Watford’s Sarr blitzes Liverpool to end dream of matching Invincibles

Ismaïla Sarr scored two goals and Troy Deeney a third as Watford ended Liverpool’s chance of an unbeaten Premier League season with a stunning 3-0 win over the leaders

A sense of inevitability characterises Liverpool’s pursuit of the title but no longer is it one cloaked in invincibility. Yes, that’s right, Jürgen Klopp’s men have lost a Premier League game, 423 days since they last did so, and in a manner that was so complete that its unfolding felt like an almighty trick of the mind. Was this really happening? Was a side that had won their last 18 league games and maintained a 22-point lead at the top of the table really utterly out-thought, outfought and outplayed by opponents fighting relegation? Indeed they were, and then some.

Quite simply Liverpool were battered. From first minute until last Watford refused to display any sense of an inferiority complex against esteemed opponents and instead delivered a display of great togetherness, aggression and potency. They scored three and could have had more on a night that will be spoken about in these parts for years to come. That much could be taken from the thunderous roar that greeted the final whistle from the majority of those in attendance. A famous victory for Watford’s supporters to celebrate and one that also lifts their side out of the bottom three on goal difference and gives them renewed belief they can avoid the drop after all.

There was no doubting their best performer, either. Making his first start since 18 January having been sidelined with a hamstring injury, Ismaïla Sarr was sensational, scoring Watford’s first two goals, assisting Troy Deeney for the third and generally tormenting Liverpool with his pace, skill and intent from the right wing. The 22-year-old, who joined Watford from Rennes for £25m in the summer, earned a standing ovation from the home fans when substituted on 82 minutes as well as praise from his manager. “He’s a really good player,” said Nigel Pearson in his typically understated manner.

Others in yellow and black also caught the eye, most notably Will Hughes and Abdoulaye Doucouré in midfield and Gerard Deulofeu up until he had to be substituted on 37 minutes after twisting his knee while challenging Virgil van Dijk for possession.

The Spaniard had to be carried off on a stretcher before being taken to hospital. Pearson suggested the 25-year-old could be out for a very lengthy period of time.

Deulofeu’s injury aside this was a perfect night for Watford on the back of their best display of what has been a difficult season. Equally, however, there is no denying they were helped towards a first win in seven games by the manner of their opponents’ showing. Liverpool were incredibly poor, playing with a complete lack of cohesion and purpose in attack, while defensively they were, quite frankly, shocking.

No one more so in defence than Dejan Lovren who, having been surprisingly selected over Joël Matip in place of the injured Joe Gomez, did little to dispute the idea that he is an accident waiting to happen with the manner in which he let Adam Mesina’s throw-in bounce over his head in the buildup to Watford’s opening goal on 54 minutes.

The Croat allowed himself to be put off by Deeney’s presence and it severely cost Liverpool as Doucouré collected possession and put in Sarr who sent the ball past Alisson.

Watford’s third goal also came from a Liverpool defensive error as Sarr pounced on Trent Alexander-Arnold’s weak back pass and, under pressure from Alisson, played a pass to Deeney which he placed into a gaping net. For Alexander-Arnold it was a harrowing moment and also a case of going from the sublime to the ridiculous given the excellent display he had delivered in Monday’s win over West Ham.

That goal was also the moment the hosts knew they had wrapped up the three points having gone 2-0 up on the hour after Sarr had collected Deeney’s cute pass and, having sped through on goal, coolly lifted the ball over the out‑rushing Alisson.

Ismaïla Sarr dinks a fine finish over Alisson to double Watford’s advantage.
Ismaïla Sarr dinks a fine finish over Alisson to double Watford’s advantage. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

It was a wonderful moment during a wonderful display by the Senegal international whose only regret was that he failed to secure a hat-trick after dragging a relatively easy chance wide of the far post before he was substituted.

Liverpool’s threat was all but nonexistent. Adam Lallana hit the post with a long-range strike soon after coming on and, overall, they produced only one shot on target – Andy Robertson’s second-half strike that Ben Foster saved with ease.

That, ultimately, was that for the visitors. And while they will no doubt recover and go on to win that first championship in 30 years – they require 12 points from their remaining 10 games to do so – there was no record-breaking 19th consecutive top-flight victory to celebrate here, nor the chance of going the entire campaign unbeaten, something that will no doubt be savoured in the red half of north London in particular.

Arsenal’s class of 2004 will not be superseded by Liverpool’s class of 2020 following a night of genuine shock and awe.


Sachin Nakrani at Vicarage Road

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