Liverpool 2-0 Watford: Reds keep top-six hopes alive
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 11/05/16 5:03pm
A much-changed Liverpool beat Watford 2-0 at Anfield on Sunday afternoon to maintain their hopes of a top-six finish.
The home side led at half-time thanks to a rare Joe Allen strike - just his second in the league this season - before substitute Roberto Firmino sealed the points with his 11th goal of the season 14 minutes from the end.
Despite remaining in eighth place in the table, the win sees the Reds move to within just two points of sixth-placed Southampton - with a game in hand on the Saints - while Watford stay 13th.
Unsurprisingly, Jurgen Klopp made eight alterations from the team that beat Villarreal to reach the Europa League final on Thursday night, with only Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno and Philippe Coutinho keeping their places.
However, unlike in last weekend's 3-1 loss at Swansea, when Klopp also made a whole raft of changes with European commitments in mind, Liverpool produced a far more cohesive display at a sun-drenched Anfield.
The hosts found it hard to carve out any real openings in the first half though, that is until they took the lead 10 minutes before half-time with their first shot on target in the game.
Allen was fouled midway in Watford's half, with Kevin Stewart quickly playing the ball to Philippe Coutinho, who in turn picked out Christian Benteke on the edge of the area.
The Belgian striker, making a rare start in attack for the Reds, then did well to cushion a lovely header right into the path of Allen, with the unmarked midfielder keeping his cool to easily slide the ball past Heurelho Gomes.
The visitors' greatest danger came from top-scorer Odion Ighalo, who while on the fringes of play before the break, really came to prominence in the second period with his side's best two chances.
However, on each occasion the Nigeria international was denied by the brilliance of Mignolet, who was only playing after back-up goalkeeper Danny Ward suffered a knee injury prior to the match.
The goalkeeper's first impressive stop came 10 minutes after the interval after Ighalo had somehow managed to wriggle free on the edge of Liverpool's box, only for Mignolet to get fingertips to his shot.
Then with time running out, Mignolet was again on hand to turn Ighalo's well-struck effort from a tight angle against the outside of the post.
By that stage, Liverpool had already doubled their lead thanks to Firmino's 76th-minute strike, although in contrast to Mignolet's impressive stops, Watford No 1 Gomes will be disappointed with his part in the goal.
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Watford left-back Ikechi Anya saw his attempted clearance charged down by Sheyi Ojo, allowing Firmino to then drive at the visitors' back four, before the Brazilian beat Gomes with a low shot that somehow made its way through his compatriot.
Liverpool: Mignolet (8), Flanagan (6), Skrtel (7), Lucas (7), Moreno (7), Allen (9), Stewart (7), Ojo (7), Coutinho (7), Ibe (6), Benteke (7)
Subs used: Firmino (8), Brannagan (7), Randall (6)
Watford: Gomes (6), Prodl (6), Cathcart (6), Britos (6), Anya (7), Abdi (7), Mario Suarez (5), Watson (6), Jurado (7), Ighalo (8), Deeney (7)
Subs used: Amrabat (6), Guedioura (6), Berghuis (6)
Man of the match: Joe Allen