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Watford 3 Liverpool 0 (29/02/2020) 29/02/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- The world’s going to shit, if you hadn’t noticed.  Events of the last few years have meant that I’ve long since ceased listening to the news.  That’s probably irresponsible, but also necessary for my own sanity.  No point being driven to distraction by stupid crap that I can’t do anything about.

Latest chapter in the world going to shit is COVID-19, which even I’ve heard about.  This could turn out to go away as quickly as it appeared, or it could be the devastating virus the advent of the sort of which has long been mooted.

A week ago I drove to Old Trafford with Manuel.  He didn’t come to the game, he just wanted to visit Manchester.  He’d returned from Milan a week earlier.

As stuff developed over the next few days we both self-isolated.  Manu has no symptoms, but our employer is particularly cautious about these things.  Then my sore throat developed.  This morning I had a temperature for the first time.

Given that Manu is still fine, the extreme likelihood is that I have a common and garden cold.  That’s NHS Direct’s view anyway.  But as we’ve discussed many times this season “definitely” and “probably” aren’t the same thing.  I took one for the Rookery, and watched this from my sofa.  You can thank me later… whilst noting that twenty years ago the only away match I missed in 1999/2000 was this one.

2- Watching a game on the TV isn’t like being on the stadium.  You get a better view of the action, replays, camera angles. But… you’re watching a sanitised, incomplete version of events.  Like looking at someone’s holiday photos rather than, you know, going on holiday.  A narrower, less complete view, very much watching it rather than being part of it, breathing it.  Around 20000 of you will have a better chance of doing justice to the atmosphere at the Vic, which must have been insane.

A situation exaggerated by the day’s events.  Much as, rationally, this was our toughest-looking game of those remaining, much as others will have tough fixtures to come, Norwich winning, bloody West Ham winning and Bournemouth getting a point off Chelsea meant that the pressure was on.  Palace had won at Brighton of course, celebrating which just felt dirty.

But Sarr and Femenía both starting will have gladdened the majority of Watford hearts.  Small potatoes against a side as exalted as this, perhaps, but a punch in the air to this news whether you were keeping warm on the way down Occupation Road or sitting on your sofa when it broke.  It gave us a weapon.  It gave us a shout.

3- The first half was great.  Aggressive, focused, disciplined.  Liverpool had nowhere to go, couldn’t get going, weren’t allowed to get going.  Sarr was a threat just by being there, his presence opening up space for Deulofeu on the left who was at his impossible best, cutting inside and giving Trent Alexander-Arnold a very difficult 30 minutes or so.

Gerry’s injury clearly the stain on the evening.  Yet another one where I’d rather have been in the stadium, deprived of the various angles of his knee bending in a direction that it really oughtn’t be bending.  Daughter 2 winced, and was further aghast at the suggestion that this might even be his swansong in a Watford shirt, should we go down.

Positive noises at the break, then, though the applause was surely in part to drown out the voice in the back of your head saying that we really ought to have capitalised if we entertained any hopes of winning the game, and that similar stuff happened in the game at Anfield.

4- I can’t remember why I abandoned the sofa at half time but I came back into the room to see Alisson Becker pushing Sarr’s shot over the bar.  So much for the Reds coming at us and punishing us for our impudence.

We were magnificent all over the park.  Foster was alert and alive. Femenía looked like he’d never been away, Masina was back at his arrogant best, and Cathcart and Kabasele were magnificent, blocking out the light.  Firmino, Salah and Mané were all, extraordinarily, inconsequential.

Will Hughes snapped into challenges. Étienne Capoue stamped all over the midfield and Abdoulaye Doucouré, amongst all the superlatives, stampeded to perhaps his strongest game of the season.

Bobby Pereyra, back on the left where he’s most comfortable, put in his best showing for ages.  Troy opted against another bruising encounter with Van Dijk and took on the brain-dead Dejan Lovren, smashing him both during the game and in his merciless post-match analysis.

And then Ismaïla Sarr.  This was it, the game when he announced himself to the rest of the Premier League.  We knew already, now everyone knows.  Time will tell how he adapts to that, how he accommodates being targeted… today he was lethal.   Quique wanted to play him centrally and he reminds you of Thierry Henry in his ability to skim clear of a defence and finish calmly.   Would be no surprise to see him end up as a centre-forward.

