Watford 0, Liverpool 1
By Umarah Naz
The tension in the room was palpable. Even if you weren’t in the room.
The bank holiday Monday dragged on and on; joke after joke, meme after meme, gifs galore mocking Liverpool’s forthcoming Monday night trip to Watford.
Liverpool fans after seeing the results this weekend before remembering they're going to lose to Watford pic.twitter.com/Kj0sdLBqyw
— Football Whispers (@FB_WHISPERS) April 30, 2017
The extra spice was provided by both Manchester clubs dropping points at the weekend, handing Liverpool back the initiative in the Champions League race after losing to Crystal Palace last weekend.
It would’ve been “so Liverpool” to fail to capitalise on the favourable situation that surprisingly presented itself.
Last seasons fixture (a 3-0 thumping), Watford winning three on the spin at home and the fact that they hadn’t conceded there for four and a half hours also haunted us as we tried to find some morsels of positivity before the game.
A few of those were the return of Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge from injury who made the bench, giving Klopp options he had previously been lacking. Should he choose to use them.
It didn’t start well for the visitors when a mere five minutes in, Phillipe Coutinho took a kick in the knee by Adrian Mariappa.
Commendably, he hobbled around the pitch for a further eight minutes until it became all too clear that he needed to depart. A littler earlier than expected, Lallana was stripped and ready in no time to take the Brazilian’s place.
If the first-half started with some drama, it ended with even more with not a whole lot to talk about in between.
Up until the forty-first minute, the match was rather forgettable. Uneventful, drab and banal. Liverpool’s best effort fell to Lallana four minutes before the break, when their first corner ended in the ball falling nicely to him but his long-range effort smashed off the underside of the crossbar. Instead of rebounding in, agonisingly, it bounced out and found no takers.
Minutes later, Lucas decided enough was enough and went down in the box despite not having been touched. The referee wasn’t amused but Klopp managed to muster up a smile from the touch line. The veteran, celebrating ten years at the club, was booked with a whole half of football remaining.
Would he make it to the final whistle?
The truth is that nobody cared. In first-half stoppage time, up popped the Brazilian and chipped the perfect ball to a waiting Emre Can who left us all stunned with a goal of utter brilliance.
Goal of the season? You bet Lovren’s ridiculous pay packet, it is! A bicycle kick.
Emre Can goal in full from all angles, what a strike! pic.twitter.com/i4iUUFE4Kq
— LFC Globe (@LFCGlobe) May 1, 2017
Overhead kick. Scissor kick. Whatever you want to call it, it was simply scintillating. The German connected superbly to guide the ball past a paralysed version of Gomes who could only watch. In awe probably.
Can cemented his man of the match performance with a goal that could yet prove to be a watershed moment in Liverpool’s season.
An honourable mention must go to Simon Mignolet who, although he didn’t have much to do in the first-half, was called into action in the second with a much improved Watford performance.
He caught the ball confidently, made himself a presence in his box by being proactive in his play, he was decisive when he made a move and was an all round rock at the back.
A fingertip save from Capoue in the sixty-eighth minute was the stand out moment in a fine performance. Even better because the referee awarded a goal kick instead of a corner. Some much needed luck seemed to be going our way for once.
We had our opportunities to finish the game off with a few chances but why make it that easy? Why?
Origi, who struggled for the most part, had a shot saved early in the second-half. Lallana had the best of the chances when a counterattack saw him clean through, but Amrabat’s leg denied us a second and with it a chance to breathe.
So we held our breath for the remaining twenty or so minutes, turning a peculiar shade of Chelsea blue in the process, but that’s how we roll.
Sturridge made his Klopp-honoured eighty-fifth minute appearance in place of Origi and did more to trouble the Watford defence in a measly five minutes than Origi did in the previous eighty-five.
The ostracised striker had a shot brilliantly saved in the dying minutes after he stole possession from Watford twenty yards out.
He also showed Klopp his versatility, selflessness and team-centric approach when he drew a foul from the Watford defence rather than go for goal, which he could have been forgiven for, propelling the “selfish” accusations out of the window in the process.
For many fans, he has done enough, maybe more depending on your feelings toward him, to warrant a start over Origi in the next game. Here’s hoping Klopp agrees.
Klavan replaced Lallana late on to help the defence keep the clean sheet and take all three points. But in the ninety-fourth minute, however, we managed to almost kill Jurgen Klopp.
In his post-match press conference he suggested that if his players wanted to end his life they should allow situations such as Sebastian Prodl hammering the woodwork in injury time to happen.
Not a great admission with out-of-favour players lurking about, Jurgen.
More of the aforementioned luck saved Liverpool again and, more importantly, didn’t allow Emre’s wonder goal go to waste. Now that would have been a tragedy.
The win is Liverpool’s third away win in a row against a trio of difficult opposition. The clean sheet will undoubtedly give the shaky defence some welcome confidence with three huge games to come.
Up next is Southampton at home. A team we haven’t beaten this season and have lost a cup semi-final to. Time to right a few wrongs next week.
It’s not in a Liverpool fans DNA to get carried away as it mostly ends in disappointment, but we’re in a good place right now. A game at a time. Slowly dragging ourselves towards Champions League football…