Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

Jurgen Klopp stays cool after Liverpool smash Watford to restate title credentials

German manager’s team emerged from an underwhelming run of form to stay top of the Premier League

Fans take photographs of the Liverpool players after Virgil van Dijk scores the fifth goal against Watford. EPA
Fans take photographs of the Liverpool players after Virgil van Dijk scores the fifth goal against Watford. EPA

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he would not “have a heart attack” worrying about Manchester City’s ominous form as he basked in his side’s 5-0 pummelling of Watford on Wednesday.

Klopp’s team emerged from an underwhelming run of form, which had brought three draws in four league matches, to stay top of the Premier League.

Sadio Mane scored twice in the first 20 minutes, with his second a well-improvised backheel, and centre-back Virgil van Dijk headed two late goals after Divock Origi had added a third.

It was an impressive showing from a team missing their central striker Roberto Firmino because of an ankle injury, with Mane moving into the middle to deliver a fine performance as Origi came in on the left.

Liverpool had to win to maintain their one-point lead at the top of the table, as closest challengers City defeated West Ham 1-0 with a Sergio Aguero penalty.

Both sides have 10 matches left to play, and it is increasingly likely that Liverpool’s attempt to win their first English league title since 1990 will go to the very end of the season.

Klopp, though, said he would not waste energy thinking about City’s results.

“I only know that it was 1-0,” he said. “The only thing we can do is play football and win games. It’s not like I go in the dressing room and somebody tells me the (Manchester City) result and I have a heart attack.

“It’s a normal thing. If you’re at the top of the table, it’s pretty likely that the other contenders win.

“That’s the only advantage you have when you fight to stay in the league, actually, because the other teams lose a bit more often than they do in our fight.

“I didn’t think about it (City’s result against West Ham) but to be honest, it’s what I expected.”

Right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold provided a hat-trick of assists, beginning by delivering the cross from which Mane headed Liverpool in front in the ninth minute.

It was his ball in from the right that set up the second in the 20th minute too, a goal that Klopp admitted he did not see as the other players on the pitch obstructed his view.

Mane looked to be struggling to control the ball and found himself facing the wrong way, but improvised a backheel to score as Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster came out to try to block.

After Origi had cut in from the left to drive a third goal between the unsighted Foster and his near post with about 25 minutes left, Alexander-Arnold was involved again as Liverpool finished the match in style.

It was the right-back’s free-kick that an unmarked Van Dijk rose to head in with 11 minutes left. The Dutch centre-back then nodded in Liverpool’s fifth from Andy Robertson’s cross just thee minutes later.

For Klopp, it was the perfect response to the criticism his team had faced after successive goalless draws, against Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, and at Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday.

The Liverpool manager said: “This was a really fantastic football game. I am really happy for the boys because they deserved it so much.

“We drew against Bayern and United and everybody talks about... well, I don’t know exactly what you talk about -- different things that I really don’t understand.

“Tonight we were stable and really fluent offensively. It’s a really good example of how football should look, and let’s try to do it again and again.”

Watford, who dropped to eighth place after the defeat, offered little attacking threat, although substitute Andre Gray was denied by two excellent second-half saves by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson.

Updated: February 28, 2019 05:19 AM

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