six-yard box. Van Dijk makes a crucial intervention with Deeney lurking right behind him. Another chance for the Hornets.
Liverpool are being boxed in here, Mariappa crosses in but Gomez heads it away.
The ball eventually runs to Allison who sends it long.
32 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Watford are pressing Liverpool who keeping giving the ball away under pressure. The robust tackling of the away side is doing the trick.
Sarr runs in behind Milner but fouls him as he tries to nip round the make-shift fullback.
30 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Watford will be delighted with the opening 30 minutes. They have looked good so far - solid enough in defence and the occasional attack to keep Liverpool honest.
Deeney is sent flying but no foul is given.
28 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Salah tries to get through but is held up by Kabasele who kicks the ball away. Liverpool wanted a free kick as real tussle broke out.
Salah goes down theatrically and that was definitely not a penalty - apparently not a dive either... classic.
26 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Milner crosses the ball in and Cathcart heads it away. Hughes is booked for a challenge on Henderson earlier in the move. Bit harsh.
Salah breaks into the box, bamboozling the defence with his quick footwork. He works a shot which fails to curve and goes well wide in the end.
Foster is taking an age over every goalkick and the Liverpool faithful are not happy about it.
24 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Mane breaks down the left, lofting in a cross which is put back across to Henderson who half-volleys the ball way into the stands. Not quite textbook from the captain.
Hughes breaks for Watford at the other end, running at the back-tracking Liverpool defence. He drags his shot wide. Pearson absolutely loved that drive from his central midfielder there.
22 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Corner to Watford! The defenders are up but the cross cannot beat the first man.
Milner plays a speculative long ball over the top but Foster comes out of his box to meet the ball before Salah can get there.
So far, so good for Nigel Pearson
19 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Liverpool attack but Mane's hand touched the ball in the process - free kick Watford.
The away side finally get back into Liverpool's half. Will Hughes keeps the ball after a strong challenge before spreading the play right. Sarr plays a through ball that runs out for a goal kick.
The counter comes with Watford up the pitch but Alexander-Arnold's diagonal ball to Mane is overcooked and hits the hoardings on the full. Shame, that was on.
16 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Liverpool regain possession and win a corner. Alexander-Arnold whips the ball in towards Van Dijk but the ball is flicked away by a Watford head.
Watford have retreated very deep and Liverpool cannot get in behind them. Yet.
14 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Kabasele makes a crucial intervention as Shaqiri tries to slip Salah through for a one on one.
The home side have got their foot on the ball a little more now, creeping up the field against a compact Watford side.
Milner is found in plenty of space down the left but the attacks once again comes to nothing.
11 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Shaqiri whips a cross in but the cross is well defended before it can reach Firmino.
Milner then gets a chance down the left but his cross fails to hit the target - the downside of a right footed player at left back.
9 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Liverpool lose the ball in Watford's half, allowing Mariappa to clear with a long throw-in. Watford move up the pitch before crossing into Deeney. He gets up to win the ball but is ruled offside.
Liverpool need to sustain some possession here.
7 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Femenia goes forward from left back before Watford turns back to establish possession. The Hornets go right and a cracking ball is put in - Deeny misses the ball but he really could have scored that. What a ball in! Liverpool were not prepared for the early cross from Sarr.
Decent start from Watford here. The Nigel Pearson bounce?
4 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Deulofeu burts into the Liverpool box before losing possession. Liverpool then counter in typical fashion but Mane's lofted cross is easily claimed by Foster.
2 min: Liverpool 0 Watford 0
Van Dijk spreads a nice ball right before Mane is found well down field with a lovely diagonal. Liverpool are then caught just offside.
Watford lump it forward towards Deeney who is beaten in the air. Liverpool are spreading the ball with width early on as Milner hits another long cross-field pass.
You'll never walk alone has finished, here we go! Watford get us underway.
Jordan Henderson leads his side out
Anfield is packed, the cold weather having no impact on the level of support.
Top vs bottom is just five minutes away
This is the 35th meeting between the top and bottom sides in Premier League history, with the side starting top winning 24, drawing six and losing just four. However, one of those defeats was for Liverpool in their only such match in the competition (1-2 vs Spurs in November 2008).
And this is the scale of the task facing Nigel Pearson...
