This was the return to Premier League football as punishing as Claudio Ranieri could have feared. His new charges from Watford did not offer the slightest resistance to a Liverpool side purring in one of the most one-sided top-flight games in memory, the only redeeming feature being that the scoreboard was not significantly heavier. There is no shame in being overshadowed by the quality of such fine opponents, but Watford couldn’t muster the energy or the blood and thunder that might be expected from the debut of a decorated head coach, a fact that did not go unnoticed by a home crowd that Ironically, he cheered when Juraj Kucka fired his first shot in the 55th minute.
While Sadio Mané’s 100th Premier League goal and a timely hat-trick by Roberto Firmino are talking points worthy of discussion, the highlight was that Mohamed Salah is operating on a different plane than any player in the division. . His goal, Liverpool’s fourth, was another masterpiece and was reminiscent of his thrilling effort against Manchester City. Was this that good? He had a lot less at stake, but otherwise all the elements were present: four defenders stood between Salah and Watford’s goal as he took possession just inside the penalty area, but saw two of them roll with their foot over the ball before leaving Craig Cathcart. On the ground while checking his left foot, he got a half chance. How masterfully he took it, bending the finish over a defenseless Ben Foster, and what constant brilliance he’s producing week after week.
Ranieri had received the enthusiastic reception one would expect before kickoff, both from a beaming Jurgen Klopp and a group of fans who have welcomed their fair share of Saviors. Perhaps you could turn to the example of a recent predecessor: 20 months ago, Nigel Pearson led Watford to a sensational 3-0 win over Liverpool and was serenaded to the tune of “Bad Moon Rising”. Never mind the fact that things went downhill from there – a replay would have offered hope for a happier relegation fight this time around.
In truth, February 2020 has been felt for several galaxies, a sensation that quickly moved onto the pitch. It took Mane just eight minutes to break Ranieri’s first pick and no one could have been too surprised. Danny Rose had been chosen as the left center back, but had already been exposed before it cost Watford more dearly. Salah too easily rolled it 10 yards into his own half, although it still took something special to choose a route to the goal from there.
Salah let the ball run before folding an exquisite first pass with the outside of his foot towards Mane, who had launched himself centrally towards the ‘D’. It was an impressive job that coincided with the finish, he took low in the race and passed Foster. The milestone he conjured was testament to Mané’s enduring quality; the origin of the goal speaks of a creator operating somewhere close to maximum expression.
It was almost 20 minutes before Watford got a start on Liverpool’s field. Meanwhile, Foster reached out to push a curling iron away from Salah before Rose, the right side of the goal this time, blocked the same player. When Salah was freed by Trent Alexander-Arnold but allowed Foster to suffocate, Watford could have been forgiven for feeling lucky.
They briefly stabilized the ship without posing the goal of Caoimhín Kelleher as the remotest threat. The feeling remained that Liverpool could step up things as needed and they doubled the lead eight minutes before the break, Naby Keïta found James Milner’s run to the left line and Firmino accepted a simple task to convert the veteran’s driven cross. . If a subsequent push from Keïta had deflected instead of grazing the bar, Ranieri’s plight at halftime would have been worse.
Watford had seen 17% of the ball and it was the ideal afternoon for Klopp, who had lost Alisson, Fabinho and Curtis Jones to the unwanted consequences of the international break, to forget his worries. Although Ranieri deployed Tom Cleverley after the interval, nothing got better. Foster denied Salah again with an impressive save, but it was a temporary respite. When Craig Cathcart reached out to intercept Andy Robertson’s ball into Salah, he did everything the keeper could to avoid an own goal. Firmino, on the prowl again, dispatched the loose ball. Salah would have been out of the game if the cross had reached him, but that argument was deemed irrelevant.
There was no discussion of Salah’s activity two minutes later when he submitted the latest entry in his personal goal of the season’s competition. Firmino posed no danger to him on that front, but the Brazilian won the ball of the match with his third poacher shot of the afternoon, stabbing Neco Williams across the cross to death.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism