Liverpool returned to their “old” habits in what was a disappointing start to their 2017/2018 Premier League campaign.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) August 12, 2017
Watford looked far more motivated in the first half and deserved their opening goal. Liverpool have always struggled against set pieces, and it was no different today.
Stefano Okaka scored Watford’s first goal of the campaign with a point blank, free header from inside Simon Mignolet’s six. Lovren and Firmino were both guilty of ball watching as Okaka was allowed to easily slide through the 18 and give his side the early advantage.
Zonal marking, in Liverpool’s case, has been a disaster on set pieces. Nobody seemed to communicate anything as Firmino and Lovren watched Okaka put his side in front. Neither moved.
For most of the first half, the play was scrappy. Watford were happy to defend and counter, a tactic that is all too easy to deploy against Klopp’s Liverpool.
Liverpool found an equalizer in the 29th minute. Sadio Mane produced an excellent finish from about 8 yards after Liverpool’s best play of the first half. Some quick passing had Mane on the end of an Emre Can flick, and the winger made no mistake, smashing his right footed shot into the top right corner.
But Watford were back ahead within 3 minutes. Again, poor defending was to blame. After Alberto Moreno was out-wrestled on the edge of the 18, a Tom Cleverly cross eventually found the feet of Doucoure after Trent Alexander-Arnold failed to clear his lines. The midfielder simply had to stab the ball into the back of the net to give his side the advantage again.
The remainder of the first half was sloppy from Liverpool. Mohamed Salah missed a great chance to open his scoring account 38 minutes in. The winger was through on goal (at a tough angle to be fair) and blasted a right footed effort into the seats.
At the second half start, it was obvious Jurgen Klopp gave his team the right speech because Liverpool came out strong and determined to turn the result around.
Within 10 minutes, the Reds were level. Mohamed Salah earned a penalty after being taken down by Gomez in Watford’s net. Roberto Firmino stepped up and calmly slotted his effort into the bottom left corner.
The Brazilian earned his rights as the number one penalty taker this pre-season and made no mistake with Jordan Henderson looking on.
Liverpool were back. 5 minutes later, the Reds found their third goal and Mohamed Salah, who looked dangerous throughout, got his first Premier League goal as a Liverpool player.
While Roberto Firmino was probably trying to score himself with a cheeky chip, Salah was the first to react and just had to get something on Firmino’s effort to put Liverpool in front.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) August 12, 2017
Joel Matip hit the crossbar in the 65th from a well-worked corner. The defender was so unlucky to see his effort fail to hit the back of the net.
Salah, who could have had a hat-trick on the day, squandered another good chance in the 78th minute. Sadio Mane played the Egyptian in on goal, but he could only hit the side netting with his weaker right foot.
The Firmino, Mane, and Salah front three was incredible to watch on the day. If the three can continue this good form throughout the season, there is no reason why the Reds cannot finish in the top four, apart from defensive issues of course.
Liverpool were cruising at that stage and looked primed for all three points, but Watford were not going to be denied in front of their home fans.
In the 94th minute, Britos tied the game. More poor defending from a corner punished Liverpool. Gini Wijnaldum’s weak clearing header allowed Richarlison to smack an effort at Mignolet, who made a fine save, but was beaten to the loose ball by an offside Britos who tapped in Watford’s third.
Yes, Britos was offside, but Liverpool’s defense did not do them any favors.
After another minute or two, the match was over and Watford were the much happier side.
The result brings up some big questions. Have Liverpool made a huge mistake with their lack of defensive signings? Andy Robertson did not even make the bench, yet Alberto Moreno and Trent Alexander-Arnold both put forth shocking performances. Dejan Lovren also had a very poor game.
While it is just week one, and the Reds were also without Philippe Coutinho, this was not the promising start to the campaign many expected.