Emre Can’s stupendous goal earned Liverpool a crucial win at Vicarage Road and moved them closer to Champions League qualification
Jurgen Klopp gives Emre Can a big joyous hug. The German’s outrageous goal settled this one. It came out of nothing and it means everything tonight. Liverpool weren’t doing much and had lost Coutinho to an early injury – then that. They found a way to win, despite lacking a cutting edge and this is a big result, one that moves three points clear of Manchester City, four points clear of Manchester City and nine points clear of Arsenal. They’re doing just about enough at the moment. They almost threw it away at the end, Sebastian Prodl volleying against the bar, but they survived. It’s their third consecutive win by a single goal on the road and it leaves them a step closer to a top-four finish. Thanks for reading and emailing. Night.
It’s all over. A poor game, but Liverpool have done enough thanks to Emre Can’s amazing goal.
90 min+4: Watford have a free-kick just inside Liverpool’s half. Cleverley sends it in. Milner clears for a throw. Watford keep coming, though. The ball bounces around on the edge of the area. Okakak makes a nuisance of himself and the ball finds its way to the unmarked Prodl on the left. He crashes a volley past Prodl – and against the bar!
90 min: Sturridge does well to outmuscle Doucoure before skipping past Prodl, opening up space for a shot from just inside Watford’s area. He shoots low with his right foot but Gomes gets a hand to his effort and the ball trickles agonisingly past the right post. There will be four added minutes.
88 min: Sturridge cheaply gives the ball away. I’m surprised Liverpool haven’t brought on the calming influence of Alberto Moreno. Meanwhile Wijnaldum slides a pass into the area for, er, Matip, who sees his shot turned behind by Gomes.
87 min: Liverpool make their final change, Ragnar Klavan on for Adam Lallana, who’s out of juice after coming on for Coutinho much earlier than Klopp would have wanted. Klavan’s job will be to help Liverpool combat the physical duo of Deeney and Okaka.
85 min: Daniel Sturridge replaces Divock Origi. He will have set himself a target of getting a minimum 17 shots away. Stefano Okaka is on for Nordin Amrabat as well. Niang’s moved wide.
83 min: Janmaat wafts an aimless looking shot towards goal from the left. But Simon Mignolet’s having a wee snooze in goal and he just wakes up in time to dive low to his right and push it away before the ball creeps inside his near post.
81 min: Emre Can bends one well wide from 25 yards. He’s no Emre Can. Wait.
76 min: From a Watford corner, Liverpool almost score. When the corner’s cleared, Janmaat decides to shoot from 40 yards. But of course. He is Daryl Janmaat. Daryl Janmaat. Liverpool storm up the right, Clyne knocking it down the line for Can, who’s in space. He looks up and sprays a ball across, into the path of the onside Lallana, but the midfielder takes a slightly poor first touch, rushes and scythes a shot past the right post. Will that miss come back to haunt Liverpool?
75 min: Watford are a pretty tedious team, but they’re clear of relegation fears. What does that say about this league?
73 min: Isaac Success replaces Etienne Capoue.
70 min: Deeney’s a little lucky Craig Pawson misses him having a small dig at Mignolet, who goes down. It’s all very silly.
68 min: Capoue smacks one goalwards from 20 yards. Mignolet brushes it over, but a goal-kick’s awarded. Watford are furious. Capoue’s booked for dissent.
66 min: Wijnaldum jinks back inside on the left, leaving Mariappa grounded, but his chipped cross only finds Janmaat.
64 min: Janmaat whips a cross into the middle from the left. Mignolet does a catch.
60 min: The home fans are getting irritated with Watford’s approach. They can’t get Deeney or Niang in the game at all, mainly because they keep kicking the ball past them.
57 min: Origi chases a ball down the right channel and hurtles into the area. From a tight angle, he shoots straight at Gomes.
54 min: Lallana sends the corner deep into the area and Lovren nods it into the six-yard box. Gomes is grateful the ball runs through to him.
53 min: Origi cuts inside from the left, slipping away from Kabasele, and shoots towards the bottom corner from 20 yards. Gomes tips it wide.
52 min: Watford do know the second half has started, right?
50 min: Can’s down after being caught in the face by a stray arm from Doucoure.
49 min: Milner goes for goal with the free-kick, but it’s straight at Gomes, who takes the safe option of pushing it away.
48 min: Firmino, who is playing by the way, wins a free-kick on the left of the area after a clumsy, needless foul from Prodl, who’s booked.
46 min: Liverpool get the second half underway. The good news for them, other than the scoreline, is that Coutinho hasn’t had to go to hospital for a look at his injury. He’s sitting on the bench.
Half-time entertainment courtesy of Kevin O’Connor
Emre Can, though!
A goal this game didn’t deserve, but do Liverpool care? Of course they don’t care. Liverpool don’t appear to be going anywhere on the right. Eventually the ball’s worked inside to Lucas, who’s thankfully recovered from his brush with death a few moments ago, and he lofts a ball into the area, looking for Can. There doesn’t seem to be much on. Amrabat’s in close attendance. The only thing for Can to do is leap into a stunning acrobatic bicycle kick from just inside the Watford area, the ball looping over Heurelho Gomes, who’s so taken aback he barely moves, and into the top right corner!
45 min: There will be three added minutes. Liverpool really haven’t recovered from losing Coutinho to injury.
44 min: Lucas prods the ball round Cleverley on the right of the area and tumbles under a non-existent challenge from the Watford midfielder. Cleverley wasn’t even near him. That is an utterly pathetic dive from Lucas and he’s booked by Craig Pawson. It was a Morten Gamst Pedersen of an effort to con the referee.
