The Warm Down: Liverpool ruthless as Watford made to pay for missed chances
Jota heads Liverpool into the lead | Credit: Clive Brunskill / Getty Images.

Premier League action got back underway this weekend after what may have felt like a lengthy international break for Liverpool and Watford.

Hosts Liverpool had won nine on the bounce in the league - a run that had seen them get back in contention for the Premier League title - whilst visitors Watford had secured three points away at Southampton last time out in an attempt to kick-start their survival campaign. 

Despite it being three weeks since the win away at Southampton, Watford were the side who started the match on the front foot, with Liverpool dominating possession but offering little in terms of attacking threat.

The Hornets' were a constant threat in attack, with the pace of Joao Pedro, Cucho Hernandez and Ismaila Sarr causing Liverpool problems in the early stages. 

In the end, Diogo Jota found the breakthrough for Liverpool in the 22nd minute after some missed Hornets opportunities, whilst Fabinho's 89th minute penalty secured all three points for the Reds, sending them back to the top of the Premier League - albeit only momentarily with Manchester City winning against Burnley in their 3pm kick-off.

Watford missed opportunities 

Undoubtedly, the pivotal moment of the match came during the period that Liverpool took the lead during the game.

Prior to Jota heading home for the Reds and putting them 1-0 up, Watford midfielder Juraj Kucka had missed a massive opportunity to give the Hornets the lead.

A Joao Pedro through ball saw the 34-year-old through one-on-one with Allison in the Liverpool goal, only for Kucka to hit a tame effort straight at the Brazilian. It was a good save, but Kucka should have done better.

Just 34 seconds later, Watford were punished as Liverpool had taken the ball up to the other end and scored. Joe Gomez had whipped in a teasing cross, with Diogo Jota making a great run to get on the end of it before on outrushing Ben Foster could punch the ball away. 

The Kucka missed chance was a sign of things to come for Watford, with Joao Pedro also missing a similarly tantalising opportunity to equalise in the second half. 

Sarr appeared to beat the Liverpool offside trap when Cucho Hernandez played a lofted through ball behind the Reds defence. Joao Pedro made a great run into the box and found enough space for Sarr to lay the ball off towards him, only to hit it hard and low just wide of the goal. 

Nobody expected Watford to get anything from the match, but if they are to have any chance of remaining in the Premier League this season, they must be more clinical in front of goal in the coming weeks.

Silly errors 

Kucka was unfortunately the man at fault for another error. With Liverpool struggling to finish the game off, the midfielder rugby tackled Diogo Jota to the floor and handed Liverpool a penalty in the latter stages of the game.

Although it could be questioned why VAR got involved this time and not on any other occasion during this match, it is hard to argue with the decision and the outcome.

At 34, Kucka is one of the more experienced Watford players, so to give away such a penalty, whilst the Hornets were still chasing a potential point in the game, is disappointing. 

Much like with the missed opportunities, silly errors and fouls like Kucka's on Saturday must be eradicated from Watford's performances in the coming weeks if they are to have a chance of staying up.

With their poor defensive record as it is, they simply cannot afford to help the opposition further by giving away cheap goals in the form of penalties.

Players - particularly the more experienced ones - have to show more discipline as the season draws to a close.

Optimism ahead of the run-in

Although the above are rather negative, the Watford performance on the whole was a positive one on Saturday afternoon and certainly provided some optimism for Hornets fans ahead of some crucial fixtures in the coming weeks.

Whenever Watford have won a match this season, they have often failed to follow them up with a decent result, and although they didn't take any points away from Anfield on Saturday, they will surely have gained some confidence after causing a side at the top of the table plenty of problems.

Watford's next four fixtures look absolutely critical to their chances of staying in the division, with Leeds, Brentford and Burnley all to play at home in the next four.  

If the Hornets can muster up some performances like those we have seen at the St. Mary's Stadium and Anfield in recent weeks, they may just put up more of a fight than expected in their bid for survival.