First Team 27/02/2019

Match Report: Liverpool 5-0 Watford

For the third season running, Watford left Anfield with nothing but a bruised ego and a damaged goal difference for their troubles.

Having shipped six and five in their last two visits, another heavy defeat was always on the cards once the Hornets fell behind as early as the ninth minute to a Sadio Mané header, and so it transpired.

Mané added a second shortly after, then three goals in the space of 16 second half minutes – one from Divock Origi and two by Virgil van Dijk – condemned the Golden Boys to a 5-0 loss that the 1,000 or so travelling supporters will be keen to wipe from the memory.

Fewer than 10 minutes were on the clock when the deadlock was broken, and rather ominously for the Hornets it was Liverpool who gained the initiative.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross from the right-hand side was as inviting as it was inch-perfect and Mané – who had positioned himself between centre-halves Craig Cathcart and Adrian Mariappa – placed a strong header inside Ben Foster’s back post.

Watford must be sick of the sight of Mo Salah – who had scored six in his three meetings against the Hornets prior to tonight – and the Egyptian’s tricky run into the area was the catalyst for Liverpool’s second on 20 minutes. Alexander-Arnold once again was the provider, Mané recovering from a loose first touch before back-heeling home in what seemed like acres of space 10 yards out.

It might have been three, had Salah’s close-range effort not rebounded off the post – via the glove of Foster – after the 2018 Player of the Year wriggled the wrong side of Cathcart.

By the same token, the Golden Boys couldn’t have come much closer to halving their deficit just minutes before the break. Troy Deeney escaped from the usually attentive van Dijk and flicked Gerard Deulofeu’s centre marginally wide.

Cathcart’s well-struck shot earned Watford a corner early in the second period, taking a crucial deflection on its way behind just as Alisson looked like he’d be severely tested, but in truth the hosts always seemed more likely to add to their tally.

Mané controlled, turned and saw his effort blocked by Cathcart, then Foster made a routine save from Wijnaldum’s long-range effort, but you got the sense a third was just around the corner.

And it was. Origi cut inside Janmaat and onto his right foot, nestling a low shot into the near corner from inside the box. Surely game over.

Javi Gracia’s side showed some heart, creating two chances through substitute Andre Gray – the first an angled shot which was palmed away by Alisson’s outstretched arm, the second a more central effort tipped over by the Brazilian keeper.

But things were to get worse as van Dijk twice headed past Foster in the space of three minutes – crosses supplied from either flank by Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson – to add some gloss to Liverpool’s score.

As another painful visit to Merseyside drew to a close, Watford’s players to a man approached the away end to express their appreciation to those travelling fans who’d made the arduous midweek trip north. 

They’ll be keen to repay their support when Leicester visit The Vic on Sunday.

HORNETS: Foster (GK); Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Masina; Hughes, Doucouré, Capoue, Pereyra (Sema, 83); Deulofeu (Cleverley, 73), Deeney (C) (Gray, 73).

Subs not used: Gomes (GK), Kabasele, Navarro, Quina.

REDS: Alisson (GK); Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Matip, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum (Keita, 83), Milner (C) (Henderson, 69); Salah, Mané (Lallana, 78), Origi.

Subs not used: Mignolet (GK), Camacho, Shaqiri, Sturridge.

Under-18's 27/02/2019

FA Youth Cup Report: Leicester 1-2 Watford [AET]

By Kevin Affleck

Watford’s Under-18 side are just one win away from becoming only the fourth ever side in the club’s long history to reach the final of the FA Youth Cup after they beat Leicester City in extra-time at the King Power Stadium.

Two goals from Ryan Cassidy, including the winner in the first period of extra-time, and an inspired performance from goalkeeper Dante Baptiste was just enough to see off the Foxes on a dramatic night in the East Midlands. 

Cassidy gave the Hornets the dream start from the penalty spot after 11 minutes but they were just five minutes away from victory in normal time when Harry Hudson put through his own net in attempting to cut out a cross. The momentum looked like it would be with Leicester in extra-time, but the Hornets came again and won it in the first period when Cassidy, the captain, scored his second.

The Hornets, who have knocked out Birmingham, Southampton, Ipswich and now Leicester, will now meet Liverpool or Bury in the semi-final next month and attempt to follow in the footsteps of the teams who won the competition in 1982 and '89 and reached the final in '85.

The Hornets made the dream start after 11 minutes. In virtually their first attack, Cassidy rolled Justen Kranthove in the box and was dragged down by the defender. There was only one man going to take the penalty and the Irishman stepped up and drilled it into the bottom left-hand corner.

Either side of that, Baptiste made two smart saves, the first was a clawing effort to keep out a header from Dempsey Arlott-John, the sort Ben Foster would have been proud of. 

But Oliver Bosworth in the home goal was by far the busier of the two keepers. He was scrambling cross his goal as Emmanuel Adebiyi curled one just wide; he had to save at his near post after Ryan Maclean marauded forward from left-back and got a shot away and then he could only stand, watch and hope for the best as two efforts in quick succession from Sonny Blu Lo-Everton dropped the other side of the right-hand post. Lo-Everton had his head in his hands at the second one, unable to fathom how his dipping half-volley hadn’t landed in the far corner.

It was Watford’s turn to breathe a sigh of relief ten minutes into the second half when Arlott-John drove down the left and then let fly with a shot that was saved by the legs of Baptiste, looped up onto the crossbar and bounced away to safety.

Baptiste was at it again on 75 minutes when he raced out of his goal and smothered an effort from Arlott-John who had a clear sight of goal. Goalkeeping coach Graham Stack would have loved that save. He would have liked the one he pulled off just minutes later, too, back-pedalling to tip over at full stretch a goal-bound effort, again from Arlott-John.

It was either going to take something special to beat Baptiste or something lucky and it proved to be the latter, Hudson sliding in to divert a fine cross from Edward Elewa-Ikpakwu past his own ‘keeper. It was a crushing blow to the Hornets who had defended manfully. Hudson wasn’t to blame as had he not cut it out, there was a Leicester forward lurking at the far post.

They made it through to extra-time, but only just, and there Baptiste carried on where he had left off in normal time by making a stunning double save to deny Arlott-John and Johnson Gyamfi.

It had been one-way traffic for so long that you forgot what a Watford attack looked like, but the Hornets summoned the energy to mount a lovely move midway through the first period of extra-time, resulting in Lo-Everton having a dinked finish cleared off the line by Lukáš Hušek. 

That seemed to give the boys the belief that the game was still there for the taking and minutes later, Adebiyi threaded Cassidy through after a wonderful counter-attacking move and he clipped the ball past the ‘keeper to put the Hornets back in front for a second time. And there they stayed to ensure their thrilling run in the competition continues.

HORNETS: Baptiste (GK); Langston, Tricker, Hudson, Maclean (Suckling 117); Adebiyi (Campbell 111), Phillips (Baki 90), Sankoh (Horsewood 82), Bennetts; Lo-Everton, Cassidy (C).

Sub not used: Hoskins (GK).

Photo credit: Franziska Empl.