Carlsberg, Liverpool’s former sponsors, don’t do pre-Christmas home wins over Liverpool but if they did, they would probably look like this.
Two goals in a riotous, scarcely believable first 15 minutes paved the way for a fourth straight win, which was clinched by a second from Ighalo which put the cherry on the most sumptuous of cakes. It was a three points that moved this trailblazing Watford team to within one point of Manchester United, yes, the same United who have been the dominant side of the Premier League. This really is pinch yourself time. The Christmas turkey will taste particularly sweet for Watford fans on Friday. These are heady, dizzy times to be a fan of this club.
“We’re just too good for you,” chorused the disbelieving Watford fans.
Seasoned Watford fans thought the 2-0 win over West Ham United was one of the best performances they had seen in recent memory. Scratch that. However well you thought Watford played against the Hammers, double it and then add a bit more and you might come close to how the Hornets played here, particularly in a barnstorming first half. Forget the gegenpress, Liverpool had no answer to a hungrier, livelier, more inventive and determined home side who played with no shortage of skill. Watford out-Klopped Klopp.
Nathan Ake set the tone for a masterclass at left-back with the opener inside 180 seconds, Odion Ighalo shoved Martin Skrtel out the way for his 11th of the season and, as Paul Robinson said on the pitch at half time, it could have been more. It was a good game for Simon Mignolet to miss and one his replacement, Adam Bogdan, will have nightmares about. The goalkeeper was like a rabbit caught in the headlights as Watford tested his mental fortitude at every conceivable opportunity. Indeed, the Hornets looked like scoring every time Ben Watson swung in a corner.
Liverpool were rattled. Klopp was having kittens on the sidelines, Alberto Moreno lashed out at Allan Nyom, Jordan Henderson barked at an assistant referee and Skrtel limped off before the break after being bullied and battered by the most feared strike pairing in the division.
The Hornets went down the tunnel at half time to the sort of ovation you normally get at the end of a game. The momentum and atmosphere was continued during the break by an impromptu appearance of Robinson, the left-back who has cult status at his adopted home. How he would have loved to be part of a such a high-energy team.
It was always going to be tough for Watford to play with the same intensity level in the second period as they did in the first, and so it proved. Liverpool threatened briefly, through Moreno and Divock Origi, yet it was Watford who fashioned the first chance when Ighalo found himself one-v-one after a lovely turn of foot from Jose Manuel Jurado. You would have put your mortgage on him scoring but Bogdan went some way to redeeming himself with an instinctive, reflex save.
A virtual bystander at the other end, Heurelho Gomes was not to be outdone and he showed his agility by tipping a rising half volley over the bar from Henderson. The Brazilian was at it again to thwart Emre Can, the one Liverpool player who kept calm amid the chaos the Hornets caused.
Sanchez Flores loves his team getting their nose in front so he can close the game out with the clever use of his substitutes. He did it here by bringing on Ikechi Anya to counter the pace of Jordan Ibe and then replacing Almen Abdi, who ran his socks off, with Valon Berhami.
And it was Behrami, the man with a reputation as a spoiler, who showed his creative side by teeing up Ighalo to head in the third. Cue absolute bedlam.
“We are going on a European tour,” chorused the delirious home fans. They might be right if this carries on.