EPeak Daily

Watford vs Liverpool – Dillon Cleaver

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The Reds travel to Vicarage Road during the Premier League’s 17/18 opening weekend in the cloud of Philippe Coutinho’s transfer request.

Photograph: Daniel Hambury/PA | Image: Dillon Cleaver

Liverpool’s season wasn’t supposed to begin this way. I’m not talking about the result, taking a point from Watford at Vicarage Road shouldn’t be seen as poor in the grand scheme of the season.

What I’m talking about, of course, is Philippe Coutinho.

Background noise

The emerging saga involving Philippe Coutinho’s possible transfer to Barcelona began yesterday afternoon and has been on my mind ever since. Observing the general mood at /r/liverpoolfc gives me the impression I’m not alone.

I think this sums up the whole thing quite well:

Image credit: /u/chrisbrehs on reddit.

Unfortunately, this has the feel of a saga that could go until the end of August. We can hope it doesn’t disrupt things on the field too much, as losing Coutinho is bad enough — it would add insult to injury if the process of losing him results in our stumbling to the floor while we’re still trying to find our feet this early in the race.

First half

The match started off bright enough from both sides, but the tone was set by the sloppy early goal Liverpool conceded from another corner.

Okaka’s header nestled in the back of the net in the 8th minute, looking like something straight from the training ground. You can almost here Macro Silva’s instructions: “Just whip the ball in with some pace, slightly above their heads… You know — a normal corner… It’ll work because it’s Liverpool.” Watford 1, Liverpool 0.

For the last few seasons (I’m not even sure how far this stretches back anymore) corners and set-pieces have been our defensive Achilles heel, striking fear into the heart of our defenders and fans alike.

We all know that at least once per game, a dead-ball situation in or around the Liverpool area equals a goal. We know it as fans, opponents know it too.

The game appeared to be settling into a steady rhythm when Sadio Mané’s brilliant goal broke through in the 29th minute. It was truly a splendid bit of build up play, orchestrated by Mané, as he combined with Emre Can and Alberto Moreno on the edge of the area to slip past the Watford backline and fire home the equalizer into the top right corner. Watford 1, Liverpool 1.

Sadly, parity was short lived. It’s difficult to blame any one particular Liverpool player for this goal, but it doesn’t help that Alberto Moreno finds a way to be vertically aligned with the pitch during the build-up, nor that our defenders don’t seem to know where each other will be at any one moment. Abdoulaye Doucouré takes advantage of this to slot home a cooly on in the 32nd minute. Watford 2, Liverpool 1.

Half-time: Watford 2 , Liverpool 1

We probably should have gone into the half-time break level. Mohammed Salah had a good chance in the 38th minute to equalize, but couldn’t keep his cool and fired over the bar after a good run through the right of center.

At this point, it seemed to be a normal nervy season opener. I still had faith we could bring it around. Aside from our ever-present defensive frailty, I was encouraged by our threat on the attack. That we scored also gave hope for the second period. There’s nothing worse than being behind in a game when it feels like your team has forgotten how to score.

Second half

We came out playing much like we did in the first half. We looked decent going forward, and it always seemed like we could create a chance. In the 54th minute, that’s exactly what Mohammed Salah did when he ran through on goal, only to be brought down by Watford keeper Heurelho Gomes. Roberto Firmino cooly slotted home in the bottom left corner in the 55th minute. Watford 2, Liverpool 2.

Three minutes later in the 57th minute, Bobby Firmino dinked a lovely pass/shot towards Mohamed Salah from the left side of the area to the far corner and Liverpool were in front. Watford 2 , Liverpool 3.

At this point, given our capabilities going forward, it seemed like we might just pull the win off. Watford would need to commit men forward, which would allow our potent counter attack more opportunities to show its teeth.

To be fair, that’s kinda how it felt for most of the next thirty minutes. We weren’t troubled too much. We also created some chances, though our noticeable lack of coolness in front of goal in this game continued, with missed chances from both Georginio Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah during the last ten minutes of regular time.

Watford’s equalizer came in the 93rd minute, a scrappy header from Miguel Britos after another miserable moment of set-piece defending. Watford 3, Liverpool 3.

Wijnaldum had one more half-chance before the ref blew the whistle.

Final score: Watford 3, Liverpool 3

It’s easy to be disappointed about this result, but I’m choosing to take the longer view — partly because it’s easier to think that way. Taking a point from Vicarage Road on the opening weekend isn’t anything to panic about.

Picking up points away is always a good thing. Even though we’ll need to convert more away points from one to three if we want to challenge at the top of the table, I’m willing to forgive this given the circumstances surrounding Philippe Coutinho, and also that it’s the opening weekend.

Going forward, we’ll need to be stronger defensively, and we’ll need to turn trips to grounds like Vicarage Road to three points, just as we did during the spring of this year.

It’s good to see you again, LFC! 🔴

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