Owner Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury missed this one but they will not need to be told by the club’s representatives in the directors’ box how things panned out.
Strange team selection (Craig Cathcart at right-back, anyone?), set up to avoid a stuffing and little genuine sign of the ability to rescue points from a losing position. It’s all getting a bit predictable. It’s why there will be a change in head coach this summer.
Sunk by a goal in each half from Joe Allen and Roberto Firmino, Quique Sanchez Flores will argue his side were competitive, which they were in a sense, and there is no disgrace losing to this progressive Liverpool side, one that has reached the Europa League final on a wave of optimism and thrilling, attacking football. Anfield, after all, is the ground where Liverpool have scored nine in their last three matches and are unbeaten in 11.
But this was a Liverpool side there for the taking, one to at least have a crack at with one of their eyes on the final against Sevilla. Sanchez Flores did not want a hiding here on his CV, not when he’s looking for another job. Damage limitation was fine at the Etihad, in the fourth game of the season when confidence levels were being built, but there was nothing to lose here from taking the handbrake off and having a right good go from the off.
It was a chance to build for next season, a chance to open the window into how a more progressive Watford will look in year two. But Sanchez Flores won’t be here then so the development, of the style or the younger players, doesn’t concern him.
Pozzo and Duxbury haven’t sanctioned an unprecedented spend on this team for them to play like they are a Championship team looking to pull off a giant-killing. The expectation went up when Sanchez Flores pushed forcefully for the signings of Mario Suarez and Nordin Amrabat to add to a group who were on the cusp of a European spot when they won the reverse fixture so thrillingly in December.
Watford have gone backwards since that heady afternoon, regressing at an alarming rate. Liverpool, on the other hand, have slipped through the gears and are finishing the season like a steam train. You can see where Klopp is taking this team. Watford’s path is getting more difficult to read and understand by the week.
The visitors had their moments on the counterattack here, not least when Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo rediscovered their telepathy to force Simon Mignolet to deny Ighalo a certain goal at the start of the second half. Ikechi Anya, stationed at left-back, played like a winger in the first period and Almen Abdi got as far forward as he has done all season, but the positions they took up were the ones Steven Berghuis and Amrabat were signed to occupy. Watford paid more than £10m to sign players capable of producing quality in these threatening areas.
By the time the two game-changers against Aston Villa, Berghuis and then Amrabat, came on, it was too late. The damage had been done. The initiative had been seized. Berghuis again impressed, Amrabat buzzed around with purpose.
Watford had a go for the last 25 minutes but why leave it so late? What was there to lose, apart from a bit of face and professional pride, by going down having thrown the kitchen sink at Liverpool for 90 minutes?
You always felt Liverpool had an extra gear, one they slipped into to make it two on 75 minutes through Firmino. It was a touch fortuitous but then you make your own luck in this game. Watford used most of theirs on their run to Wembley but still needed a bit here to prevent Benteke, twice, and Sheyi Ojo from inflicting a heavier defeat.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Flanagan, Skrtel, Lucas (c) Moreno; Ibe, Allen, Stewart, Countinho (Firmino 60), Ojo, Benteke. Not used: Bogdan, Toure, Sturridge, Brannagan, Randall, Chirivella.
Watford: Gomes; Anya, Cathcart, Prodl, Britos; Suarez (Guedioura 50), Watson, Abdi (Amrabat 69), Jurado (Berghuis 57); Deeney, Ighalo. Not used:Pantilimon, Nyom, Paredes, Ake.
Yellow cards: Britos, Flanagan, Berghuis
Referee: L Mason