LIVE – Updated at 14:41
Minute-by-minute report: Roberto Firmino scored a hat-trick, while Mohamed Salah took the breath away with an assist for Sadio Mane and a stunning solo strike. Scott Murray was watching.
… and finally Claudio Ranieri, doing his best to exude serenity. “We conceded too many chances. Of course Liverpool is a fantastic team. I knew I have to work very hard. Some goals were our present for them. We have to improve. I watched something badly, but also some things very good. I now know much better my players. We have to work hard, and slowly, slowly we will get better, I am sure. They tried their best, maybe they were nervous at the beginning with a new coach, but slowly, slowly they will know me very well.”
The turn of Jurgen Klopp, who is in much less spiky form now. “It was good. After the international break it is tricky to find the rhythm. We had one session, so the boys did incredibly well. Watford had an idea but we didn’t let it happen. All fine. It was a good game and brilliant goals, really brilliant, all of them. Good energy level, good attitude, the boys were serious today. Salah’s performance was massive, the whole team but his as well, the first goal, super pass, and his goal was absolutely exceptional. We need the boys in this kind of shape to achieve what we are dreaming of. Who is better in the moment than Salah?”
Salah, glowing beatifically, speaks to BT Sport. “We didn’t want to start like the Manchester City game. We needed to start well, and we did. I think all the goals were very important, Bobby did a great job and scored a hat-trick so congratulations to him, Sadio scored a nice goal, all of them were important. I don’t know which goal was better, that one or the City one. Every time I’m in the box I’m either trying to give the ball for someone to score, or I score myself, it’s always for the team. We scored good goals, all of us in front, and hopefully we can all carry on like that. I’m confident at the moment. Hopefully we can win the league and go for the Champions League. It’s important for a club like Liverpool to fight for everything.”
FULL TIME: Watford 0-5 Liverpool
Watford were abysmal … but Liverpool were exceptional. Four fine goals and one stellar Salah solo strike, and they reclaim top spot in the Premier League, for a couple of hours at least.
GOAL! Watford 0-5 Liverpool (Firmino 90+1)
Williams has Rose on toast, turning him this way and right down the right. He fizzes across for Firmino, who taps in and claims the matchball for himself!
GOAL! Watford 0-4 Liverpool (Salah 54)
This is outrageous! Salah, on the right-hand edge of the D, takes on four Watford players at once. None of them get anywhere near him. A dragback and he wriggles away. He drops a shoulder and feints right. He cuts back. Cathcart slides away, Billy Wright to Salah’s Puskas, a fire engine sent off to the wrong fire. He cuts back inside and curls across Foster and into the bottom left. Even better than the one against Manchester City? Quite possibly.
90 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain has busied himself impressively since coming on. He works down the right and slips a ball infield for Firmino, on a hat-trick. He looks strangely leaden footed. Perhaps he’s run out of juice. Or perhaps not, because …
88 min: Ngakia, who has been impressive since coming on, loops a cross from the right to the far post. Sarr’s header skims wide left. Tumult ensues. Sarr tries an overhead but can’t connect. Eventually Kelleher claims. “I have enjoyed this even less than Watford have enjoyed possession,” wails Mac Millings, chief Hornet of the Carolinas.
82 min: Tsimikas strips a dozing Kucka and breaks into the box from the right. He’s got options, one of them to shoot himself, but the whistle generously goes for a foul. Kucka gets away with one.
86 min: Watford push Liverpool back for the first time this afternoon. Too little, too late. Hernandez glides in from the left and tries a curler. Keita blocks. The flag eventually goes up for offside.
84 min: Williams and Henderson faff around, allowing the ball to break to Sarr, just inside the box on the left. Sarr fizzes a shot towards the bottom left; Kelleher, who has had next to nothing to do, turns the shot onto the post and away. Why didn’t this Watford turn up for work earlier?
83 min: Milner has earned a rest, and makes way for Williams.
81 min: Milner crosses from the right. Mane looks for the top right, but his header is weak and an easy pluck for Foster. Watford counter, Pedro busting clear of the Liverpool defence down the right, then looping over Kelleher … and the bar. Turns out he was well offside anyway, but at least the hosts are finally asking a couple of questions.
79 min: The corner falls to Sarr on the edge of the Liverpool box. Sarr slices wildly over the bar. Watford have responded well to going four down; you wonder why they didn’t show this urgency after conceding goals one, two and three.
78 min: Sarr versus Milner down the left. Sarr reaches the byline and tries to nutmeg his man. The wily old Milner closes his legs and blocks for a corner.
