Invincible No More: Watford End Liverpool’s Unbeaten Run in EPL
Liverpool’s ambitions of remaining unbeaten in Premier League were ended with a surprise 3-0 loss at Watford.
Arsenal's class of 2003-04 can breathe easy: Liverpool will not be joining them as Premier League “Invincibles.”
“Phew...” was the immediate reaction from Arsenal's Twitter account after Liverpool collapsed to its first league loss of the season on Saturday, a 3-0 defeat at Watford - a team languishing in the relegation zone.
It marked the end of a 44-match undefeated streak and a record-tying 18-match winning run for Liverpool in the league.
All of Watford’s goals, through Ismaila Sarr’s double and Troy Deeney, came in the second half as Liverpool’s record-tying 18-match winning run since October disintegrated against a team languishing in the relegation zone.
This defeat came after a 1-0 loss to Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 match and a sloppy display in beating West Ham 3-2 in the league on Monday.
Juergen Klopp's team headed to Vicarage Road as the champions-in-waiting - with their record 22-point lead - and needing to get through 11 more matches to also become only the second side after Arsenal to complete a full season unbeaten since the start of the Premier League in 1992. Preston also went through the 1888-89 season undefeated.
Liverpool was five games short of matching Arsenal’s 49-match unbeaten streak in the Premier League from May 2003 to October 2004. That run ended when Arsenal lost 2-0 at Manchester United.
Few could have foreseen the manner of Liverpool's meltdown against Watford, which scored all of its goals in the second half through Ismaila Sarr (two) and Troy Deeney.
Thankfully for Liverpool fans desperate to see their team back on top of English soccer for the first time in 30 years, the loss is far from terminal.
Four wins from their last 10 games will see the Reds become champions for the 19th time.
“There is no reason for panic,” Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said.“The (unbeaten) record, and the talk of the records, is all media. We just try to win every game ahead of us.”
The performance will be a major concern, though, coming soon after a 1-0 loss to Atletico Madrid in their first leg in the Champions League's last 16.
Indeed, Liverpool's players have been far below their usual high standards since returning from the Premier League's first midseason break, having edged past last-place Norwich 1-0 and coming from behind to beat another team fighting relegation, West Ham, 3-2 on Monday. The loss to Atletico was sandwiched between those league matches.
The absence of captain Jordan Henderson, who sustained a hamstring injury against Atletico, has been significant, while the defense looked ragged against Watford with Dejan Lovren filling in at center back for Joe Gomez.
Liverpool's next game is at Chelsea in the FA Cup on Tuesday.
“We want to strike back, we want to show what we’ve been doing the whole season,” Van Dijk said. “That’s the only way forward.”
From looking unbeatable, Liverpool played like a relegation candidate against Watford even though the home team lost one of its most dangerous players, Gerard Deulofeu, to what looked like a serious knee injury in the first half.
Liverpool conceded a sloppy first goal in the 54th when a throw-in bounced over defender Dejan Lovren, Abdoulaye Doucoure drove the ball across the face of goal, and Sarr tapped home.
Sarr was given freedom to race behind Liverpool’s defense and onto Deeney’s through-ball before chipping goalkeeper Alisson for the second in the 60th.
Then, in the 72nd, Deeney stroked the ball into an unguarded net after Sarr intercepted a sluggish back-pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold that was aimed for Alisson.
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