Egyptian winger scores on debut but Britos' 93rd-minute header ensures share of the spoils at Vicarage Road.
Late Miguel Britos equaliser denies Mohamed Salah winning start to Liverpool career
Watford 2 Liverpool 3
Watford: Okaka (8'), Doucoure (32'), Britos (90+3')
Liverpool: Mane (29'), Firmino (55' pen), Salah (57')
Two games in, 13 goals scored. If the Premier League continues at this rate of scoring, the season’s tally would in excess to 3,000, and while that isn’t going to happen, it is apparent from both games so far that attacking football and brittle defending are likely to be the dominant themes
Following an unhappy week for Liverpool, during which their talismanic Brazilian Philippe Coutinho put in a transfer request as Barcelona intensified their pursuit of the £90 million (Dh427m) playmaker, this game at Vicarage Road offered the club the chance to mark manager Jurgen Klopp’s 100th game in charge with an emphatic victory.
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However Watford, playing their first Premier League game under new manager Marco Silva and invigorated by a summer’s worth of good business in the transfer market, had failed to read that script and claimed the lead after just eight minutes when Italian international Stefano Okaka headed home from a corner, shrugging off the attentions of his marker, Roberto Firmino.
The home side remained comfortable for the next 20 minutes, as Liverpool showed little penetration and Watford continued to press, forcing goalkeeper Simon Mignolet into a hasty clearance of the ball after 26 minutes. But two minutes later the visitors struck.
A delightful Liverpool passing move ended with Emre Can threading a delicate through ball to Sadio Mane who clipped then the ball past Heurelho Gomes with the inside of his right foot.
Parity only lasted for two minutes before Watford surged back into the lead. Breaking from the halfway line, new signing Tom Cleverley crossed from the right at pace and while it appeared that Okaka was initially offside he wasn’t interfering with play, which left midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure an easy ball to stab home past Mignolet.
Liverpool’s most costly summer signing, Mohamed Salah, who came in from Roma for £34m, was gradually working his way into the game, and had a wonderful chance to level on 37 minutes when he took the ball past the Watford defence on the left to find himself one on one with Gomes, but he skied the ball over the crossbar.
The Egyptian winger had another chance on the stroke of half time, but shot off target, while Mane also squandered an opportunity deep in added time when he headed wide.
Salah continued to make his presence felt early in the second half, again shooting wide on the 47th minute. And six minutes later, he made his first substantial contribution to the Liverpool cause when he induced a challenge in the box from Gomes which was a clear-cut penalty. Firmino atoned for his earlier defensive lapse by stroking the ball into the left hand side of the net.
Within minutes, Liverpool led at last, when Firmino broke the offside track and set off down the left wing. His chip over the stranded Watford keeper but the ball looked set to bounce out until Salah put the icing on the cake of his debut by bundling the ball for his first competitive goal for the club.
The visitors then looked to put the game beyond reach, and saw a shot from Firmino tipped over and Joel Matip’s header from the resulting corner hitting the bar with Gomes nowhere to be seen. Liverpool’s increasing confidence saw two chances go begging for Salah, who was replaced by James Milner on 85 minutes.
However Watford had the last laugh during the five minutes of extra time, when a corner from the right found its way into the back of the net via Mignolet’s glove, the crossbar, and Miguel Britos’s head. Substitute Richarlison, who Watford beat AC Milan and Chelsea to sign over summer, could have made it even better for the home side but headed wide from a good position as the seconds slipped by.
Watford will be happy to have stopped the slump that saw them lose the last six games of the 2016/17 season, but the unhappiness will continue for Liverpool who will find it hard to persuade Coutinho that they have title-winning credentials after failing to see off a relative Premier League minnow.
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