LIVERPOOL: Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk each scored twice as Liverpool thrashed Watford 5-0 to maintain their one-point advantage over Manchester City in the Premier League title race.
Mane ensured it was not going to be a nervy night at Anfield by scoring twice in the first 20 minutes, including a spectacular backheel for his second.
Divock Origi added a third in the second half before Dutch centre-back Van Dijk headed two goals in the final 10 minutes.
It was a strong statement of intent from a team who had drawn four of their last five games, but who have genuine hope of becoming English champions for the first time since 1990.
As they sought to maintain the Premier League leadership, Liverpool’s main concern was finding a way to overcome the absence of Roberto Firmino because of an ankle injury.
Klopp’s solution to the problem was to reshuffle his three-man forward line, with Mane moving to the centre, and Divock Origi coming in on the left for only his second Premier League start of the season.
It was a move that paid off quickly for Liverpool as only nine minutes in Trent Alexander-Arnold delivered a fine cross for Mane to climb between Craig Cathcart and Adrian Mariappa to head in.
Another Alexander-Arnold cross led to the second as Mane reacted brilliantly after a poor first touch by backheeling the ball over the advancing Ben Foster in the Watford goal.
Confidence restored, Liverpool looked back in the groove and one passage of play, in the closing 10 minutes of the first half, had Watford barely able to keep up.
First Salah latched on to Alexander-Arnold’s sublime lofted pass down the right, cut in and saw his shot touched on to the near post by Foster.
Then James Milner weaved through the Watford defence, only for Foster to block at his feet, before Fabinho sent a 25-yard shot wide.
Andy Robertson and Mohamed Salah went close either side of half-time before Origi added a third goal to end any doubt.
The Belgian received Robertson’s pass on the left and cut in past Daryl Janmaat to drive a shot between the unsighted Foster and his near post.
Watford offered little as an attacking threat, although Troy Deeney missed a decent chance before half-time and substitute Andre Gray was denied twice by Alisson after the interval.
Liverpool emphasised their superiority as Alexander-Arnold claimed his third assist, delivering an outswinging free-kick that Van Dijk headed in.
They were not finished there; three minutes after his first goal, Van Dijk headed his second from a Robertson cross, and left Watford utterly defeated. — AFP