41 min: Can incurs the wrath of the Watford fans by tumbling on the edge of the area on the left. They reckon the German dived. Liverpool eventually get a corner. It’s whipped in from the left and Gomes punches clear, but only as far as Lallana, who let the ball drop before cracking a brilliant volley over the Watford goalkeeper and against the bar from 20 yards! The ball bounces the wrong side of the line from Liverpool’s safety, Origi’s beaten to the rebound and Watford survive.
38 min: Deeney momentarily goes down in the area after a little nudge from Lovren, but Craig Pawson isn’t interested. And nor’s Deeney.
34 min: Niang stands Clyne up on the left. He tries to twist and turn past the Liverpool right-back, but eventually settles for a corner. Cleverley’s delivery leads to nothing in particular. Liverpool have successfully dealt with a corner!
33 min: Origi introduces some electricity to Liverpool’s attack, bursting to the byline on the left, but Gomes claims his cutback.
32 min: Lallana should roll a pass through to Origi, but he underhits it.
30 min: There are more interesting articles on this website today.
27 min: This is tactically absorbing.
24 min: Liverpool have had 60% possession and look utterly convinced they’re going to lose 1-0 after conceding a scrappy goal from a corner in the 53rd minute. It will be Watford’s only shot, other than the ones they’ve already had, but let’s not count them.
22 min: Absolutely nothing’s happening, so Can decides he might as well shoot from 25 yards. It’s a good effort, low and hard, but Heurelho Gomes pushes it to safety.
20 min: Christian Kabasele replaces Miguel Britos.
18 min: Miguel Britos is down and in need of treatment. This has been very stop-start so far.
16 min: Watford burst up field in sprightly fashion. The ball’s pinged from right to left and Cleverley chests down to Deeney, whose interesting drive’s deflected into Mignolet’s hands.
15 min: Liverpool are around four more injuries away from Daniel Sturridge getting a game or maybe just being allowed to warm up for a bit.
14 min: Milner escapes down the left for the first time and hangs a teasing cross into the middle. It’s headed away from Wijnaldum.
13 min: The ball finally goes out of play, meaning that Adam Lallana can come on for the stricken Coutinho, who gets a consolation from Jurgen Klopp.
11 min: Adam Lallana is going to come on for Liverpool.
10 min: Niang swivels away from Matip on the left and the German centre-back brings him down. Capoue’s free-kick is a waste of time.
8 min: Now Milner’s down, caught by Capoue (I think) in the air. Nothing’s given. Jurgen Klopp’s miffed. Milner groggily gets back to his feet.
7 min: Coutinho hobbles back on. He looks mightily uncomfortable. It’s not long before he trudges back to the touchline to talk to Coutinho. He’s trying to stretch his right thigh, but it’s difficult to see him continuing.
6 min: Coutinho is limping off for more treatment. He’s feeling his right thigh. It could be a dead leg, writes Dr Steinberg. Liverpool are still down to 10 men as Watford break, but Niang selfishly shoots from 20 yards, straight at Mignolet.
5 min: Coutinho’s down after a collision with Mariappa. He’ll need some treatment. Jurgen Klopp looks concerned; he can’t afford to lose the Brazilian.
3 min: Amrabat concedes possession on the right. Lucas fizzes a pass into Origi, who tries to turn Prodl. The Watford centre-back brings him down heavily and is fortunate to escape a booking. The free-kick’s just inside Watford’s half. Coutinho lofts it straight into the area, but Can can’t head it back across goal.
And we’re off! Watford, in bright yellow shirts and black shorts, get the game underway. They’re kicking from right to left in the first half. Liverpool are in red.
The teams are out. Z-Cars blares around Vicarage Road, meaning this is a Merseyside derby.
The way Liverpool started the season, it is a slight disappointment that they’re no longer in the title race. On their day, they’re exhilarating to watch. At other times, not so much. Still, they don’t really have the cover to challenge at the elite yet; Sadio Mane’s injury highlights the flaws in their squad. In that context, finishing in the top four in Jurgen Klopp’s season would be something to celebrate, especially as it would mean doing so at the expense of two out of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United, clubs with stronger finances. Then challenge for Liverpool would be pushing on in the summer. They’ve struggled to do that in the past – think 2002, 2009 and 2014 – and can’t afford to let another opportunity to go to waste. We all know the Manchester clubs will be parting with significant money again.
Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Prodl, Britos; Janmaat, Cleverley, Doucoure, Capoue, Amrabat; Deeney, Niang. Subs: Pantilimon, Kabasele, Eleftheriou, Zúñiga, Behrami, Success, Okaka.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Lucas, Can, Wijnaldum; Coutinho, Origi, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Moreno, Grujic, Sturridge, Alexander- Arnold, Klavan, Lallana.
Alan Pardew is in the Sky Sports studio. He isn’t dancing yet.
Hello. With the race to finish in the top four plunging new depths on Sunday afternoon, now we get to see whether Liverpool are capable of moving in the right direction without tripping over their own feet. It will help if they’ve left the funny oversized shoes at home, of course, although that’s the thing about life in the best league in the world: it’s so very unpredictable and anyone can beat anyone because only two teams are any use at the moment. As it stands, Liverpool are the third best team in the country. I know, I know. Last week they lost to Crystal Palace at home last week and they could yet end the season as the league’s 14th least worst team.
But still, what a wonderful opportunity they have in front of them tonight. Manchester City and Manchester United drew with Middlesbrough and Swansea City yesterday, because of course they did, and Arsenal went one better by collapsing at Tottenham, because of course they did, so it’s over to Liverpool to take full advantage by swatting mid-table, beach-residing Watford aside. A win will take them three points clear of City, four clear of United and nine clear of Arsenal before winnable fixtures against Southampton, West Ham and Middlesbrough. A limp exit from their Champions League group next season is theirs for the taking.
Related: Watford v Liverpool: match preview