• Liverpool race into a 3-0 lead thanks to Mane, Coutinho and Can goals
• Pantilimon makes his league debut for the Hornets after Gomes’ first-half injury
• Firmino and Mane score after the break, but Janmaat pulls one back with his first Watford goal
• Wijnaldum completed the Hornets’ misery in stoppage time to make it 6-1
It was an Anfield afternoon to forget for Watford, who were convincingly seen off by a bang-on-form Liverpool side who now sit top of the Premier League, and deservedly so on this evidence.
The contest was all but over by the break, Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Emre Can goals handing the Reds a three-goal lead, while there was further first-half heartache for the Hornets, who lost keeper Heurelho Gomes to injury.
Roberto Firmino and a second Mane strike extended Liverpool’s advantage to five after the interval, but Watford did capitalise on a rare good spell of play as Daryl Janmaat bagged his first Golden Boys goal with quarter-of-an-hour to go.
Georginio Wijnaldum came off the bench to make it 6-1 though, condemning the Hornets to a resounding defeat, albeit their first loss in five.
Walter Mazzarri named one change to the starting XI which defeated Hull last weekend. Defender Sebastian Prödl missed out with an abductor injury, and his place was taken by Janmaat.
There was a chance for either side on the eight-minute mark, Firmino drawing a save from Gomes following Adam Lallana’s cross, then at the other end there was a comfortable catch for Loris Karius after Nordin Amrabat’s 25-yard effort.
Not for the first time this season, Gomes excelled to keep out a Lucas Leiva chance from point-blank range after a Liverpool corner, then moments later Coutinho struck the bar but was ruled offside following Mane’s cross.
Jurgen Klopp’s men were attacking with real intensity and purpose, and their pressure finally paid off in the 27th minute. Mane glanced a header across Gomes and into the far corner after Adam Lallana had delivered following a short corner from Watford’s right.
The lead was doubled within just three minutes as Coutinho collected a Firmino pass and drove through Younes Kaboul’s legs and beyond Gomes from 20 yards to make it 2-0 with half-an-hour played.
A torrid few minutes were to get even worse, as Gomes was forced off with a leg injury in the aftermath of the hosts’ second goal. Costel Pantilimon replaced him in goal, making his first Premier League outing for the Hornets.
The Merseysiders weren’t done yet. Germany international Can raced away from Amrabat to get onto the end of Lallana’s cross and nod Klopp’s side into a surely unassailable three-goal lead at the break.
Janmaat forced a comfortable save from Karius early in the second-half, the ex-Newcastle man taking aim from the edge of the area after Odion Ighalo’s lay-off.
But it was a rare for foray upfield for the Hornets, who were to fall further behind on 57 minutes. Firmino tapped in Lallana’s centre from six yards, and Liverpool were soon to add a fifth.
Firmino outmuscled Jose Holebas in the box and played inside for Mane, who was on-hand to dispatch his second of the game from close-range on the hour.
Watford rallied and did muster two good chances of their own. First Capoue’s side-footed effort was tipped wide by Karius after Jordan Henderson headed clear Roberto Pereyra’s corner, then the German keeper palmed behind a first-time Britos effort following Holebas’ ball into the area.
Troy Deeney’s intelligent pass sent Etienne Capoue clear of the Liverpool backline, but Karius was once again on-hand to smother the Frenchman’s effort, but Watford did have something to cheer moments later.
Amrabat cut the ball back for Janmaat, who side-footed into the bottom left corner from inside the Liverpool area to make it 5-1 with 15 minutes remaining.
Substitute goalkeeper Pantilimon twice denied Liverpool in the 88th minute, tipping Daniel Sturridge’s spectacular curler onto the bar before stopping Firmino’s follow-up from close-range.
The Romanian kept out another Sturridge shot in the first minute of stoppage time, but Liverpool sub Wijnaldum had the simple task of converting the rebound to dispatch the Reds’ sixth of the game and complete a thoroughly disappointing afternoon for the Golden Boys.
HORNETS: Gomes (Pantilimon, 33) (GK); Janmaat, Kaboul, Britos, Holebas; Amrabat, Behrami (Watson, 62), Capoue, Pereyra (Zuniga, 86); Deeney (c), Ighalo.
Subs not used: Mariappa, Kabasele, Guedioura, Sinclair.
Goal: Janmaat (75)
Yellow card: Holebas (56), Britos (79)
REDS: Karius (GK); Clyne, Lucas, Matip, Milner; Henderson (c), Can, Lallana (Sturridge, 71); Mane (Wijnaldum, 63), Coutinho (Ejaria, 87), Firmino.
Subs not used: Mignolet (GK), Klavan, Moreno, Origi.
Goals: Mane (27, 60), Coutinho (30), Can (43), Firmino (57), Wijnaldum (90+1)
Yellow card: Wijnaldum (88)
Referee: Michael Oliver