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Liverpool 2 Watford 0 (Apr 2 2022)

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Report by
Paul Natton

 

Listeners to the podcast will be familiar with the term “trap game”, the Americanism from US sports which Jules has used a number of times throughout the season to describe various forthcoming fixtures.

 

Pre-match this theoretically had all the hallmarks of such a game, coming as it did immediately after an international break for a dreaded lunchtime kickoff, the atmospheres at which - as Klopp directly referenced beforehand - are never good.

 

Throw into the mix the return of Roy Hodgson who, despite his mediocre Liverpool credentials, is no mug when it comes to setting up a relegation-threatened team to do a job against a bigger opponent, and you can see why this game fit the bill. 
 

And yet it didn’t, did it? It turned out to be exactly what the lads and I all felt it would be as we chatted outside the ground before kickoff: a very comfortable win where we dominated the game in second gear and came away with three points.

 

Entertainment value was low, admittedly, but at this stage of the season with the stakes remaining high in all three competitions we’re still fighting for as we aim to go all the way in each, our predictions were precisely what transpired: turn up, keep the ball, score a goal or two and then go home with the points in the bag, the squad rotated and injuries avoided.

 

Watford had two shots in the entire game. One was pretty comfortably saved by Alisson and the other was put a yard or two wide of the post. And that was it. That said, there was a relatively high degree of jitteriness around Anfield, particularly in the second half.

 

I have to say though that I found this both frustrating and bewildering. The ball barely left our possession throughout the 90 minutes and indeed forays into our half were almost non-existent from Watford. Almost the only times the ball ended up back there was when we recycled possession to start again on the other side after a move had broken down.

 

Maybe it’s the stakes involved in this potentially most exciting of Aprils or maybe it’s just the scars left by the non-event of last season, but either way, what I was watching in no sense merited the jitteriness on show from The Kop. We’ve seen this team for a good six years now and the trust should be there. There isn’t a flake amongst them and the quality levels are stratospherically high.
 

The first goal came just before the midpoint of the first half and almost immediately after that save from Alisson. The ball was switched out to the right to Joe Gomez, who I have to say has been the best Trent stand-in of the season so far for me, despite the small evidence base. He put in a quality cross, taking advantage of the fact that his man did not close him down, and Jota darted between the right back and right centre half to score with what is now becoming a trademark header.

 

With the first goal in the bag, the match reverted to the pattern already established of comfortable retention of the ball at a relatively sedate tempo that did not allow Watford much of an opportunity to even touch it, never mind approximate danger with it.

 

Gomez and Robertson were pushed quite high up but not aggressively so, an indication to me of Klopp‘s intentions. There is no doubt he saw this game as simply a minor - albeit not insignificant - obstacle to be safely negotiated in order to get to more considerable challenges beyond.

 

The ball was used and retained pretty well by our midfielders with Bobby dropping in to join them, delivering a pretty good version of the Bobby role. The thing that has consistently frustrated me about him over the last couple of years during his decline is not the lack of goals, as they were never really in abundance; rather it’s been the sloppiness on the ball, the propensity to give it away and the absence of his trademark physicality imposing itself on the opposition. I’m not saying this was a 10 out of 10 from him but it was definitely a seven, possibly approaching eight and that is a welcome and timely return to something approximating his true game. 
 

Hendo put in a decent showing in the middle and, even allowing for the paucity of opponent, Thiago was sensational, distributing the ball intelligently and with ease. Curtis though was subject to a few grumbles which are becoming a recurring theme. However, while he didn’t pull up any trees, I felt he played to instructions and was no better or worse than anybody else. It does concern me a little though that his age is not factored in to crowd expectations at times.
 

That said, it goes with the territory doesn’t it? As I’ve said on the pod a number of times, these are the levels and if Curtis wants to be what he absolutely has the potential to be, which is a Scouse mainstay of a truly great Liverpool team, then he has to cope with the mental and possibly emotional challenges such an ambition presents, in addition to the physical and technical ones. 
 

He eventually made way in the second half for Fabinho, the scorer of the second goal. There was some indication that he’d taken a knock as he seemed to gesture towards the bench before going off but it did not seem especially serious and I can only hope it was merely a precautionary request.