76 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain passes long for Salah, who takes on Rose again. He inevitably wins the footrace, but another heavy touch allows Foster to come out and smother at his feet. He’s passed up a few chances this afternoon, Salah, but you’ll forgive him everything for that outlandish solo goal.
75 min: Keita has another dig from distance. It’s blocked pretty much the second it comes off his boot. Liverpool haven’t declared.
73 min: Sissoko barrels down the left, past Keita and Milner. He slips Hernandez into the box. Hernandez opens his body and tries the curler across Kelleher and into the top right, but it’s never coming back round. Goal kick.
71 min: Cleverley and Troost-Ekong faff about, allowing Firmino to stroll off with the ball. His low diagonal pass releases Mane, who sends a first-time effort across Foster but inches wide of the bottom right. It should be five.
70 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain drives down the left and feeds Tsimikas on the overlap. Tsimikas looks for the head of Firmino at the near post, but Foster claims. Untidily, dropping before claiming at the second attempt, but claim he does.
69 min: Keita takes a touch and enters the Watford box from the right. His rising shot clears the bar. Then Watford make their third change of the afternoon, replacing Dennis with Pedro.
67 min: The resulting free kick leads to some head tennis in the Liverpool box. The ball drops to Hernandez, eight yards out, but he can’t get a shot away under pressure from Tsimikas. Cathcart nearly gets a foot on the ball, but Van Dijk blocks. Then the flag goes up, everyone having been offside in the first instance.
66 min: Milner clanks into the back of Foden Sarr and is fortunate not to go into the book.
64 min: Liverpool make an energy-saving double change, replacing Robertson and Alexander-Arnold with Tsimikas and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Milner moves into the right-back position.
63 min: Alexander-Arnold shoots from distance. His effort is deflected, and wrong-foots Foster … only to bounce a couple of inches wide right of the open goal. Nothing comes of the resulting corner.
62 min: Watford try to calm things down with a little sterile possession at the back. If they could go in now, they’d grab the offer with both hands.
60 min: The away section is in full Party Mode. No wonder, that was one hell of a goal by Salah, who sashayed past four players en route to scoring. Poor Cathcart was beaten twice. “Perhaps Salah should stop being quite so good or he’ll be off to Newcastle in January,” quips Steve Wingrove, because somebody had to.
58 min: Are FSG going to break their wage structure for Salah? He’s making a fair old case for them doing so, isn’t he.
56 min: Kucka has a whack from distance. Straight at Kelleher, who finally has something to do. Ironic cheers from the away support as the keeper does his job. In the meantime, Ngakia comes on for Femenia.
GOAL! Watford 0-3 Liverpool (Firmino 52)
Hernandez probes down the left but is robbed by Matip. Keita shuttles the ball forward. Firmino, in the centre, switches play to the Liverpool left. Robertson curls low towards Salah, who is offside … but Cathcart slides in to intercept. The ball’s heading towards the bottom left. Foster spares the own goal, but his parry falls to Firmino who slams home from six yards.
53 min: Shades of the Kylian Mbappe / Eric Garcia farce in the final of the Nations League. Cathcart’s interception cost Watford. But them’s the rules.
50 min: Alexander-Arnold’s corner goes straight down Foster’s throat. Another wasted corner, to namecheck that Liverpool fanzine of old.
49 min: Liverpool have picked up where they left off: on the front foot, in total control. Salah glides in from the right and sends a curler towards the top left. Foster, at full stretch, fingertips out for a corner.
47 min: Space for Salah on the edge of the Watford box. He tries to wedge Keita free, but he’d have been better taking a whack himself. Troost-Ekong clears.
46 min: Liverpool are immediately on the attack again, Firmino driving down the left before finding Alexander-Arnold on the right. Alexander-Arnold drags a weak shot across Foster and out for a goal kick.
Watford get the second half underway, having made one change: Cleverley comes on for Masina. Here’s Adam Kline-Schoder: “Based on my interpretation, BT Sport seem to think that – basically – Ranieri is already failing because he hasn’t had an impact. Now: I’m not going to try to say that Watford are playing well (they’re clearly not), but I do feel it’s awfully harsh to say that someone who’s had maybe two training sessions with a team can already be failing. There are injuries, the players are learning a new style with new expectations, and they’re up against one of the most in-form teams in the league who boast the current top goalscorer who has scored in seven successive games. To me that feels more a pole vault to a conclusion than a jump.”
Half-time advertisement. The late MBM today sees Brentford welcome Chelsea in a league fixture for the first time since 1947. See you here for that. In the meantime, Nick Ames paints a pretty preview. Enjoy.
