EPL

Salah magic rescues Liverpool as leaders labour against Watford

By Sports Desk December 14, 2019

In a week of deliberation over who might lead the country, English football remains in little doubt over its elect group of players.

But while many feel the current Liverpool side is born to rule, they were asked some tricky questions by a Watford team recently revived by a change of leadership.

There was a high turnout but no landslide victory against Watford at Anfield, where the Reds chalked up their 16th consecutive Premier League home win by a 2-0 scoreline thanks to Mohamed Salah's double.

And while their seat at the top of the table looks safe, canvass for opinion around Merseyside and you will find even the most dyed-in-the-wool Reds reluctant to suggest the balance of power has swung decisively in their favour.

But six more home league wins in a row would see Jurgen Klopp's men eclipse the all-time record streak of 21 set by Bill Shankly's title-winning team of 1972-73, who saw governance of the top flight as their birthright.

For a home crowd watching a team guaranteed to be top of the Premier League table at Christmas, Anfield was strangely subdued during the opening exchanges between Klopp's rotated side and visitors Watford.

New boss Nigel Pearson looked to have assembled a strong opposition during a cagey opening spell that saw the incumbent leaders fail to muster a shot on goal for 22 minutes - the longest wait for a Reds attempt in a home league game since October 2016 against Manchester United.

Pearson could hardly be accused of the kind of negative campaigning Jose Mourinho so often employed during his time at United, with Watford offering a more incisive threat in the opening half-hour thanks to the positive endeavours of Will Hughes and Gerard Deulofeu.

With Andy Robertson on the bench, Liverpool looked momentarily vulnerable at left-back when Etienne Capoue skipped beyond stand-in James Milner before teeing up Abdoulaye Doucoure for a wasteful miss that was punished at the other end just 58 seconds later.

Roberto Firmino's overhead kick launched Sadio Mane down the Liverpool left and he in turn released Mohamed Salah, who fooled Kiko Femenia before nonchalantly curling home with his right foot.

It was not the first time Liverpool's Egyptian king has lorded it over Watford, and a last-minute tap-in means Salah has eight goals and one assist in five Premier League appearances against the Hornets.

But Klopp's cabinet includes many inspirational leaders. Some credit for this win must also go to Mane, so often the player who helps lay the foundations upon which Salah excels.

Mane has set up four goals against Watford in the Premier League, more than he has managed against any other side in the top tier. All four of those assists have been for Salah, too.

Klopp will hope Mane makes a habit of teeing up goals during the busy weeks ahead; the Senegal international has three assists in his past two Premier League games, as many as he managed in his previous 56 appearances.

Clean sheets also help – Klopp will certainly vote for shut-outs to become another long-running trend.

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