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Watford 0 Liverpool 3 (24/11/2018) 25/11/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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1- In the dark, sweaty labyrinth of online messageboards the WSC forum is a relatively intelligent, sane, consistent place to hide.  Topics for discussion are broad, the audience relatively well-informed.

One particular discussion took root in my memory and has remained there, though it may be as many as ten years old.  The instigator of the discussion was an Italian, who asked for insight about the supporters of English clubs.  He explained that whilst he was familiar with the triumphs, the colours, the squads, the detail of the Premier League he didn’t, having never lived in England, have an intuitive feel for what supporters of the clubs were like.  He couldn’t characterise them, didn’t have the same feel that he had for the Italian football landscape and asked for help.

“Liverpool fans”, he was advised, “expect you to prostrate yourself on the altar of their Liverpoolness”.  Harsh.  But, you know.  Not completely without foundation.  The Liverpool fan who repeatedly berated BSaD for lack of respect during our balloon-laden League Cup semi-final visit in 2005 on what “should have been the biggest day in your club’s history” springs to mind.  I must confess that this mantra, rather than merely reflecting a core of truth, has a tendency to form the basis of pre-judgement on meeting Liverpool fans.  That’s probably neither fair nor healthy.

Can’t be avoided, however, that whilst we weren’t regularly getting 20,000 crowds when we were in the second tier there are an awful lot of people here who were there then, and would be again should fate turn against us.  You know who they are, who you are.  Faces that you see every time you visit, they’d be here for Rotherham or (shudder) Ipswich as readily as for the likes of Liverpool.  A fact perhaps lost on whoever adorned the livery of Liverpool’s club coach, arriving after 1.30 and holding up entry to Occupation Road with its redded-out windows bearing the slogan “Liverpool FC:   This Means More”.  What? More than what? What means more?  Banal twaddle.  Another anecdote:  I’m reminded of erstwhile Reds keeper Sander Westerweld’s response to scousers stopping him in the street and telling him that being an outsider, he didn’t “understand the passion!“.   “Oh f*** off.”

2- The side’s a bit good though, in fairness.  Our approach to handling this seems, as ever, hugely sensible;  the dynamic Capoue back for Chalobah, Troy’s leadership in for Isaac Success and Adam Masina’s discipline in for Jose Holebas.

And we start well.  This is a high water mark in several respects;  the game is never less than engrossing but doesn’t quite live up to the sizzling promise of the opening five or ten minutes, and our disciplined and largely successful insistence upon playing out from the back, on playing our way out of tight corners doesn’t last much longer.  Nonetheless, there’s huge encouragement as Gerard Deulofeu is slipped through and finishes well.  He’s offside, but not by very much.  Later Roberto Pereyra finds an opening and shovels a shot at goal that Alisson propels wide.

As the half progresses though, the pattern is very much one of Watford playing a containment game – squeezing up the midfield and leaving little space for a ball through or over the top to the scuttling Salah or Mané.  Very effective it was too, for the most part, though Daughter 1’s comment that for all Liverpool’s possession and the repetitive “here we are again” of their passing hither and thither in search of an opening we’d had the better chances served to prompt a flurry from the visitors. Wijnaldum swung a boot at a clear shot on goal, Mané swivelled athletically to force a fine save from Foster, Salah ghosted in late and unattended to head a corner inside the bottom corner until Foster, impossibly, clawed it out.  A concerted effort to snatch an advantage before the break, we just about held it together.

3- Of particular interest were a couple of ongoing duels.  The first of these is a regular highlight, that of Virgil van Dijk and Troy Deeney;  Troy has been vocal about van Dijk being his toughest opponent, and the Dutchman has come out on top more often than not since our first trip to Southampton on promotion.  Here, Troy was isolated for the most part but competed well and relished the challenge.

Elsewhere, Will Hughes and Andy Robertson were at hammer and tongs up and down our right flank.  Robertson was a regular threat, more than once arriving late to supplement a reds attack but the two largely kept each other in check.  There was an element of stalemate, that we had Liverpool’s number but couldn’t afford to make a mistake and weren’t really threatening terribly much.  We needed to concentrate and trust to our luck, we needed the breaks and we didn’t get them.  A critical point came when Hughes stole a march on Robertson and drew a challenge from him inside the area.  This wasn’t a stonewall penalty like the Bertrand/Chalobah nonsense at Southampton two weeks ago, even on a replay it’s not completely clear cut but it was probably a foul and it wasn’t unreasonable to hope that fate would decide in our favour.  She didn’t.