Related: Speed, verve and flexibility: how Brentford closed the gap on Chelsea | Nick Ames
HALF TIME: Watford 0-2 Liverpool
Just another 27 seconds, in fact, before the half-time whistle blows. Liverpool have been the bosses of Watford, who are flattered by the scoreline, but still in this match, just about. They’ll need their new boss to get talking and tweaking, though. Next goal a biggie.
45 min +1: There’ll be one additional minute, though it’s taken up by Matip being given his eye drops. Another bonus 60 seconds to come, I’ll be bound.
39 min: … and so the scoreline better reflects how this game has panned out so far. Liverpool will still wonder how they’ve only scored two, though, such has been the lop-sided nature of this first half.
45 min: Firmino wins another Liverpool corner down the right. Alexander-Arnold takes. Matip rises, then falls as he takes an accidental digit in the eye from Cathcart. On comes the trainer.
44 min: Keita is having a good game. He presses forward again, and is nearly released down the inside-left channel by Salah’s cute one-two. Femenia covers.
43 min: Liverpool over-elaborate, and the corner is wasted.
42 min: Milner, on the left-hand corner of the Watford box, rolls across towards Keita, who lines up a shot. His rising drive is deflected onto the crossbar and out for a corner. So close to a third.
GOAL! Watford 0-2 Liverpool (Firmino 37)
Firmino is caught snoozing in the centre circle and stripped of possession. He’s had a poor game so far. Ah, hold on, though! Another attack, and he taps Keita into some space down the inside-left channel. Keita finds Milner on the overlap. Milner bursts free into the box and fires low and hard into the six-yard box, where Firmino, who had kept running, taps home! Another fine goal.
41 min: Salah runs at Rose down the right. For a second it looks as though he’s got the full back where he wants him, but Rose pauses his run and blocks well.
35 min: Salah turns Rose inside and out, like an old sock. Sissoko comes across to put a stop to his gallop, just in time. Rose stays down for a bit, catching a breather. He’s up again soon enough.
33 min: Sissoko robs Henderson and sends Dennis away down the left. Dennis slinks infield and looks to release Sarr down the middle, but Sarr’s gone too early and is correctly flagged offside. Watford certainly have the ability to sucker-punch Liverpool.
31 min: Corner for Liverpool out on the left. One leads to another. Masina clears the second. Liverpool continue to dominate, but again, look at the paltry reward for all their superiority.
27 min: Sarr latches onto a loose ball in the centre circle and drives down the middle. He slips Hernandez clear. Hernandez opens his body and aims for the bottom right, but is stopped by a combination of Alexander-Arnold and Kelleher. The flag goes up anyway, correctly so as Matip had stepped up to catch his man offside. But that’s much better from Watford, who are slowly working their way into the game.
29 min: Matip strides out of defence, not so much avoiding a couple of Watford challenges as ignoring them. He’s a magnificent player. Previously under-rated, but everyone’s caught on these days.
25 min: Firmino tries to flick Salah into space down the right but Masina bundles him off the ball easily and clears. Firmino’s radar is playing up; that’s a couple of opportunities to find a team-mate in space spurned.
23 min: Liverpool should be more than one goal up, but despite all their dominance, the lead is precarious. Sarr underlines this with a determined skitter down the right, and even though the flag goes up for offside, that should give Liverpool pause.
22 min: Another stunning Alexander-Arnold pass from deep splits Watford in two. Firmino has Milner in absolute acres down the left, but opts to pass right for Keita. Wrong decision.
20 min: Alexander-Arnold sends Salah clear down the right with a precision slide pass. Salah is well onside – Femenia on the opposite flank playing him on – but he takes a clumsy touch, allowing Foster to come out and slide-block at his feet. That’s a brilliant save, but Salah really should be scoring there.
19 min: That was Sadio Mane’s 100th Premier League goal, incidentally. What a way to bring up the ton.
17 min: Keita slides a pass down the inside-right channel and nearly releases Firmino. Rose covers again. For all his troubles against Salah one on one, Rose is doing a sterling job in keeping Watford in this. A mixed bag of a performance all right.
9 min: It’s fair to say that had been coming. It could be a long afternoon for Rose.
15 min: Mane loops a cross in from the left. Salah, on the penalty spot, can’t quite get the ball under control for a shot. Rose blocks and just about clears. Watford are clinging on right now.
GOAL! Watford 0-1 Liverpool (Mane 8)
This is such a basic goal, but such a brilliant one as well. Salah spins Rose under a high ball down the right. With the outside of his boot, he curls a low diagonal pass infield for Mane, who in full flight, takes one touch to roll the ball into the bottom left from the edge of the box. Foster, stranded in no man’s land, had no chance. What a goal!
