Ismaila Sarr may end up only as the answer to a pub quiz question.
But if the man who ended Liverpool’s dream of an invincible season helps Watford beat relegation, he will be a legend in this corner of Hertfordshire as well as in the red half of North London.
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Arsenal’s record of being the only side in the modern era to go a top-flight season unbeaten is safe for another year.
The question is whether this fantastic result will be the springboard for the Hornets to preserve their Premier League status.
It really should be, because Nigel Pearson’s team were excellent in achieving what no other club could and, in the process, climbing out of the relegation zone..
The home fans loved it, singing: “Can we play you every week?”
They made the world and European champions look second best in every department. But this defeat, if not the scale and humiliation of it, had been coming.
"Wait for the roar…" ??
Liverpool lose to Watford and Vicarage Road erupts on a historic night for the relegation-threatened club!#OptusSport #PL #WATLIV pic.twitter.com/BG94T2VN0T
Liverpool had been unconvincing in squeaking past the other two members of the bottom three, Norwich and West Ham, by the odd goal in their previous two fixtures.
They were simply awful, impotent in attack, flaccid in midfield and limp at the back, with even the great Virgil Van Dijk having a terrible evening alongside the ever hapless Dejan Lovren.
After all the talk of coronavirus being the only thing that could halt the Reds’ procession towards the title, Jurgen Klopp’s team caught a cold at a freezing Vicarage Road. And it was sweet revenge for two-goal Sarr.
What just happened.Source:AP
In the reverse fixture, the Senegal international had been guilty of an embarrassing airshot with the Liverpool goal at his mercy.
This time he claimed two striker’s goals, the first with a well-timed run and the second with a nerveless finish that made Alisson look silly.
Captain Troy Deeney grabbed the third to send the stadium into disbelieving raptures and this time Liverpool were done.
It was not a total shock.
Liverpool's 44-game unbeaten streak in the Premier League is over. What a run. ? pic.twitter.com/hybhMUb18y
Liverpool’s unbeaten streak …
– 422 days
– 44 games
– Second-longest in English top-flight history
– Second team to go unbeaten in the first 27 games of a season
What a run ? pic.twitter.com/6QM9w49Z3M
Watford had also given Liverpool plenty of trouble at Anfield in December in a 2-0 defeat that had plenty of positives.
In Pearson’s first game in charge, they showed the kind of spirit, organisation and drive that underpinned their first climb out of the bottom three.
They started this game a little more slowly but once again created some good chances to open the scoring.
There was nothing as glaring Sarr’s gaffe at Anfield, but Watford had two decent sights of goal in the opening 15 minutes.
Gerard Deulofeu scooped an effort on to the top of the net, then exchanged passes with Deeney before teeing up Abdoulaye Doucoure for a shot blocked by Van Dijk.
Liverpool, yet again, were looking off their game.
An unspecified niggle meant Joe Gomez was not risked and in his place Lovren had a torrid time in his first Premier League game since December 7.
What the hell happened to Liverpool!?
In the 11 matches since the Croatian had left the field during the first half at Bournemouth, the Reds had kept nine clean sheets and conceded only three goals.
That cannot have been a coincidence.
For all his ability on the ball, bravery and no-nonsense defending, Lovren is part of a long line of flaky Liverpool defenders in the years without a title who have been capable of the utterly sublime and the totally ridiculous.
Lovren’s rustiness was evident as he misplaced passes and was caught out twice in the build-up to Doucoure’s chance. But he was not the only one having an off day.
Liverpool’s midfield was being outfought by the tenacious hosts, which meant that the fabled front three and flying full backs did not have a platform to influence this game as they had so many before.
The streak is over.Source:AFP
It was Watford who looked the more dangerous down the flanks and that continued even after Deulofeu had to go off on a stretcher.
Sarr took up the baton, flashing a shot wide before Deeney had two chances to punish an Alisson fumble but took neither.
Surely Liverpool would improve in the second half? Not this time.
Watford came straight back out and forced Alisson to show his quality.
A Lovern misjudgment let in Roberto Pereyra, who fed Sarr. It took a fine save to divert his fierce shot over the crossbar.
The scare at last inspired Liverpool to add some purpose to their possession and Andy Robertson stang Ben Foster’s hands with the visitors’ first effort on target.
But straightaway Watford and Sarr grabbed the goal they deserved.
While Deeney occupied Lovren, Doucoure ran on to a throw-in and crossed for the Senegal international to score from close range.
If that defending was poor, worse was soon to come.
Deeney hit a pass infield from the touchline and this time it was Van Dijk at fault.
The big Dutchman was caught on his heels, Sarr raced on and clipped a lovely finish past Alisson.
Unbelievably, it got even better for Watford and even worse for Liverpool.
WATFORD 3-0 LIVERPOOL! ???
Who else but Troy Deeney⁉️#OptusSport #PL #WATLIV pic.twitter.com/88C9lClZqF
After Sarr blocked a goalbound Will Hughes shot, Lovren was outmuscled by Deeney, Sarr collected the ball and laid it back for Deeney to clip into the net.
Sarr had a great chance to claim a hat-trick, only to send his shot wide.
He was substituted immediately, to a standing ovation, his place in history sealed and Watford’s place in the Premier League suddenly looking more secure after an amazing result and performance.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.
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