The high note upon which Liverpool was supposed to end 2015 has suddenly gone flat.
Liverpool lost 3-0 to Watford in the Premier League on Sunday at Vicarage Road. The defeat was Liverpool’s second consecutive setback in league play and extended its winless run to four games in all competitions.
The momentum Liverpool built up with impressive wins in October and November has all but disappeared.
The Reds sit ninth in the Premier League standings with 24 points after 17 games.
Watford now has won four consecutive games. It moves up to seventh with 28 points from 17 games.
By the time Liverpool turned up, it was already too late.
The Reds fell behind in just the third minute when goalkeeper Adam Bogdan bobbled his way into controversy, then infamy in his league debut for Liverpool. He first failed to catch a corner kick cleanly. Watford’s Nathan Ake then appeared to kick the ball out of Bogdan’s grasp before slotting his shot into the goal from 2 yards out — all in the blink of an eye. Bogdan pleaded for a foul. The referee awarded the goal.
Liverpool didn’t respond well to Watford’s early strike. The hosts had had self belief, roaring support and a red-hot striker in Odion Ighalo, who doubled their lead in the 15th minute.
Troy Deeny set up his strike partner Ighalo with a diagonal ball into space. Ighalo sprinted onto Deeny’s delivery, held off Martin Skrtel and beat Bogdan with an arrowed shot inside of the far post.
Liverpool sunk even deeper as the half progressed. It had most of the possession, but Watford had the initiative.
Bogdan was lacking assurance inside his penalty area, and Mamadou Sakho wasn’t at his best physically, having hustled back from a knee injury. Sakho’s partner, Martin Skrtel, then limped off in the 41st minute with back and hamstring problems, forcing Jurgen Klopp to move Lucas Leiva into the back for and insert Divock Origi into the forward line.
Klopp’s changes didn’t work, as Watford had a fourth consecutive win in its sights.
Liverpool improved in the second half. It created more chances than before, but Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes seemed intent on keeping his shutout intact. The Brazilian denied Origi’s early effort as well as Emre Can’s and Jordan Henderson’s midway through the period.
Watford was closing in on a comfortable victory when Ighalo struck in the 85th minute to make it an emphatic one. Valon Behrami lofted a cross into the goal-mouth for Ighalo, who headed past Bogdan from impossibly close range.
We meant it when we said Ighalo is red hot. His good form started in the Championship (English second division) in the second half of last season and continued in the Premier League in the first half of this term.
Liverpool is one of English soccer’s traditional powers. Newly promoted Watford is not.
But the teams turned history upside down Sunday.
Liverpool hosts league leader Leicester City on Saturday at Anfield. Of the 10 Boxing Day games in the Premier League this season, Liverpool-Leicester likely will garner the most attention.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@premierleague