14 min: Henderson tries to release Salah down the right. Rose reads the danger well this time, intervening and flicking a header back to Foster, who applauds his team-mate in the supportive style.
12 min: Liverpool are purring. A long ball down the middle. Robertson, racing in from the left, brings the ball down on the edge of the box, then leaves it for Salah, who opens his body and curls towards the top left. Foster does extremely well to claw the shot out at full stretch. Nothing comes of the resulting corner.
11 min: Liverpool have enjoyed 84 percent of possession so far.
1 min: Mane heads on down the inside-right channel. Salah takes a lash at the ball, towards the top right, and it caroms off the crossbar! The flag pops up for offside, but there’s a statement of intent from the visitors.
7 min: Salah knocks the ball past Rose, sprints round him, and away. The move eventually peters out, but Salah looks to have Rose’s number.
6 min: Alexander-Arnold, quarterbacking from deep, looks for Mane down the middle. Foster is quickly off his line to claim on the edge of his box. This is a lively start by Liverpool.
4 min: Alexander-Arnold has a couple of goes at sending the corner in from the right. Watford clear through Dennis, who threatens to counter, but overruns the ball and is dispossessed by Henderson.
3 min: The corner is a non-event, but Liverpool are quickly back at the hosts, Salah slipping Rose down the right. Sissoko slides across to concede another corner.
2 min: Yep, a statement of intent all right. Van Dijk rakes a long pass down the right for Salah, who cuts inside. His shot deflects off Rose and over the bar for the first corner of the match.
Liverpool get the ball rolling … but only after most of the players take a knee. Those who choose not to strike respectful poses. There’s no room for racism.
The teams are out! Watford in their hornet yellow and black, Liverpool in red. Always nice to see both teams in their first-choice garb. There’s a big ovation to welcome Claudio Ranieri, and while Jurgen Klopp may have a cob on with BT, he’s all smiles as he doffs his cap to the much-loved Italian. The pair embrace warmly, a lovely scene. We’ll be off in a couple of minutes!
Claudio Ranieri talks to BT Sport … “I watched the players in the training ground and believe we can do something good … I have a lot of good players on the bench so I can change … King is a little injured.”
… and so does Jurgen Klopp. “The players were all over the world … so our line-up could be a back four, or a back five … we have to focus … Alexander-Arnold was not out for too long so he should be good.”
Klopp then has another back-and-forth with BT’s Des Kelly, annoyed that Liverpool have been selected for the 12.30pm kick-off directly after an international break. Kelly points out that it was Watford who refused to move the fixture, Liverpool having made a request to do so; Klopp responds by saying BT selected them for the slot in the first place. “Thank you very much for your help again,” he concludes wryly. Another few days of this, then. No minds will be changed.
Claudio Ranieri’s first selection as Watford manager involves three changes to the side that lost narrowly at Leeds. Craig Cathcart and Cucho Hernandez replace the injured Francisco Sierralta and Joshua King, while Adam Masina relegates Ozan Tufan to the bench.
Liverpool make four changes to the side named for the 2-2 rollercoaster against Manchester City. Three of them are enforced: Curtis Jones is injured, while Alisson and Fabinho both played for Brazil early doors yesterday, so have travelled straight to Madrid for the Champions League match with Atletico, quarantine rules, all that. They’re replaced by Caoimhin Kelleher, Naby Keita and Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose return allows makeshift right-back James Milner, given the runaround by Phil Foden last time out, to move into midfield. Up front, Diogo Jota drops to the bench, making way for Roberto Firmino.
This is, of course, the John Barnes derby. Here’s the great man embarking on a run of characteristic panache in December 1986, leaving Gary Gillespie in the dust, then drawing Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen before threading a shot across Bruce Grobbelaar and into the bottom corner. He made it up to Liverpool later. If someone manages something even half as good this lunchtime, we’ll be doing well. Ismaïla? Mohamed? Over to you.
Watford: Foster, Femenia, Troost-Ekong, Cathcart, Rose, Sarr, Kucka, Sissoko, Masina, Hernandez, Bonaventure.
Subs: Ngakia, Louza, Cleverley, Joao Pedro, Sema, Gosling, Fletcher, Tufan, Bachmann.
Liverpool: Kelleher, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Milner, Henderson, Keita, Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Subs: Konate, Gomez, Adrian, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Jota, Tsimikas, Origi, Williams.
Referee: Jon Moss (W Yorkshire).
The last six stagings of this fixture have ended 3-0, 0-3, 3-3, 0-1, 3-0 and 0-3. More, please, Watford and Liverpool! Divvy it up however you like, chaps, we won’t mind.
Kick off: 12.30pm BST.Internet Explorer Channel Network