Gracia: “The Game Was Closer Than The Result”
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia felt the margin of the defeat against Liverpool was harsh on his side and that the Hornets can feel aggrieved at not getting the rub of the green in the penalty box in the last two matches.
The Golden Boys went toe-to-toe with the unbeaten Reds for long periods and while they only mustered one shot on target, they never looked like being on the receiving end of such a comprehensive scoreline.
Jürgen Klopp's side plundered three goals – left foot, right foot and one with the head – in the last 23 minutes to claim a deserved victory, but the outcome may have been different had Troy Deeney been given the chance to slam in a penalty when the game was deadlocked.
Will Hughes cut across the corner of the penalty area at pace only to be tripped by Andrew Robertson. The Hornets pleaded with the assistant and referee Jon Moss to point to the spot, but, like at St Mary's in the last round of matches, the man in the middle waved play on.
“In the last two games we have been unlucky with some decisions,” said Gracia. “I prefer to support always the referee and I think if I don't say anything about their work in these two games, I will not do so for the rest of the season.
“In the last two games there were some decisions that we can feel unlucky about. If we keep the same attitude and same way of work, I don't have doubt we are able to win quickly.”
Klopp was asked if he saw the penalty incident and said: “I saw they were excited about it. I didn't see it, I have no clue. I thought when Sadio [Mané] went down [in the first half], it looked penalty as well. None of my players moaned about that situation.”
The Hornets cannot really grumble about the defeat as Liverpool enjoyed 64 per cent of the ball and had double the number of shots, but the scoreline did not really reflect the part they played in the game.
“It was a closer than the scoreline, but you know playing against this team it is a very good team and they are able to do this,” said Gracia. “We try to do our work, to do our best but after scoring the first goal, they are dangerous with more space.”
Ben Foster was again excellent in the Hornets' goal and he can be proud of his afternoon's work. He almost kept out the third and produced an array of fine stops in the first period.
“It is not a surprise for me,” said Gracia. “I expect always the best from Ben because I train with him every day. I know what he is able to do.”
As he promised, Gracia stuck to his guns and played 4-4-2, resisting the temptation to match Liverpool and play three in midfield. The Hornets kept pace with Liverpool for three quarters of the match before running out of puff at the end.
“We did good defensive work in the first half,” said the Head Coach. “Maybe we lose possession very quickly. We need to counter-attack on the first pass better. In the second we tried to keep doing the same way. We tried to press higher, but in the open spaces they have a lot of different qualities. It was a tough moment for us.”