Diogo Jota helps Liverpool beat Watford to reach 10th win in a row

Liverpool’s tenacity will worry Pep Guardiola more than his sole championship contenders’ form. In the absence of a relegation-threatened Watford, a tenth consecutive league win lifted Liverpool above Manchester City, who beat Burnley.

Diogo Jota scored twice and Fabinho added a late penalty when VAR intervened, as Liverpool won their 10th straight league game at Anfield. They were clinical rather than inventive, and Mohamed Salah was quiet after a long international break, but they got the job done.

The early kick-off did not dampen the excitement at Anfield as Liverpool attempted to momentarily unseat Manchester City atop the Premier League. But Watford would cause problems. With his loyal assistant Ray Lewington by his side, Roy Hodgson witnessed an usual well-drilled defensive showing from his squad. The visitors were also dangerous on the break and from set pieces, and they played with a calmness belying their league position.

Christian Kabasele’s clearing out of defence set up Ismael Sarr’s opening chance. His half-volley slipped over Alisson and over the crossbar. Cucho Hernández connected with Imran Louza’s corner to the near post for Watford. His glancing header was intercepted by Alisson. Joo Pedro surged forward before releasing the midfielder clean on the left, and Juraj Kucka concluded an excellent counterattack. The assistant referee declared Kucka onside (the VAR may have determined differently), but Alisson again intervened. Liverpool took the lead 34 seconds after the saving.

Despite Thiago Alcântara’s precise passing, Klopp’s championship hopefuls couldn’t breach Watford’s tight, protected back four until Jordan Henderson found Joe Gomez racing into space on the right. Gomez filled in well for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who returned to the bench after a quick recovery from a hamstring injury. Ben Foster and Kiko Femena were caught off guard by Gomez’s delivery. On the other side, the goalie flew out fist-first but missed to connect. Jota boldly clipped home his 20th goal in all competitions this season while maintaining his sight on the ball.

Andy Robertson’s attempt deflected off Joel Matip and into the path of an unmarked Jota. Foster stood tall and stopped the striker’s chest drive.

The Reds’ breakthrough did not cause fear among the visitors or disrupt their game strategy. Immediately after the break, Kabasele delivered a great clearing header to deny Jota another tempting Gomez cross. Virgil van Dijk and Jota both missed Curtis Jones’ corners and Henderson’s free-kick. Sarr raced down the left and sent a brilliantly weighted ball inside to Pedro for Watford to equalise. The unmarked striker had just Alisson to beat and the whole goal to go for, but he missed.

The VAR urged referee Stuart Attwell to assess a potential penalty after Samir had cleared a Henderson corner. It was impossible. Kucka certainly dragged Jota down as the corner was taken, and Attwell just needed to look at the pitch-side monitor to give a penalty. Liverpool moved into first place when Fabinho converted a penalty.

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