Watford 3-0 Liverpool: 5 talking points as Hornets stun Premier League leaders

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Liverpool saw their saw their 44-game unbeaten run finally come to an end with a unexpected 3-0 defeat away to strugglers Watford.

After a goalless opening 45 minutes at Vicarage Road, Ismaila Sarr opened the scoring 54th minute when prodding home Abdoulaye Doucoure’s ball across the box.

Sarr had his second six minutes later, being set away by Kiko Femenia before calmly dinking over Brazilian stopper Alisson.

And the win was all but confirmed 18 minutes from time with Sarr involved again, this time laying off for Hornets skipper Troy Deeney to brilliantly curl home from just inside the area.

Here’s five talking points from the game:

Sarr celebrates the opening goal
(Image: REUTERS)

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Bang goes the Invincibles season

After a record-equalling 18 straight wins, and 79 points from a possible 81, Liverpool’s dream of following Arsenal into Premier League ‘Invincibles’ territory crashed and burned.

Nobody thought it could happen at lowly Watford , who had taken only one point from five games.

But Liverpool’s first bump in the road on the way to the title was as deserved as it was unexpected. They were anaemic, pedestrian, lethargic.

Ismaila Sarr doubles Watford’s lead
(Image: Richard Heathcote)

Three’s a crowd

On the opening day of the season in August 2017, Liverpool unleashed their holy trinity up front – Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah – for the first time.

All three scored, naturally, in a topsy-turvy 3-3 draw, and they have since gone on to plunder 105 goals in 69 Premier League starts as a trio.

Unbelievably, they only managed one shot in a sterile opening 45 minutes at Vicarage Road – only the second time in 172 games under Jurgen Klopp that Liverpool have been so passive in the first half.

They were 2-0 down before they discovered any urgency and never looked like going on another goal rampage here.

Virgil can Dijk and Fabinho look dejected
(Image: ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/REX)

The lone survivor

Roberto Firmino was the only survivor from Liverpool’s starting XI the first time Jurgen Klopp brought a team to Vicarage Road in December 2015 – when they went down 3-0.

It is a measure of how astute Klopp’s makeover of his squad has been in just four years that the Reds’ team embarrassed by two-goal Odion Ighalo that day included Adam Bogdan in goal, Emre Can in midfield and a back four of Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho and Moreno.

In fairness, Watford’s line-up here contained only three names on the teamsheet from four seasons ago – Craig Cathcart, Troy Deeney and Etienne Capoue.

(Image: Getty Images)

Trent Alexander-Arnold was at fault for Watford’s third goal
(Image: Action Images via Reuters)

Deulofeu setback will sting Hornets

Gerard Deulofeu’s evacuation on a stretcher, with what looked like a potentially serious knee injury, represents a major setback to Watford’s survival hopes.

The former Everton winger had contributed 16 goals in 52 starts – but if his oxygen mask and the level of his team-mates’ concern is any guide, he may not feature much, if at all, in Watford’s last 10 games to save their Premier League status.

Watford players celebrate
(Image: REUTERS)

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Return to Watford’s glory days

Two of the stands at sold-out Vicarage Road are named after Graham Taylor and Sir Elton John, godfathers of the Hornets’ golden era in the 1980s.

It is 37 years since Watford finished runners-up behind champions Liverpool – a scenario that is unlikely to be repeated for the foreseeable future.

But in Taylor’s heyday, they discovered wingers John Barnes and Nigel Callaghan by scouting local parks; in 2020, Watford paid a record £35 million for one wide man, Ismaila Sarr, and went shopping in Barcelona to land the other, Gerard Deulofeu.

Watford are still deep in relegation trouble, but they will stay up if they play like this every week.

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