Watford 0-1 Liverpool: Emre Can wonder goal maintains top-four charge
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 02/05/17 9:14am
Emre Can scored a contender for goal of the season as Liverpool remained in the driving seat for a top-four finish with a 1-0 victory at Watford.
The Germany international's audacious stoppage-time overhead kick brought a subdued first half at Vicarage Road to a spectacular end, laying the foundation for a crucial win for Jurgen Klopp's men.
As Liverpool failed to double their lead in the second period Watford improved, but there was no way back for Walter Mazzarri's men, who saw Sebastian Prodl thunder a volley against the bar in injury time.
With just three games remaining, the victory sees Liverpool strengthen their grip on third place ahead of the Manchester clubs, who they lead by three and four points respectively.
Watford, whose end-of-season stagnation continues, remain in 13th place on 40 points.
Unchanged from last week's defeat to Crystal Palace, Liverpool were boosted by the return of Adam Lallana to the bench after recovering from a groin injury to end a four-and-a-half-week lay-off
Adrian Mariappa was drafted into the Watford line-up in place of Jose Holebas and his fifth-minute challenge on Philippe Coutinho led to Lallana's earlier than expected introduction, with the England international replacing the Brazil midfielder in the 13th minute after he failed to run off a suspected dead leg.
The substitution of injured Watford defender Miguel Britos then punctuated the game further as both teams struggled to settle in the opening 20 minutes.
It took until four minutes before the interval for the game's first attempt on goal as Lallana's looping volley from the edge of the area cannoned off the underside of the Watford bar.
Lucas Leiva was then booked for simulation after trying to win a penalty from a Tom Cleverley challenge, but referee Craig Pawson was unmoved.
The Brazilian quickly atoned for his mishap though, floating a delightful ball forward for Can who produced an exquisite, acrobatic finish that flew past Heurelho Gomes.
A goal of the highest quality understandably boosted Liverpool in the second period, with only the reactions of Gomes, denying Divock Origi twice, preventing the visitors from doubling their lead.
But, while the Merseysiders were pursuing a second, Watford grew in confidence, Etienne Capoue's fierce 20-yard drive drawing a fingertip save from Simon Mignolet on 70 minutes.
Liverpool had the chance to wrap up the victory six minutes later but, after holding his run to latch onto Can's through pass, Lallana's shot was deflected behind.
Daniel Sturridge was introduced moments before Daryl Janmaat tried to catch a misplaced Mignolet out with a near-post shot seven minutes from time, but the Belgian recovered just in time to avoid embarrassment.
Sturridge was thwarted by a fine late save from Gomes as Watford kept their hopes of getting something from the game alive.
And Liverpool were so nearly made to pay for their profligacy as Prodl smashed a volley against the frame of the goal deep into injury time - but it wasn't to be as the Reds sealed a third consecutive away victory.
Watford: Gomes (8), Mariappa (6), Prodl (6), Britos (6), Janmaat (6), Cleverley (6), Doucoure (5), Capoue (7), Amrabat (5), Deeney (5), Niang (5).
Used subs: Success (5), Kabasele (5), Okaka (n/a).
Liverpool: Mignolet (7), Clyne (6), Matip (7), Lovren (8), Milner (7), Can (9), Lucas (6), Wijnaldum (6), Firmino (5), Origi (7), Coutinho (3).
Used subs: Sturridge (5), Klavan (n/a), Lallana (7).
Man of the Match: Emre Can