His two goals were both tremendous in different ways, one because he knew when to attack the ball, one because he kept so very cool, but perhaps his best moment was when Alexander-Arnold rounded off a shocking evening by launching a suicidal backpass to Alisson and finding Sarr with the presence of mind and awareness to tee up Troy to finish the contest.  Absolutely beyond belief.

5- Quite evidently this result bears comparison with any in our League history, the stats don’t stop there.   Liverpool’s first League defeat since January 2019.  Our first victory against the side topping the League since 1983.  And so on, and so on.

But more than that, more than an unlikely and unprecedented but hugely valuable and well-timed three points, is surely the belief that this will inject in the side, a belief that was the one thing most obviously missing (along, perhaps, with the acceleration offered by Sarr and Kiko) prior to this evening, eroded by stupid and narrow defeats.

To point out that this counts for very little if we don’t show up at Selhurst next week, say, would be to fail to afford the evening the celebration it deserves in its own right.  Nonetheless, and much as it’s a joy to be out of the relegation zone if only by a goal, this needs to be the start of something. No reason on earth that it shouldn’t be.  Good God, what an evening.  Even from the sofa.

I won’t be at Palace, or at Leicester, with apologies.  We have every reason to be optimistic, and to expect that we’ll be going into the closing games of the season with the pressure off.


Foster 5, Femenía 5, Masina 5, Cathcart 5, Kabasele 5, Hughes 5, Capoue 5, Doucouré 5, *Sarr 5*, Deulofeu 5, Deeney 5
Subs: Pereyra (for Deulofeu, 37) 5, Pussetto (for Sarr, 82) 5, Chalobah (for Doucouré, 90) 5, Dawson, Welbeck, Gray, Gomes


1. paullbaxter - 29/02/2020

Blimey. I was out for the evening so had it on record. Living in the North West, have Liverpool, Man U and Everton supporting friends who tend not to gloat so I noticed I had some emails and texts which was a good sign. That was a fantastic performance from the whole side and in particular I complete focus on keeping the right shape. Very happy and of course now basking in he adulation from the emails and texts from my Man U and Everton supporting friends.

2. Vaughn Smith - 29/02/2020

An astonishing evening’s work. We flippin’ murdered ’em – even more so than the same game (and scoreline) in 2015. What summed it up for me was Capoue in the 89th minute sprinting 60 yards up the pitch to close down possession, then doing another 60 sideways to protect the clean sheet. 3 up against the ‘best team in the world’, and you’re still willing to bust your arse like that to repel any danger? What a guy. What a team performance – 5/5 for all of them – you’re harsh – it should be 6…

3. Mazz - 01/03/2020

Your first sentence reminded of the message I sent to my friend following the result…”The beauty of an unexpected football result washes away the gloom of COVID 19, Tory majority government, shit February weather, more shit weather…until the next game. This why a bunch a overpaid folk kicking around a ball is always good fun.”

4. Kristoffer Vad - 01/03/2020

I have given up on us a few times this season. And I still find it hard to believe we will stay up. But that result, that game – oh my! Not many clubs will come at us like that, allowing the space behind defense, but still. As you say Matt – surely this will breed belief and a will to succeed and survive.

As for the flue – I hope you get better soon, would hate to miss thunks for the entire run-in due to quaranteen 😉

5. ukmalc - 01/03/2020

Thanks for the report as always. You realise of course that your absence was the sole catalyst for this performance. You will have to miss seeing any further games until safety is secured. Lol

Matt Rowson - 01/03/2020


Martin B - 01/03/2020

Looks like I too will need to miss the rest of the season. Having had a bad dose of what I hope is just “man flu” since Thurs, I also decided to take one for the team.

6. David - 01/03/2020

I hope your cold has gone by Sunday night Matt. As for the atmosphere at the ground; it was life affirming, the perfect antidote to all of the valid complaints raised by Mazz.

