Mohammed Salah scored twice as Premier League leaders Liverpool battled to victory over strugglers Watford in Nigel Pearson’s first game in charge.
Salah curled the ball into the far corner for the opener before flicking in a late second in the final minute of normal time at Anfield.
Watford missed chances in both halves, while Liverpool’s Sadio Mane had a header ruled out for offside following a review by the video assistant referee (VAR).
Liverpool remain unbeaten in the league this season, while Watford are six points – and with a substantial goal difference to overturn – adrift of safety.
The Reds were made to work for their victory though – goalkeeper Alisson making smart saves after the break, while Watford’s Ismaila Sarr also wasted a huge chance.
Salah squandered opportunities of his own too, but Liverpool did enough to pick up their 16th victory of the season and open up a 10-point gap at the top, with second-placed Leicester being held at home by Norwich later on Saturday.
It was not pretty, but once again Liverpool got the job done.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have made Anfield a fortress and it was clear from the start that they were going to dominate possession and break Watford down.
A long ball over the top from Virgil van Dijk almost set Salah on his way within minutes of the starting whistle and Roberto Firmino could have scored shortly after, pouncing on a loose ball on the edge of the area.
But the chances were few for Liverpool in a first half that saw Watford defend in numbers and remain compact.
Watford had chances on the break but did not take them – Will Hughes dragging a shot wide and Etienne Capoue having an effort blocked in the box.
In the end, it was Liverpool who capitalised with a break of their own – Firmino, Mane and Salah combining for the opener.
Sarr missed a golden opportunity to equalise five minutes later, and Alisson was kept on his toes as he made two smart close-range saves early in the second half.
The Anfield crowd, who were frustrated at times by a lack of intensity and sloppiness, grew anxious as the game wore on – Van Dijk almost passing the ball into his own net following a mix up with Alisson and Trent Alexander-Arnold being caught out of possession on the right.
But the European champions, who are chasing a first league title in 30 years, were carrying winning momentum and victory here at Anfield leaves them heading into the new year with a healthy lead at the top of the table. – BBC