Well, the mini unbeaten run and sequence of clean sheets was nice while it lasted.
Tommy Mooney said a Liverpool taxi driver labelled Graham Taylor’s side ‘lambs to the slaughter’ when they turned up on Merseyside in 1999. That day they weren’t, but they were certainly here as Jurgen Klopp’s free-flowing side, inspired by the majestic Philippe Coutinho, carved them apart with the sort of precision the man of the house carves the Sunday roast. This was payback, with interest, for the going-over Watford gave the Reds at Vicarage Road last season.
Liverpool were a joy to watch going forward and it will take a good side to prevent them from winning the title but, boy, did Watford give them a helping hand. Their defending was absolutely pathetic as they allowed Christmas to come early for Liverpool’s sprightly and sparkling forwards. Too many threw the towel in. Watford will need every day of the the two-week international break to get over this one. If you thought Burnley was bad, double it and add a bit more.
Watford wore white and then raised the white flag on an afternoon where nobody emerged with a semblance of credit. And just to compound matters, Heurelho Gomes limped off with a knee injury while Jose Holebas will miss the next game through suspension. Everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong for Watford.
It is difficult to know if Walter Mazzarri could have done too much to alter the outcome of the game but, on reflection, he could have used Ben Watson as a screen to protect his weakened and new-look back four. Etienne Capoue and Roberto Pereyra were simply passengers and, in hindsight, Watson would have been a better bet.
There was a stage, in the first half, when Liverpool were rattling along at a chance a minute. It took Liverpool 27 minutes to score the inevitable opener and once they did, it opened the floodgates for a spell of five in 30 minutes either side of half-time.
Sadio Mane, one of the smallest men on the pitch, flicked in the first; Countiho drove in the second; Emre Can benefited from some non-existent far-post defending to nod in the third; Adam Lallana teed up the fourth for Roberto Firmino who then, in turn, laid the fifth on a plate for Mane. It was then just a question of how many the Reds would get. For Watford, it was damage limitation.
Klopp took pity on Watford by withdrawing Mane and Lallana and that, together with the introduction of Watson, at least stemmed the tide – thank goodness.
Belatedly, Watford started to emerge as an attacking force and Loris Karius produced two good saves to deny Capoue, the second arriving from Watford’s move of the match, before Daryl Janmaat finally found a way past him with a composed left-foot finish. It at least gave the away fans, who stuck with their team, something to finally cheer about.
At the other end, Daniel Sturridge hit the woodwork twice and forced a smart low save from Costel Pantilimon as Liverpool went in search of a sixth. It eventually came when Georginio Wijnaldum was quickest to react to a parry from Pantilimon. The final blast of the referee’s whistle came as a relief.
Liverpool: Karius, Clyne, Matip, Lucas, Milner, Lallana (Sturridge 71), Henderson, Can, Mané (Wijnaldum 63), Firmino. Coutinho (Ejaria 87)
Watford: Gomes (Pantilimon 33) Janmaat, Kaboul, Britos, Holebas, Amrabat, Behrami (Watsonat 61), Capoue, Pereyra (Zuniga 86), Ighalo, Deeney