7. Harefield Hornet - 01/03/2020

With no apologies for repeating myself, last night confirmed perfectly the impact of Sarr’s absence in the last few games. The others were all terrific for sure but this kid takes us to a different level. And the marvellous thing is he doesn’t even realise it – he just plays football! God bless Gerry – get fit again soon son.

8. PEDantic - 01/03/2020

So sorry you had to miss that one Matt, it was truly amazing to be there last night. Possibly the most unexpected win, in the league at least, of my close on 50 years of watching Watford.
As an aside, on thunk 1, I do wonder if those who ignore world news and politics and spend their life immersed in Love Island, Strictly, YouTube influencers and other alternative ‘reality’ are the ones who have actually got it right.

9. Olly DC - 01/03/2020

Know how you feel, having been at Old Trafford but watching this one on TV.
Ratings entirely accurate.
Very telling in Deeney’s post-match interview talking about how Pearson laid into him after a poor display last week. Captain’s response, once again. And very decent management.
Defensively faultless, which was wonderful. Not just down to these two, but have Kaba and Cathcart quelled the demands to sign a CB in the summer, even if we do survive? With Dawson & Wilmot as back-up?

10. Dan Roe - 01/03/2020

One detail I loved was Sarr being FURIOUS with himself for missing his third goal despite having scored twice and set up a third and being three goals up against the team 22 points clear at the top of the table.

11. Red - 01/03/2020

Well done ball boys/people. Quick to give to our players, slow to give to the opposition. On this one game there was no-one repeat no-one, of theirs that I would have swopped for one of ours.

12. crispticker - 01/03/2020

One of those special nights deserving a few random thoughts…from before, during and after the game. For weeks I’ve been saying we’d win, only because it was on 29th February. Bit annoyed by Deeney scoring as had money on 2-0 at 33/1. Knew it was to be our day when Pereyra comes and competently heads the ball at least three times – more than his entire Hornet career. Quite right to score all our mob 5 out of 5. Tremendous, one and all. How refreshingly nice not to have VAR interrupting the game or atmosphere. And what an atmosphere. Singing down the Vic and along Market Street afterwards. Fair play to Oxlade Chamberlain to sprint across to see Deulofeu on the stretcher and then wait by the tunnel at the end to shake hands with all the straggling Hornets as they left the field. Odd and sad to hear Barnes refer to Liverpool as “we”, in the post-match punditry. Hope you recover soon, Matt

Ted - 02/03/2020

Yes indeed. It was disrespectful of Digger at the club he played for for a long time and who’s supporters remember him fondly. I was not impressed.

13. Sequel - 02/03/2020

This month sees the 50th anniversary of my first visit to the Vic (2-3 v Middlesbrough). Other than being comfortably out of the bottom 3 by the 31st, what better anniversary present could one hope for?
One stat which they forgot to mention on MOTD: we are the only team to keep a clean sheet, in the league, against Liverpool this season.

Matt Rowson - 02/03/2020

In almost 12 months, in fact

14. SteveG - 02/03/2020

A fabulous evening, and all the better for being so unexpected.

Bizarre moment of the evening – the screen in the pub going into ‘standby’ mode at the point where a promising attack looked to have broken down. By the time the barman had hit the re-set button 10 seconds later we were 3-0 up and Deeney’s smiling face was beaming at us and we could genuinely start to believe that we’d won it. At half time I was thinking that we’d probably be reflecting on another encouraging and brave performance spoilt by conceding an 89th minute goal to Salah to go down 0-1. But what a second half!

The return of Sarr (and Femenia) clearly made a massive difference – can I take the opportunity to wish you better Matt, but if you are sitting at home twiddling your thumbs a spreadsheet showing our record this season both with and without Sarr in the starting line-up would no doubt make an interesting comparison. I know that some similar thoughts were applied to Kabasele earlier in the season as well.

And finally, for all the justified plaudits to Pearson and the fact that even at the time the reappointment of Flores seemed a bit underwhelming, it has to be said that Flores didn’t have the luck with regard to injuries – without Deeney or Sarr (or Welbeck as back-up either) I think Pearson, too, would struggle to make any kind of potent attacking threat from this squad.

15. Mike Smith - 04/03/2020

Best moment of the night. The crowd singing “Can we play you every week?” Excellent.

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