Merseysiders start the new season with a frustrating 3-3 draw at Watford…
After an encouraging pre-season in which they had conceded just four goals in eight outings, including keeping four clean sheets, it was a familiar story for Liverpool on Saturday lunchtime as frailties at the back undermined them in the club’s 2017/18 Premier League opener at Watford.
It took just eight minutes for the hosts to exploit Liverpool’s omnipresent set-piece, zonal marking issues as an unmarked Stefano Okaka headed home from a corner.
Sadio Mané brilliantly pulled the visitors, who had been second best throughout the opening exchanges, level shortly before the half hour mark but parity lasted just two minutes and 41 seconds before the men in red short themselves in the foot once more.
Abdoulaye Doucouré was the beneficiary on this occasion as Liverpool’s slapstick defending gifted him a tap-in from five yards out.
Thankfully Jürgen Klopp‘s side were much improved after the break, going forward at least, as the pace, movement and directness of Mané, debutant Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino began to combine with regularity and to devastating affect.
The latter two were at the heart of a blistering spell in which Liverpool overturned their deficit to take a 2-3 lead with two goals in two minutes.
First Salah won a penalty against Hornets keeper Heurelho Gomes, which Firmino cooly dispatched, then Firmino raced away down the left and lofted the ball over Gomes for Salah to bundle home from close range.
Numerous chances to tie-up a victory in Klopp’s 100th competitive game as Reds boss came and went and somewhat predictably they were made to pay when Miguel Britos capitalised on a Georginio Wijnaldum mistake to rescue a point in injury time.
Replays later showed the goal was marginally offside but Watford probably deserved to take something from the contest on the balance of the 90 minutes.
Analysing the outcome at his post-match press conference, a philosophical Klopp conceded there was plenty for him and his players to work on.
“Everything is different in a league game than a pre-season game,” remarked the German. “I was not happy in the first half with the situation; it was very physical and Watford were too often the winners in these situations.
“They didn’t create too much with it, but scored two goals. The first one, in our specific situation everyone will say it was clear because it was a set-piece, but it was a good cross and a good run. One of [our players] didn’t close the gap so he could not run. We have to work on it, no doubt.
“The second goal was unlucky and a formation problem. Alberto [Moreno] lost the challenge, which can happen obviously – maybe it was a foul or not, I’m not sure – there was a gap open, they played a pass and I thought it was offside, I’m not sure if it was. They passed the ball in our box, we defended the first time but then struck the ball against our own legs so that makes it a little bit unlucky.
“We had more chances, especially after set-pieces, with very good crosses, good headers and they were lucky in these situations and we were extremely unlucky.
“Then we scored two wonderful goals in the second half, it was really good, we had our moments and then we conceded an offside goal. That’s really not fun, it’s difficult to accept. It feels not too good, but we know we can do better and have to do better – that’s what I told the boys.”
Liverpool are in action again on Tuesday night when the first leg of their Champions League play-off with Hoffenheim takes place at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena.
So that’s what both us and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below…
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