The final confrontation came between Isaac Success, on as a bustling, positive, disruptive sub for the slightly underwhelming Deulofeu, and Jordan Henderson who often found himself isolated against the Nigerian and unable to cope with the challenge.  Booked for a foul within minutes of the Nigerian’s introduction he gave Jonathon Moss several opportunities to send him off with inexplicably stroppy, pointless fouls before finally getting his marching orders for a hack at Capoue on the halfway line.

4- All the more bizarre from Liverpool’s captain given that the Reds were two up by this stage.  The Hornets had another decision go against them in Liverpool’s right back position and from there Liverpool broke, Robertson delivering a ball that Salah snapped up, the critical decisive point in the game.  Having kept us alive in the first half Ben Foster didn’t cover himself with glory here, but the margins are fine.  The fact is we did very well for the most of the match, employing a strategy that really wasn’t very far at all from working, but that failed at the last against superior opposition.  No shame in that.

Unfortunate, however, that there’s so little difference between a 0-0 and a 3-0 defeat against a side of this quality, since the game rapidly ran away from us as we tried to regain a foothold.  Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose uncle was Watford’s club secretary not so very long ago, pinged a free kick into the top corner deceiving the goalkeeper before the Hornets were luckless again, Firmino scuttling in a third after Foster had made another fine stop to deny the initial shot.  Firmino would have been offside but for the prone Femenía, stranded on the other side of the pitch having slid in on a challenge earlier in the move.

5- So the first of two home games in ten days against ostensibly the strongest clubs in the country.  Beaten fair and square, but the scoreline doesn’t do justice to our performance which was better than that, or to the strategy selected which asked a lot of us but wasn’t a million miles from earning a result.  Good decisions don’t guarantee good outcomes, it’s difficult to conceive of an approach that would have had a better chance of success.

Once again, we’re left to reflect that if we’re disappointed at losing to a top side we’ve come a long way.  Still top half, deservedly top half, we shouldn’t let this knock us out of our stride.  There’s so much to like about this team.

Yooorns.

Foster 3, Femenía 3, Masina 3, Cathcart 4, Mariappa 4, Hughes 4, *Doucouré 5*, Capoue 4, Pereyra 3, Deulofeu 3, Deeney 3

Subs: Success (for Deulofeu, 57) 4, Gray (for Hughes, 75) 2, Chalobah, Navarro, Quina, Kabasele, Gomes

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Comments»

1. Roger Smith - 25/11/2018

“…it was probably a foul and it wasn’t unreasonable to hope that fate would decide in our favour.”

With one J Moss in the middle, that was totally unreasonable.

Matt Rowson - 25/11/2018

😊. Literally in the middle. His indolence was his biggest crime for me… he told Liverpool to get on with it countless times and they nodded and ignored him because they knew he’d do nothing about it

Robert Hill - 25/11/2018

Agreed totally. The bigger clubs seem to get away with certain fouls but not the lesser clubs. No question that Liverpool were worthy winners but in my opinion they do get help. Arsenal got some at Bournemouth today, and I say that with a heavy heart. For me I’ve enjoyed our seasons this time around in the Premier League, but there is a sympathy with the bigger clubs from the officials. It’s impossible to question it as it seems one would be ridiculed at the thought of it not being given to them. Saturday took me back to the aggression at the Vic in the 6th Round replay where Rush trailed his back leg as if he had been struck by lightening, when a Watford player wasn’t with 2 yards of him. That has always stayed with and that moment took all the respect of Liverpool away from me. Nothing has changed because I’m sure they get help from their pressured presence. We have to accept it because we can’t do anything else.

Matt Rowson - 25/11/2018

Milford. Now there was a properly horrible ref.

2. PEDantic - 25/11/2018

Despite the problems he caused Henderson, I was quite disappointed with Success. Unlike with Gray, I always feel there’s a good player in there somewhere but it rarely seems to surface. Deulofeu is always going to be inconsistent but we never really looked threatening after he went off. A striker is still a priority, I think.

As for Liverpool, it struck me that their build-up from the back is quite slow. They seem to rely on the speed of thought and foot of their front three once they approach the penalty area to create their chances. I wonder if this will be their downfall when they play the very best teams at home and in Europe?

3. Harefield Hornet - 25/11/2018

From my seat I thought the decision to award the free kick that led to their second goal was extremely harsh. It was a 50-50 challenge at worst
and if anything it was Maps who was fouled initialy in the tussle. Fine margins despite them dominating possession. If the penalty had been awarded this match could easily have headed in another direction. Now what approach do we take after Leicester against Man City – the same strategy? Or just go for broke and throw ourselves at them? Nothing to lose surely?

