13 January 2007

Liverpool 3-0 Watford

Bellamy 34’
Crouch 39’ 48’

It was a dominating, professional, if slow-paced performance in which Liverpool never really got out of 1st gear. It took a little over 30 minutes to break Watford down, but Liverpool scored two more within 20 minutes, and the game was over long before Crouch’s second goal.

Partly due to injuries, and partly due to the need for goals, Liverpool came out with three strikers, three center backs, and Aurelio and Finnan in wingback roles. Both defenders turned in excellent games on the wings, joining the attack well but getting back to defend the few times Watford actually pressed forward. Kuyt, Bellamy and Crouch all linked up well, with the latter two combining on two of the three goals. Bellamy in particular was at his predatory best, with a goal and two assists.

For the first Bellamy found Crouch, who pushed through the box towards Foster, his hard work giving Finnan the chance to perfectly center the ball for Bellamy to side foot in. Finnan had turned away arm raised in celebration before the ball had even reached Bellamy.

All three strikers were in the mix for the second. Kuyt headed the ball through to Bellamy, who forced Foster into a tough save, the rebound falling for Crouch to head in easily. Minutes after halftime, Crouch again had a empty net to fire into, this time with some brilliant counter-attack play after Watford had opened the second half pressing forward. Gerrard cleverly found Aurelio out on the left, who played in Bellamy with a one-touch pass, with Bellamy delivering a lovely centering pass to Crouch. The third goal was the final nail in the coffin, and honestly, the two teams pretty much saw out the rest of the game.

Although Watford played their strongest after going down three goals, they never looked likely to score save one moment of brilliance from Jordan Stewart, who hit a dipping shot that luckily bounced off the crossbar. They also looked a team likely to be relegated. Despite their resilient back line and the pace of Young and Bouazza, they play far too conservative, even at home, and at this stage with this squad, they cannot compete at the Premier League level. No matter the grit of your efforts, if you invite teams like Liverpool onto you, this is what happens. It sounds harsh, and it certainly isn’t for their lack of trying, but I fear it’s the truth. Although it was nice to see American Jay DeMerit put in another strong performance.

Despite the disappointments in the two cups, Liverpool’s now lost only once in the last eleven league games, giving up only one goal in the process. With games, albeit home games, against Chelsea and Everton, it will be necessary they keep up that form. With this win, they continue on in 3rd place in the league, with 2nd place not entirely out of sight. This win was the first step in the process of putting the last week behind, and seeing out the rest of the campaign on a high note. There’s still much to fight for in the league, and in addition, it’s essential to be in form when the team meets Barcelona in a little over a month with progression in the Champions League, usually Benitez’s most successful tournament, at stake.

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