Watford 0-1 Liverpool: Emre Can scores spectacular overhead kick to sting Hornets at Vicarage Road
Liverpool took a significant step to sealing Champions League qualification as Emre Can scored a spectacular overhead kick to down Watford at Vicarage Road on Monday night.
Jurgen Klopp had seen Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal drop points in the battle for the Premier League top four before his side travelled to Vicarage Road - and they took full advantage.
A largely forgettable 90 minutes was settled when Can lit up a cold Hertfordshire evening with a superb volley in first-half stoppage time to clinch a 1-0 win.
The victory moved Liverpool four points clear of United in fifth, although they have played a game more than their bitter rivals.
Watford, on 40 points and all but safe from the drop, were not at the races as they failed to react to captain Troy Deeney's criticism following the recent defeat at Hull.
The opening quarter of the contest was interrupted by injuries as Liverpool lost Philippe Coutinho with less than 10 minutes gone before Miguel Britos hobbled off for the hosts soon after.
Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was forced into action as he pushed a long-range Can effort away from goal.
The game stuttered along for the majority of the half with very little incident until Adam Lallana, Coutinho's replacement, hit the bar with a looping effort.
Lucas Leiva was then booked for diving as the half threatened to end with a whimper, only for Can to take centre-stage.
The ball was neatly worked in-field from the right and Lucas, the villain of the piece moments earlier, clipped in a cross which Can acrobatically volleyed home to open the scoring on the stroke of half-time.
The startlingly goal seemed to inject fresh belief into Klopp's men and James Milner saw a low free-kick saved soon after the interval - with Gomes also having to turn a Divock Origi strike behind for a corner as Liverpool looked to kill the game off with a second.
Origi should have doubled the lead on 57 minutes but shot tamely at Gomes when through on goal, with the Hornets finally working Simon Mignolet courtesy of an Etienne Capoue strike.
The Frenchman was booked for his protestations as referee Craig Pawson signalled for a goal-kick, but it at least stirred the home fans.
It also lifted the Watford players, although in their attempts to equalise they were almost caught on the counter-attack, with Nordin Amrabat just able to prevent Lallana tucking away a goal on his return.
Can could not repeat his earlier heroics as he ballooned a shot wide and Mignolet made a meal out of a late Daryl Janmaat shot.
As Watford poured forward, Liverpool's goal lived a charmed life with Sebastian Prodl smashing the crossbar with a stoppage-time volley.
This win may have not been as emphatic as the 6-1 drubbing doled out by Liverpool when the sides met in November at Anfield - where Can also scored as the Reds went top of the table for the first time under Klopp.
But, having struggled against sides in the bottom half and with their rivals dropping points, it was just as important for the German and his hopes of a return to Europe's top table.A Twitter List by BelTel
Watford manager Walter Mazzarri hopes his players will remember how they felt getting thrashed 6-1 at Liverpool when the two Premier League sides go head-to-head again.
The Hornets are all-but safe for another season in the top flight, sitting on 40 points.
Manager Mazzarri, though, is determined the campaign will not just fade out over the closing five matches, which sees fixtures against Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City.
First up is the visit of Jurgen Klopp's men who tore Watford apart when the clubs met on Merseyside in early November, a result which saw the Reds at the top of the table.
Mazzarri wants his players to channel their frustrations of that miserable night at Anfield when they aim to make amends in front of the Vicarage Road faithful.
"I reminded them (about the Liverpool result) to motivate them," Mazzarri said.
"We have seen in English football that if a team with less value does everything well, they can win against much higher teams.
"I have the duty to try to get everything out of my players, all of the positive energy."
Mazzarri maintains Watford must take the game to Liverpool, who need the points to keep up their top-four challenge, and not just look to exploit potential weakness on set-pieces as Crystal Palace did last weekend.
"Every time we go forward, we try to score," Mazzarri said at a press conference.
"If we look at stats, sometimes they're right, but we need to find other ways to score as well, not just through set-pieces and corners.
"In order to get a positive result there are lots of different factors and one of them is luck."
The Hornets could again have to do without defender Craig Cathcart, who is doubtful because of a knee problem.
Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami, meanwhile, has just returned to the squad after a spell out with a hamstring injury and will also be monitored.
When Liverpool hammered Watford 6-1 at Anfield back in November the win took them top of the Premier League.
Since then injuries have scuppered their title bid, but with a top-four place still to play for the Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said the stakes were still high.
"Is there more pressure? No," he said. "It's the pressure you create by your performances and if we would have now 50-something points we would fight for nothing.
"Will there come pressure? Yeah, of course, on Monday before the game, nobody will feel like it is a friendly game, it's a very important game.
"We need to be ready for this but we were often enough ready for this so nobody should be in doubt that we will fight there.
"In this moment, everything for us is possible, and that's what we should try to show.
"I think when we met here months ago, when we were first or second in the table, I said the only thing we can do is to be in the battle for the interesting positions at the end of the season.
"The end of the season is now, of course, it is the last month of the season and we are in the battle. So what else do we want?
"Yes, it would be nice if we had 10 points more and fight with Chelsea for the title, but that's not for us obviously in this moment.
"So we have to fight for what we can fight for and that's a Champions League place. That's really, really interesting, to be honest."
Liverpool are set to be boosted by the return of midfielder Adam Lallana, who has been out since sustaining a groin injury playing for England on March 26.
Striker Daniel Sturridge is back in training after missing last weekend's home defeat to Crystal Palace with a sore hip.
Belfast Telegraph Digital