Watford executed their aggressive game plan to perfection
Watford executed their aggressive game plan to perfection against Liverpool…and Nigel Pearson was the calm in the sea of delirium at Vicarage Road
- Watford beat Liverpool 3-0 at Vicarage Road on Saturday evening
- The home side ended Reds’ 44-game unbeaten run in the Premier League
- Nigel Pearson deployed an aggressive game plan for his Hornets side
- Troy Deeney, Will Hughes and two-goal man Ismaila Sarr had excellent games
- The atmosphere at Vicarage Road became electric as the game progressed
Nigel Pearson raised an eyebrow, allowed himself a slight smile and walked back under the canopy of his dugout.
His conservative actions may have seemed unremarkable but, given the bedlam that had exploded around the stadium, you could not help but notice this pool of calm in a sea of delirium: 60 minutes into a contest few had expected to favour Watford, Pearson was breaking new ground.
Watford had just taken a two-goal lead against the team who have had a stranglehold on the Premier League and this made Pearson the first manager to be in such a position since Ernesto Valverde, when Barcelona beat Liverpool in first leg of the Champions League semi-final last May.
Nigel Pearson was the man with the plan in Watford’s shock victory over Liverpool on Saturday
Two goals from Ismail Sarr (right) ended the Reds’ 44-game unbeaten run at Vicarage Road
Barcelona enjoyed an element of good fortune that night but there was nothing lucky about the nature of this scoreline. Liverpool, slovenly and slapdash for the first time in an eternity, were comfortably second best and Vicarage Road rejoiced in the moment.
Pearson’s reaction to Ismaila Sarr’s second goal suggested he was bewildered, fortunate almost, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
This was the execution of an aggressive game plan, one that worked to perfection. Troy Deeney’s late strike ensured Pearson emulated Valverde with a 3-0 triumph.
Liverpool’s last three-goal defeat was last April’s European semi-final defeat at Barcelona
His first game in charge of Watford came on December 14 at Anfield and a 2-0 defeat that day did not reflect how well Pearson’s side had responded to his arrival. They played well and had Sarr shown some composure in front of goal, the score, perhaps, would have been different.
Many will want to examine Liverpool’s shortcomings but, on this occasion, it would be a disservice if the qualities of Pearson and Watford were not extolled for what, without question, is the most remarkable result of the domestic campaign.
With teams around them winning, Watford were under immense pressure and the ferocity with which they embraced the challenge of cancelling out the progress of Norwich and West Ham United could only be applauded – Will Hughes, Troy Deeney and Sarr, to name three, were superb.
Troy Deeney – the scorer of Watford’s third goal – had an excellent display against the Reds
The striker received applause from a buoyant and buzzing crowd at Vicarage Road
The way the stadium was bouncing in the final 10 minutes, with victory guaranteed regardless of how much possession Liverpool enjoyed, left you in no doubt that Pearson could preside over his second great top-flight escape. Watford, crucially, are now above that dotted line.
Time is on Watford’s side and, significantly, so is momentum. It would be travesty if they did not put these three points to maximum effect and you suspect, with Pearson at the wheel, there will be no loss of focus.
Teams with lesser character would have sunk on a night such as this, as the dreadful injury Gerard Deulofeu sustained in the first half brought the kind of hush over the stadium that is only reserved for moments of such severity.
An hour later, as the Rookery Stand relentless sang Pearson’s praises, the mood was vastly different. Watford lived up to their nickname, buzzing around like angry hornets to sting the runaway league leaders. Repeat this over the final two months and they will be here again next season.
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