Liverpool went top of the Premier League for the first time under manager Jurgen Klopp with an emphatic victory over Watford at Anfield.
Sadio Mane’s acrobatic header finally put the Reds ahead after a host of missed chances, before Philippe Coutinho drilled in a second from 20 yards three minutes later.
Adam Lallana crossed for Emre Can to nod home before half-time and underline the home side’s clear superiority – and the story was much the same after the break.
Watford were abject and Liverpool masterful as Roberto Firmino tapped in a Lallana cut-back before the Brazilian turned provider and Mane slotted in a fifth amid slack defending.
Georginio Wijnaldum completed the scoring in the 91st minute with his first goal for the club, after substitute Daniel Sturridge had struck the bar twice.
It is the fifth time Liverpool have scored four goals or more in the league this season, and made them the top flight’s highest scorers with 30 goals from their 11 matches.
But Watford’s consolation through Daryl Janmaat means Klopp’s side have only kept one clean sheet in the league this season.
Pressure? What pressure?
After Manchester City slipped up at home to Middlesbrough and Arsenal were held by Tottenham, Liverpool’s players knew victory would send them a point clear of Chelsea at the top of the league.
If there was pressure following the Blues’ statement win – they defeated Everton 5-0 on Saturday – Liverpool certainly did not show any signs of suffering from it.
Rarely will the home fans have seen their side perform so dominantly. The fluid play of Coutinho, Lallana, Mane and Firmino carved out chance after chance, and while Watford were at times sloppy in possession, there was little they might have done better to resist Liverpool’s 27 attempts on goal.
With the speed of the home side’s passing and the slick interchanging of positions in attack, Watford simply could not live with Liverpool. It was a ruthless performance full of confidence, rhythm and flair.
So who needs a striker?
Sturridge was without a goal in his past nine league games and, having come on to replace the excellent Lallana, the England international played as if he had a point to prove.
But no matter what he did, the ball just would not go in.
Twice he struck the woodwork, once with a fierce left-footed drive that crashed against the bar as he drove in on goal from the left, later with a dipping strike from outside the box that Costel Pantilimon brilliantly tipped on to the bar.
Sturridge should then have done better when cutting on to his left and firing straight at the keeper, but Klopp will have been impressed with his forward’s performance in the 20 minutes he was allowed.
The German was clearly very angry about one thing though – how Watford’s Janmaat was allowed to ghost into the box and slot home Nordin Amrabat’s pass.
Even with his side coasting towards victory Klopp was barking instructions to his players. The message seemed to be: more pressure high up the pitch, more movement off the ball in possession. They were the key attributes in this impressive win.
Man of the match – Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
Even though he missed what Klopp might have described as a perfect goal just before he was taken off to a standing ovation with three minutes to play, Coutinho was the outstanding performer in a stellar cast.
The Brazilian skied wildly over after Nathaniel Clyne launched himself into an interception on the halfway line, played a one-two with Firmino and cut back for him to strike from the edge of the area.
That finish was lacking but of the minds and feet at work in front of the weary Watford defence, his were by far the quickest.
The stats you need to know
- Sadio Mane has scored five goals in his five Premier League appearances at Anfield for Liverpool.
- Philippe Coutinho has had a hand in eight goals in his past seven league appearances for Liverpool (three goals, five assists).
- Roberto Firmino has scored five times and assisted three goals in his past seven league games for Liverpool.
- Watford have conceded more goals today v Liverpool than they had in their past six PL games combined (5).
- Adam Lallana has five league assists this season, with only Kevin de Bruyne providing more (6).
- This is Watford’s joint-heaviest defeat in the Premier League, matched by a 5-0 loss to Wimbledon in December 1999.