Liverpool – Watford 5 – 0
Chris Brereton at Anfield
This is getting ridiculous. In a season containing nearly as many superlative descriptions as goals scored, Mohamed Salah continued to write his own Liverpool destiny with four superb finishes in a personal performance at Anfield that was as complete and as ruthless as anything this famous stadium has seen down the decades.
Watford will have returned home last night wondering how they were on the end of such a sobering scoreline. They were by no means a shambles. Yet, in sport, ability generally finds a way of shining through and Salah’s class is so clearcut, so emphatic and so enjoyable that he is comfortably the Premier League’s most attractive sight at present.
The really frightening thing was he barely broke sweat – his goals completely dismantled Watford yet he maintained a relaxed, smiley air throughout.
Two of his goals carried the same jinking manner and positional nous as that displayed by Lionel Messi, and Jürgen Klopp noted that Salah’s form this season is making comparisons between the two increasingly valid.
“I think Mo is on the way [to being the best in the world],” Klopp said. “In a way that’s good. I don’t think Mo or anybody else wants to be compared with Lionel Messi. He is the one who is doing what he’s doing for what feels like 20 years or so.
“The last player [before Messi] I know who had the same influence on a team performance was Diego Maradona, another Argentinian. Mo is in a fantastic way, that’s for sure. As it always is in life if you have to have the skills, you have to show that constantly. Consistently he is very good and he helps us a lot.
“Conditions were difficult. It was obviously slippery and everybody suffered, but not Mo in that situation. It was really special.”
The joie de vivre that Salah both played with and provoked was evident from as early as the third minute when he gave Liverpool a lead they never once looked like losing.
Salah’s remarkable season began with a goal against Watford on the opening day of the campaign, and it continued with aplomb here as he latched onto a Sadio Mané ball, bamboozled Miguel Britos to such an extent that he eventually fell over, and then calmly threaded past Orestis Karnezis.
The goal meant Watford’s parsimonious gameplan lay in tatters but, to their credit, they did manage to keep Liverpool relatively quiet for the remainder of the first half – although Roberto Firmino was denied what would have been a stunning second goal when his 20-yard shot was superbly stopped by Karnezis.
Liverpool would not be denied for long, though. Just before the break they again swarmed forward and when the ebullient and rock-steady Andy Robertson delivered a pinpoint cross to Salah in the middle of the six-yard box, the Egyptian could not miss.
After the restart Liverpool’s attacking prowess became ever more concentrated, never more so than when Firmino backheeled in a cross from close range to make it 3-0 after 49 minutes.
Who provided the cross? The scorer of the first two goals – indeed Salah was the answer to virtually every question as he continued to expunge all memories of his difficult afternoon at Old Trafford the previous Saturday.
The horrendous conditions then played their part in the second half flattening out, but even that will have pleased Klopp. There were few of the defensive wobbles here that have so often punctured his side’s self-belief, and little complacency was to be found. Aided and abetted by Watford’s reluctance to try anything remotely attacking, Liverpool consolidated and then smelt further blood in the water.
With 13 minutes remaining, Salah sealed his hat-trick as he somehow managed to thread the ball into the back of the net while simultaneously falling over. When he thrashed home his fourth, and his side’s fifth, from 10 yards out with five minutes left, his afternoon was complete.
“We know we play against one of the best teams in Europe at this moment and they were much better than us,” Javi Gracia said of his Watford team afterwards. It was just about the only thing the visitors got right all day.
Salah, now with 36 goals to his name for his club this season, can do no wrong.