Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Mane's brilliant backheel finish helps Liverpool hit five as Klopp blasts Kop critics

Liverpool 5 Watford 0

Strong start: Sadio Mane celebrates his opener for Pool
Strong start: Sadio Mane celebrates his opener for Pool

By Carl Markham

Premier League leaders Liverpool brushed aside concerns about their recent struggles as Sadio Mane had a starring role in a resounding 5-0 win at home to a toothless Watford.

Questions were starting to be asked after four draws in their last five matches in all competitions but this performance was a return to the verve and inventiveness which they desperately needed to rediscover.

It was typified by Mane's - and Liverpool's - second of the night: a brilliant backheel from 12 yards out which caught goalkeeper Ben Foster unawares.

The Senegal international had already scored with a header having been given the job of central striker in the absence of the injured Roberto Firmino.

Firmino's replacement Divock Origi, who was posted on the left wing to accommodate Mane, added the third in the second half with Virgil van Dijk scoring two headers.

Mane's double meant this is his best Premier League goalscoring return of 14 goals, with 10 matches still to go, and was the fifth home league match in succession in which he had found the net.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said: "The boys showed how much they enjoy the game and the situation.

"It was an important sign. You know what was written and said about us. It is of course not right. These boys are outstanding and they showed so much passion.

"The game from Mo (Salah) was incredible. Sadio (Mane) scored a brilliant goal. All three midfielders were outstanding. Both centre-halves played outstanding.

"We won 5-0 so you don't talk about them but they had their moments. Even Alisson was great."

On Trent Alexander-Arnold, Klopp added: "All the crosses were outstanding, so it's just a special night. I can't remember the last time he got a hat-trick of assists.

"We want to use our power and our skills but there are different games to play. Watford changed for us too. You always prepare for a match differently.

"It is just a really good night for us and the boys deserve all the credit."

Watford boss Javi Gracia said Liverpool were deserved winners.

"We knew before the game they play really well," he said. "It was difficult for us. We have had good performances lately but today they were much better and deserved their victory.

"They opened the game very early and afterwards they dominated. We had a few chances in the second half to score and we didn't take them. Maybe one would have changed the game but it wasn't possible to have options."

The result was exactly the boost Liverpool, still a point ahead of Manchester City, needed to inject life into what some argued was a flagging title challenge and the last thing Everton, hosts of Sunday's Merseyside derby, wanted to see.

And it was hardly as if Watford were there for the taking, arriving at Anfield having won six and drawn four of their last 11 matches.

But they ran into a re-energised and clinical Liverpool side who took out their frustrations from Sunday's goalless draw at Old Trafford.

Liverpool's opener, after nine minutes, was simple in its execution as Alexander-Arnold whipped over a cross so perfect Mane, the smallest man in the penalty area, scored a classic centre-forward goal as he rose to head home.

Mane's second came from the same area with Salah cutting Watford to shreds down the right allowing Alexander-Arnold to swing over another perfect ball.

The striker's first touch took him away from goal but the 26-year-old showed awareness, surprising Foster with a backheel from 12 yards out.

Salah, who was denied by a combination of Foster and a post, was the architect of the move of the match when he collected his raking crossfield ball back from Origi and dinked a chip through for the on-rushing Andy Robertson to volley wide.

After the break Mane was denied a hat-trick by Craig Cathcart's close-range block but Origi got the goal his leg-work down the left deserved when he cut in to beat Foster at his near post in the 66th minute.

Alisson twice denied substitute Andre Gray before Van Dijk struck with two headers from crosses by Alexander-Arnold and fellow full-back Robertson.

LIVERPOOL: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum (Keita 84), Fabinho, Milner (Henderson 70), Salah, Origi, Mane (Lallana 78).

Subs not used: Sturridge, Mignolet, Shaqiri, Camacho.

Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Masina, Doucoure, Capoue, Hughes, Pereyra (Sema 84), Deeney (Gray 73), Deulofeu (Cleverley 73).

Subs not used: Gomes, Quina, Navarro, Kabasele.

Referee: Graham Scott

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