Watford 3, Liverpool 3
By Umarah Naz
It’s the opening day of the Premier League season for Liverpool. The excitement is palpable. A fresh start, leaving all the woes of last season behind to wither and die. Stunning new arrivals have bolstered the squad while reinforcing weaknesses all over the pitch. Defensive frailties have been addressed along with the strengthening of an unconvincing midfield. Additions made to the attack to cope with any injury crises Klopp may face along the way. Hopefully, that would help our struggles against the so called lesser teams. Add to that the fact that we managed to retain all of our best players and we would surely be challenging at the highest level.
Except none of it is true. Yet. There are still three weeks of the window left so we shall err on the side of caution.
But after an underwhelming summer transfer window (so far) and a previous twenty-four hours to forget, we looked to the team to put beautiful, Salah-esque smiles on our faces. To remove the frustrations of not (yet) signing targets Van Dijk or Keita and to ease the recent heartache of the little magician’s treacherous exploits. We needed an injection of enthusiasm that only a win against Watford could provide. A summer of pre-season and intense training had surely improved the current crop. Right? Not quite.
I could very easily have copied and pasted large parts of one of last season’s match reports when reflecting on today’s game.
Liverpool faced an on paper weaker team, struggled defensively, gifted all three goals, yet still scored a few fantastic ones, had a midfield crisis, conceded a stoppage time equaliser, and dropped silly points. But if the team is almost exactly the same as last season then shouldn’t we expect results almost exactly the same too?
The game at Vicarage Road began in typical fashion for the Reds. Eight minutes in and the home team win a corner and before it’s even taken it feels like it’s 1-0, such is the vulnerability of Liverpool at set pieces. And, of course, the Reds indulge us. No movement from Mignolet, Matip or Firmino left Okaka with a free header which resulted in the inevitable accusatory glances and gesticulations by the players toward each other.
Watford then seemed in control of the game while Liverpool resorted to bypassing the midfield completely to find the front three of Mané, Firmino and new signing, Mo Salah. But it’s your best players that tend to find a way out of sticky situations and Mané, Liverpool’s player of last season, did just that in the twenty-ninth minute.
A move that he orchestrated with his doggedness, helped on by a gorgeous touch from Emre Can which sent Mané through to finish off superbly. Klopp’s men were back on level terms. There was hope.
For two whole minutes only. Moreno, who had had a good game till then, tried to anticipate Amrabat but lost the ball. In the ensuing melee Alexander-Arnold attempted to clear but the ball hit Matip and fell nicely for Doucouré who gave Watford their lead back.
Back to square one for Klopp’s men. Salah had an eventful game with the third goal and an assist but could’ve easily had a few more. On more than one occasion the usually cool and calm Egyptian lost his composure in front of goal. But he did more than enough to win the game and ultimately was let down by his teammates at the back.
His assist came in the fifty-fifth minute when he brought down by Gomes in the box and Firmino tucked away the resultant penalty. His goal came a few moments later when Lovren played a lovely long ball to Firmino whose shot Salah guided into the net.
Liverpool had won the most points last season from losing positions so hope was restored. 3-2 to Liverpool with an age of football left to play. That’s thirty minutes to all other football fans.
Matip and Lovren had opportunities to win the game but their headers hit the crossbar and went wide respectively. Origi, Milner and Gomez were brought on in the last ten minutes for Firmino, Salah and TAA for reasons unknown to everyone but Klopp. If it was to defend a single gold lead then it didn’t work. An injury time save from Mignolet might have stopped a goal…except it didn’t. A corner conceded in the ninety-fourth minute and we all know how that ends. Brutally.
An offside Britos was the ecstatic beneficiary of some more slack defending, this time by Wijnaldum. Another couple of points thrown away in classic Liverpool style.
With a new season should come new hope. And whilst there are no doubts that Liverpool (injuries permitting) will score many goals, the same old defensive issues will continue to haunt us at every turn.
There don’t seem to be any improvements there and we simply can’t outscore every team. Agreed that positive thinking is key and that’s very easy before a game but shouldn’t be done for the sake of it. There needs to be a reason for it. However, remaining upbeat when you can see the problems played out in front of your very eyes is very difficult to do.
With less than three weeks of the transfer window left, Klopp still has some time to look for alternative options should the Van Dijk deal not happen. But it’s getting desperate now and every club will know it. If the problems aren’t resolved, we could be seeing poor results similar to last season. And with all the attacking potential in the team, that will be a bitter pill to swallow. Again.