12 - Watford have lost their last 12 top-flight matches against teams starting the day top of the league, a run stretching back to 1986. They’ve lost all 10 of these games in the Premier League. Overawed. pic.twitter.com/SZFdnYNE0H— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 14, 2019
Can Nigel Pearson make a difference to Watford?
Watford boss Nigel Pearson insists he can defy the odds and keep his new club in the Premier League.
Pearson, 56, is the third manager to be at the helm of the struggling Hornets this season following the dismissals of Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores.
Watford have recorded just one win from their opening 16 league matches this term and are six points adrift of safety.
But Pearson, who oversaw Leicester's surprise survival in 2015, is optimistic he can repeat the feat in Hertfordshire following his appointment last Friday.
"Can we stay up, you're asking? Yes," said Pearson during his first press conference as Watford manager.
"For sure we can stay up, but we're going to have to have a collective buy-in from everybody associated with us. The players certainly as a group, the staff around the football club.
"I've been introduced to a lot of the staff who work at the stadium today. This strikes me as a club with an identity that maybe we need to redefine on the pitch. But I'm confident we can do that."
These teams are a mismatch in terms of their ability to score goals
Watford have failed to score in a league-high nine different Premier League games this season, while Liverpool are the only side to have scored in all 16 of their games. It’s the Reds’ best scoring start to a top-flight campaign since 1933-34, when they netted in each of their first 21 matches.
Could complacency become a problem for Liverpool?
Liverpool are guaranteed to be top of the Premier League table at Christmas. However, the last three occasions of a team failing to win the title having been top at Christmas have been Liverpool (2008-09, 2013-14 and 2018-19).
With Manchester City struggling, could Liverpool end up taking their foot of the gas? Today is exactly the kind of match that Liverpool can show nothing of the sort is happening.
Liverpool are on a remarkable run of form
Liverpool have won their last 15 home top-flight matches – they’ve only had one longer run at Anfield in their history, winning 21 in a row between January and December 1972.
Teams in full
Liverpool are looking to continue their unbeaten run against a struggling Watford side under new management.
Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson is given a rest at home to Watford with midfielder James Milner standing in for him at Anfield.
Fellow defender Joe Gomez comes in for the injured Dejan Lovren, with Xherdan Shaqiri for Naby Keita the third change from Tuesday's Champions League win in Salzburg.
Defensive injuries meant 18-year-old Neco Williams, who made his debut in the Carabao Cup win over Arsenal in October, is drafted into the squad.
New Watford boss Nigel Pearson makes two changes for his first match in charge, with Adrian Mariappa and Will Hughes replacing the injured midfielder Roberto Pereyra and left-back Adam Masina.
Troy Deeney says he has seen enough from Nigel Pearson to know he is the right man to turn around Watford's fortunes.
The former Leicester boss was appointed as Quique Sanchez Flores' successor last week, taking over a Hornets side who are six points from safety in the Premier League after winning just once all season.
Ahead of Saturday's trip to unbeaten leaders Liverpool, Deeney believes Pearson has what it takes to steer Watford to survival.
"We've always been united, but he [Pearson] has just galvanised us and given us a new edge," Deeney told the club's official website.
"The gaffer is very straight to the point, very honest, and I think at this point you have to be honest. You have to be aware of what we're not doing.
"It's easy to talk and say we've not won enough games, or scored, or whatever it might be. But you have to be brutally honest in terms of the whole thing that we haven't done enough.
"It's a tough start but it's been a good week, the work has been fantastic. The gaffer, Shakey (Craig Shakespeare), Hayden (Mullins) and Stacky (Graham Stack) have all put work in.
"The boys have all got that buzz, that spring in the step, they're ready to work and we're looking forward to the weekend."
Watford are the lowest scorers in the Premier League this season, netting just nine times in 16 games.
But Deeney, who is now back to full fitness, believes his side need to improve in all areas of the field.
"You can't put it down to one thing and say we haven't scored enough goals," he said.
"Everyone knows we haven't scored enough goals, but we also haven't kept enough clean sheets. There are numerous things we could say, but we can't pinpoint one.
"We're at a situation where a lot of the smaller details are mounting up to big problems, but we're addressing them and fixing them, and people can see that with the last two performances."
The trip to Anfield is the first of five games in the space of 18 days for Watford.
"We're coming into the best and the busiest part of English football now with the Christmas period where there are games left, right and centre," Deeney said.
"If we can pick up two or three wins in that short space of time, the table looks completely different."