MATCH REPORT: Watford 3-0 Liverpool
THE HORNETS recorded their first victory in 16 years over five-time European champions Liverpool with a 3-0 hammering to extend their winning run to four consecutive games.
On loan defender Nathan Ake put the Golden Boys ahead inside two minutes before top scorer Odion Ighalo scored the first of two goals 12 minutes later.
The Nigerian secured the three points for Quique Sanchez Flores’ side in the 85th minute and ensured Watford would be one point off a top-four position at Christmas.
Four changes from Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with West Brom were made by Jurgen Klopp, with Lucas Leiva, Roberto Firmino, Mamadou Sakho and goalkeeper Adam Bogdan brought in.
The latter two were forced with Simon Mignolet and Dejan Lovren ruled out through injury - and the duo's replacements suffered a torrid afternoon at The Vic.
Two minutes in and the 28-year-old Hungarian keeper looked to collect a Ben Watson corner unchallenged, but the ball slipped from his grasp, leaving Ake to poke in from close-range. It was the on-loan Chelsea defender’s first Premier League goal.
Hornets captain Troy Deeney and Ighalo have created a name for themselves as one of the most formidable strike partnerships in the Premier League, and in the 15th minute they struck again.
A looped ball over the top of the Liverpool defence by Deeney was latched onto by Ighalo, and the home side’s top scorer nestled the ball past Bogdan after showing immense strength to hold off Martin Skrtel.
Bogdan’s afternoon nearly got worse in the 34th minute as he failed to gather a through ball from the Watford captain - choosing to punch instead - only to see it inadvertently rebound back off Jose Manuel Jurado almost into his own net.
The Spaniard then forced Bogdan into a near-post save after connecting with a cross. The Hornets were buzzing.
A back injury for Skrtel forced the Liverpool manager into a change, and Klopp opted to bring forward Divock Origi on and slip Lucas back into defence, as he looked to add to the visitors’ attack.
Klopp’s side returned from the half-time interval with more invention, with both Adam Lallana and Alberto Moreno combining well down the left but failing to test Heurelho Gomes in the Watford goal.
But, while Watford frustrated the Reds’ attack, their own continued to thrive. Ighalo eased past Sakho with a slick piece of skill, delivering into the six yard box, where the ball was eventually scrambled to safety.
Moments later, it was Gomes’ turn to be scrambling as a cross-field ball was met by the head of Lallana, who looped an effort over the Brazilian keeper but also past the post.
The strain of Ighalo’s presence was showing on Sakho, as the Frenchman slipped once again to allow the Watford striker to break one-on-one with Bogdan. This time, however, the Hungarian keeper stood up to the challenge, blocking the effort to safety.
Jordan Henderson had an opportunity to half the deficit as he bundled the ball past Ake in the box, only to see his half-volley impressively tipped over the bar by the 34-year-old Gomes.
Ighalo’s second and 12th goal of the season put the game to bed in the 85th minute as he turned the ball home with a header from close-range to ensure Watford remain seventh in the Barclays Premier League.
HORNETS: Gomes (GK); Nyom, Britos, Cathcart, Ake; Capoue, Watson; Abdi (Behrami 78), Deeney (c), Jurado (Anya 75); Ighalo (Guedioura 87).
Subs not used: Arlauskis (GK), Holebas, Diamanti, Oulare.
REDS: Bogdan (GK); Clyne, Skrtel (Origi 41), Sakho, Moreno; Lucas, Can, Henderson, Lallana (Ibe 73), Coutinho; Firmino (Benteke 73).
Subs not used: Fulton (GK), K Toure, Allen, Randall.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Attendance: 20,707 (2,188 Liverpool)