 

The penalty award for the second goal was a strange one which bemused everybody around me as it came quite late in terms of the timing of the VAR review and was described as a potential handball on the scoreboard at Anfield. Only on getting back home again to rewatch the key moments on telly did I see the absolutely blatant foul on Jota and the penalty was obviously deserved.

 

The finish by Fabinho showed exactly why he was the designated penalty taker at Monaco: it was hit at pace into the side netting of the top corner of the goal and Foster had absolutely no chance. Class - and with that the match was as good as over with the restart coming right on the 90 minutes and the final four minutes of added time then negotiated comfortably.

 

So all in all this was exactly the kind of performance the pros always laud when commentating or analysing on TV. Dare I say it, it’s also exactly the kind of performance which in retrospect title winners look back on as one of those “job done, move on” performances. I would absolutely take more of the same on Tuesday night against Benfica if it left us with plenty in the tank for the huge game against Manchester City next weekend. That said, given the way our month looks, I’d really like us to make the Anfield game almost a dead rubber. Either way, we should go strong on Tuesday. 

 

So overall, a good result and we move on. Star man is the sublime Thiago but just before I close, a special word for Ben Foster. Not only is he that now rarity of an opposing goalkeeper who visibly applauds The Kop before kickoff without a hint of embarrassment that his own fans may see, but he added the classy touch of giving the practice ball which he’d retained until the very cusp of kickoff to a child in The Kop who was clearly delighted. Really nice touch from a guy who has been vocally praising the Reds for quite some time now. 
 

So another obstacle at the business end of what could be a unique and legendary season is overcome. More of this please Reds. On to Tuesday…

 

Team: Alisson; Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Jones (Fabinho), Thiago (Milner); Salah (Mané), Firmino, Jota:

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In the ten minutes or so before the penalty, we went through a spell of continually giving the ball away. That, along with the sedate pace we were playing at, contributed to the jitters from the crowd. That said, I thought the atmosphere for the most part was pretty good for a lunchtime kick off.

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Good report. I agree with some jitteryness by some fans. I dont get it and read some were 'bricking it' before the game. What, Watford at home and people are 'bricking it'!? Maybe Im too laid back?

 

1-0 with 10 or so to go is always going to get some on edge as a daft mistake like when Thiago trying to stop the ball from going out for a throw down the SKD Lower, just proceeded to gift the ball to Watford for a swift break on goal.

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Many of us remember the Rafa years all too well when daft home draws cost us a chance to challenge.

1 0 is never enough whoever we're playing and any slip up is likely to be fatal.

 

Having said that, I never thought they looked like scoring.

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Nice one, Paul.  A bit of a scruffy win but once we'd scored it was comfortable and mostly we were just conserving energy. Atmosphere seemed a lot better than usual for this type of game but it's asking a lot to expect the crowd to make a lot of noise as we pass it around at the back.

I thought two of their three "chances" were offside so their only real chance was the header from the corner. You can't ask for much more control over a game than that. 

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I didn't get that the crowd was especially nervy, the Kop was in good voice and supportive with none of the loud aahs and sighs when someone made a mistake or getting onto the back of someone having a mare, like happens sometimes. 

 

Henderson was the only one losing his cool, booting the ball away aimlessly a couple of times in the 2nd half and having some major rants at others (Thiago and Gomez in particular).

 

 

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1 hour ago, beejay said:

I didn't get that the crowd was especially nervy, the Kop was in good voice and supportive with none of the loud aahs and sighs when someone made a mistake or getting onto the back of someone having a mare, like happens sometimes. 

 

Henderson was the only one losing his cool, booting the ball away aimlessly a couple of times in the 2nd half and having some major rants at others (Thiago and Gomez in particular).

 

 

Henderson - he gave the ball away loads in the second half, constantly in the wrong position, and begging for the ball just so that he can knock it back first touch 5 meters to the same defender and put his pass completion stats up.  He's the biggest shithouse on the ball in the team.  The other players must look at him and laugh when he starts moaning.  

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3 hours ago, stringvest said:

Henderson - he gave the ball away loads in the second half, constantly in the wrong position, and begging for the ball just so that he can knock it back first touch 5 meters to the same defender and put his pass completion stats up.  He's the biggest shithouse on the ball in the team.  The other players must look at him and laugh when he starts moaning.  

You're a complete fucking idiot.

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