Liverpool vs Watford. Premier League.
Match report as Diogo Jota scores his 20th goal of the season to seal victory for Liverpool as they go top of the league; Fabinho adds second-half penalty against relegation-threatened Watford
Saturday 2 April 2022 21:03, UK
Liverpool beat Watford 2-0 at Anfield to move top of the Premier League for a couple of hours, with Diogo Jota and Fabinho on the scoresheet.
Jota scored his seventh header for Liverpool, more than any other player has scored in the league since his Reds debut, with Joe Gomez to thank for a perfectly measured cross from the right which the Portuguese glanced past Ben Foster.
Fabinho made no mistake from the penalty spot late on to ensure Liverpool, who were 14 points adrift in January, temporarily moved two points ahead of Manchester City before Pep Guardiola's side won at Burnley.
The visitors' desperate need for points was evident in the first period, with presentable chances for both Cucho Hernandez and Juraj Kucka created prior to Jota's goal, but Alisson was equal to both efforts.
But the task was a tall order for visitors who have not won at Anfield since 1999, and Liverpool duly notched their 10th successive league win to dislodge the reigning champions at the top.
The result meant Jurgen Klopp celebrated his 250th game in charge with his side reaching the league's summit for the first time since December 4 - albeit only for two hours.
Liverpool, who have already won this season's League Cup and are still fighting on three remaining fronts, now turn their attention to Tuesday's Champions League meeting with Benfica.
They then face Manchester City on Sunday in a mouthwatering top-of-the-table clash, live on Sky Sports.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaking to BT Sport:
Asked whether it was the kind of game he predicted, Klopp said: "It was exactly like that. Everybody wants an analysis of the game, I will not deliver that, I'm not interested today because we had to get through this.
"A big compliment to Watford and especially Roy [Hodgson], who when we'll bring him back when he's 80 will still set up and organise a team in a really good way.
"They defended the spaces really well and we could've definitely done better, but it's not too interesting today. We needed maturity and desire.
"The counter-press was the best I've seen for a long time, but with the ball we could've been slightly more creative offering more runs in behind.
"We scored the two goals, controlled the game in other parts and needed Alisson once, and that's it."
Watford boss Roy Hodgson speaking to BT Sport:
"I think there was a lot to admire in the performance. I'm a little bit saddened by that VAR penalty decision at the end because there was no appeal from any Liverpool player for a penalty.
"Jurgen and I had no idea what they were checking or what they were doing. I don't really think that is what VAR is about. VAR has done some good things this season, but it's not about giving a team a second goal in the 88th minute.
"To some extent, destroying a feeling we might have had that 1-0 up, we might have created a chance or so in that last few minutes. That's the only sad note for me.
"I am very pleased with the players' performance. I don't think we could have done so much more than we did today."
"You don't go to Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea and these sorts of clubs all the time. Today's performance gives me some sort of heart. There's no doubt today, it wasn't a walk in the park for Liverpool.
"We can consider ourselves a little bit unfortunate that some of the work we did didn't result in us coming away with something."
The 25-year-old spearheaded Liverpool's attack and was their biggest threat following an unusually quiet afternoon for the returning Mo Salah - who failed to register a single shot on target.
Taking his personal tally to 20 goals in all competitions, the Portuguese headed what looked to be the game's deciding goal, before a VAR review awarded Liverpool a penalty late on.
That was despatched emphatically by Fabinho, who was well partnered in midfield by Thiago - also a contender for the Man of the Match award after controlling the middle of the park well.
Liverpool are in Champions League action on Tuesday as they go to Portugal to face Benfica in the first leg of their quarter-final; 8pm kick-off. Then on Sunday April 10 it is a potential title-decider at the Etihad as Liverpool go to Manchester City live on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off at 4.30pm.
Watford have two crucial relegation clashes coming up as they host Leeds on Saturday, April 9 and then face Brentford at home on April 16. Both of those matches are 3pm kick-offs.