Matt Rowson - 25/11/2018

Didn’t see the incident clearly, will look again. But fine margins yes, finer than the scoreline suggests.

Not sure I agree about nothing to lose, we could have been properly hammered had we played an open game.

No Maddison for Leicester

Harefield Hornet - 25/11/2018

Agreed but against Man City we usually get hammered anyway whatever we do so perhaps we should just go hung ho and to hell with it!!

4. keithdowding - 25/11/2018

Think Maddison misses their league cup game this week even though he probably wouldn’t have played and so is available

5. Graham - 25/11/2018

Rush could trip over a blade of grass at Anfield and get a pen. I saw it myself. So nothing changes! I thought Mane was the difference -as direct a Delofeu but with e better endproduct.

6. Neil M - 25/11/2018

I couldn’t get to the game through family commitments but I’ve just seen the non-penalty incident on MOTD and also read Robertson’s comments in the papers suggesting Hughes should be booked for diving. It’s interesting to read rule 12 of the FA rules which states ‘PLAYING IN A DANGEROUS MANNER

Playing in a dangerous manner is any action that, while trying to play the ball, threatens injury to someone (including the player themself) and includes preventing a nearby opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury.’

That seems to make it clear that if you go in studs up at knee height on an opponent then it’s a penalty and red card automatically. If justice is to prevail then Robertson should get a retrospective 3 game ban and be sanctioned for bringing the game into disrepute through his subsequent comments.

What are the odds of that happening though?

StevenFewster - 26/11/2018

The problem with retrospective bans is they quite literally hurt the aggrieved team, as whoever plays next gets the benefit in the league. Maybe it should be changed to be a one game ban for the return fixture 😉

7. Jeff Lloyd - 26/11/2018

Our seats in the Rookery are exactly in line with the Robertson/Hughes challenge. Whilst not as blatant as the Southampton penalty it was, as I saw it, absolutely a clear pen. Next season the ref will give it and wait for VAR to overrule it, which it wouldn’t have done. Of all the top flight refs Moss needs VAR more than anyone (possibly bar Attwell)
Liverpool were clearly the better side and I also thought Mane was the difference. Henderson is clearly an idiot who has never struck me as the sharpest tool but now misses the Merseyside derby when they were coasting with 8 minutes to go. I’d say the priority is a classy centre half. Mapps is honest but against the bigger clubs is always left wanting.

8. Simon - 26/11/2018

Hmmm, I’d thought based on the replays that it was a pretty clear pen but Hughes’ comments after the game seem to muddy things. “I’ve felt contact and I’ve gone down” are words that have crept into the game and I don’t particularly like.

I get the debate around refs not giving things that are fouls and have caused the attacking player a disadvantage if the attacker doesn’t go down but I remain of the old school that something is either sufficient to knock you off your feet or it isn’t. There are grey areas around how hard you should try to stay upright when you’ve been knocked off balance but the implication that the attacker has “felt something” and taken a conscious decision to fall over doesn’t sit right with me.

9. Al Wilson - 07/12/2018

As we’re nearing the halfway point for the season I thought it would be interesting to look at the minutes played so far by the squad (in all competitions). Cathcart really has recovered!

NR PLAYER Minutes played
15 Craig Cathcart 1,433
16 Abdoulaye Doucouré 1,362
26 Ben Foster 1,350
37 Roberto Pereyra 1,272
28 Etienne Capoue 1,177
19 Will Hughes 1,169
25 José Holebas 1,074
9 Troy Deeney 983
21 Kiko Femenía 933
10 Isaac Success 827
27 Christian Kabasele 770
6 Adrian Mariappa 756
18 Andre Gray 720
2 Daryl Janmaat 522
11 Adam Masina 456
7 Gerard Deulofeu 445
14 Nathaniel Chalobah 352
20 Domingos Quina 272
23 Marc Navarro 251
12 Ken Sema 235
24 Ben Wilmot 182
1 Heurelho Gomes 180
5 Sebastian Prödl 102
33 Stefano Okaka 38
3 Miguel Britos 0
4 Younès Kaboul 0
8 Tom Cleverley 0
17 Adalberto Peñaranda 0
22 Marvin Zeegelaar 0
30 Pontus Dahlberg 0

SOURCE; BBC SPORT

Any errors are mine.


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