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Salah’s magic leads Liverpool past Watford

Mohamed Salah's brace lifted Liverpool to a 2-0 win at Anfield over a determined Watford side playing their first match under new manager Nigel Pearson.

A shaky Liverpool beat bottom-side Watford 2-0 at Anfield on Saturday as they are now unbeaten in the Premier League in 34 games.

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But this was far from comfortable for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Watford wasted several glorious chances as new manager Nigel Pearson had an immediate impact but Mohamed Salah scored in each half to seal the win. It was also Liverpool’s first home clean sheet of the season as they have three-straight shutouts in all competitions.

With the win Liverpool move 11 points clear, momentarily, at the top of the table on 49 points, while Watford remain bottom on nine points.

3 things we learned

1. Sluggish Liverpool grind it out: It wasn’t pretty, especially in the first half, but Liverpool got the job done. That has been the story of their incredible season so far. Klopp’s side have now won 16 of their 17 games this season and are unbeaten but Klopp’s side lacked energy in the attacking third and maybe that is to be expected after their draining win in Salzburg on Tuesday. This was another case of grinding it out and like all title-winning teams, Liverpool have the knack of doing just enough to get over the line. In past seasons they’ve played so much better but dropped points in games like this.

2. Watford squander glorious chances: New manager Nigel Pearson will be filled with optimism by the way his team played, especially in the first half. He will also be concerned with the lack of confidence the Premier League’s lowest goalscorers have in front of goal. Doucoure and Sarr were guilty of missing big chances and for all over their energetic play in midfield and excellent deliveries from out wide, Watford failed to make the most of it. The Hornets know it will be a tough battle to stay up this season but if they can keep creating as many chances as they did against Liverpool they will give themselves a fighting chance.

3. Injuries begin to hit hard: Wijnaldum joined Liverpool’s growing injury list, as he joins Lovren, Matip and Fabinho on the sidelines, while the likes of Alisson and Salah have only recently returned to full fitness. The long-hard grind of competing in multiple competitions has sucked the life out of Liverpool, as they now face Aston Villa in the League Cup quarterfinal on Tuesday with one team and another squad of players fly out to Qatar for the Club World Cup semifinal on Wednesday. Liverpool face Leicester, Wolves, Sheffield United, Tottenham, Man United and Wolves in their next six PL games. They will need to keep players fit to get through that tough stretch of games unscathed.

Man of the Match: Mohamed Salah - Had the extra bit of quality to win the game and always looked dangerous on the last shoulder of the Watford defense. The Egyptian king is back fully fit and almost back to his best.

The first big chance of the game arrived for Watford as Ismaila Sarr’s cross from the right was just missed by Troy Deeney who came flying in at the near post.

Liverpool eventually got going as Trent Alexander-Arnold whipped in plenty of dangerous balls from the right and Mane then sparked an attack but Jordan Henderson fired over.

Will Hughes then dragged a shot wide for Watford as the Hornets held their own in the first half as Virgil van Dijk cleared after Abdoulaye Doucoure ran into the box and sent in a cross. Doucoure then totally missed the ball from a good position as Watford were more dangerous than the hosts.

But Liverpool then scored with their first, and only, shot on goal in the first half as they hit Watford on the counter. Firmino and Mane set up Salah and the Egyptian winger curled home a superb shot into the far corner.

Right on half time Watford should have levelled as a cross into the box found Sarr but he fluffed his lines badly at the Kop end as his new manager Nigel Pearson was left shaking his head in disbelief.

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At the start of the second half it seemed like Liverpool had doubled their lead as Xherdan Shaqiri whipped in a superb cross which Mane headed home, but VAR checked the goal and Mane’s hip was offside.

Watford had a glorious chance on the break to equalize as Gerard Deulofeu was played in but Allison came out and stood tall to keep Liverpool ahead.

Liverpool had various half chances during the rest of the game as Salah and Firmino tried to put the game to bed but Georginio Wijnaldum had to come off injured and the flow of the game was impacted.

After a defensive mix-up Watford’s Deulofeu whipped in a corner which hit the post as Liverpool looked nervous late on, but Salah then flicked home superbly to make it 2-0 and seal yet another win for the Reds.

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