I’m not entirely sure what the right word is for today’s performance – professional? Effective? Efficient? Because it certainly wasn’t exciting or inspiring. All games at this stage of the season are tricky, and especially so against teams like Watford who are capable of – and are – fighting for their lives.
City aren’t going to have a stroll at Turf Moor later today, either.
The stat line suggests that Liverpool was dominant, and in certain, expected ways they were, like holding the ball through a patient probing and recycling process. But you can tell what kind of game it was by looking at the ratio of on-target attempts to the overall; the Reds had three (of twenty), and scored two. Watford had two (of five), could have scored both, and a couple of their misses were pretty darn close as well. We know they can sting, the Hornets.
Thankfully, it didn’t happen today.
It began to feel like it might in the closing stages. Jota’s sublime headed flick in the first half off a marvelous, Trent-like cross from Joe Gomez, was all that stood between the teams, and Watford rightly seemed to feel like they could do something. The crowd at Anfield was quiet, perhaps in part due to this being a lunchtime game, but as a fan of four and a half decades, I could share the anxiety through the TV. Which is why it was such a nice surprise to have VAR intervene appropriately for once, catching a legit pro-wrestling move by Kucka on Diogo Jota on another fruitless corner. Fabinho, who had a pretty dramatic impact on the game after he came on for a mostly aimless Curtis Jones, grabbed a sixth in ten, a nice return for the Brazilian who is continuing to cement a reputation as one of the very best in the defensive midfielding business. Great penalty it was, too, as Ben Foster totally guessed it right and leaped well, and the ball still blasted yards away from him into the top corner.
Thinking back to the recent League Cup final, it’s clear that the boys have been spending some serious time in training hitting them from the spot.
With VAR doing well, a welcome rarity, it only remains to identify a player who did the same. Today it wasn’t much of a contest, and for once I completely agree with the TV commentators. Thiago pretty much ruled the roost, doing all the things, and he somehow got even better once Fabinho came on, until the last few minutes when he looked gassed from the effort. We appreciate that kind of effort here, and the Spaniard earned his man-of-the-match award from me – and I would be shocked if not the official one as well.
Winning ten in a row in the premier league is a serious achievement for any team at any moment. That it was absolutely essential to put the Reds on top, even if only for a couple of hours, is testament to the quality of their main opposition. No matter how this turns out, it’s a lovely time to be a football fan, and to watch Liverpool and City go at it.
Still, I’d feel a whole lot better if we went into next weekend still on top. So, uhh… Sean Dyche and the Clarets, make us proud!