Liverpool put five behind Watford

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(BBC SPORT) Roberto Firmino scored a hat-trick as rampant Liverpool condemned Claudio Ranieri to a miserable start to life as Watford manager in a one-sided game at Vicarage Road.

The home side had no answer to Liverpool’s fluid attacking play.

Sadio Mane became the third African player to score 100 Premier League goals before Roberto Firmino struck either side of the break and Mohamed Salah finished a brilliant individual goal with a smart shot beyond Ben Foster. Salah’s goal takes him level with former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba as the highest-scoring African player in Premier League history with 104 goals.

Firmino completed the scoring in the final minute for his first hat-trick since December 2018. The result means Liverpool have scored three goals or more in all six away games in all competitions so far this season, something no other English top-flight side has ever managed. It also extended their unbeaten start to the season and took them back to the top of the table, before Chelsea’s visit to Brentford (17:30 BST)

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It could easily have been more but a combination of bad luck and – from Salah – a terrible mis-control cost them further opportunities. Watford did not manage a corner until the 78th minute. That it was greeted with huge cheers and a standing ovation just about summed up Ranieri’s day.

Ranieri’s task laid bare

Watford is Ranieri’s 22nd different job in his long and varied coaching career. Rarely can he have endured a start as sobering as this.

It was Watford’s heaviest Premier League defeat since their eight-goal hammering by Manchester City in September 2019 and their biggest at home since the same opponents scored six here two years before that. There was certainly nothing to trigger a celebration before his 70th birthday on Thursday.

The dimensions of Vicarage Road mean the edge of the managers’ technical areas are about as close as it is possible to get to the side of the pitch.

It meant that Ranieri was almost on top of the action as the size of his task was laid bare.

A long pre-match chat with Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp was about as good as it got for the Italian.

Watford players may have been nervous – Ranieri

The hosts simply did not get near enough to their talented opponents. Salah was given far too much space by Danny Rose even before he created the opener. Firmino was allowed to drop into the space between Watford’s defence and midfield without anyone tracking his movements and Liverpool stroked the ball about at will further back, with no press to hurry them up.

With a paltry 17% possession, no shots, no corners and, obviously, no goals, the first half was a non-event for Ranieri and his new team. And if he hoped the introduction of Tom Cleverley into midfield for the second period would improve matters, he was sadly mistaken as Liverpool scored twice within 10 minutes of the restart.

Watford did rally towards the end, with Ismaila Sarr striking a post, although by then any chance of turning the game into a contest was long gone.

If there was a consolation for Ranieri, it is that there should be no dissenters if he wants to make significant changes during his first full week working with his new team.

However, with a fixture list that includes Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea and both Manchester clubs among Watford’s next seven opponents, Ranieri needs a plan if his club’s famously trigger-happy owners are not to be considering whether to axe yet another manager.



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