Salah’s magic leads Liverpool past Watford

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A shaky Liverpool beat bottom-side Watford 2-0 at Anfield on Saturday as they are now unbeaten in the Premier League in 34 games.

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But this was far from comfortable for Jurgen Klopp‘s side. Watford wasted several glorious chances as new manager Nigel Pearson had an immediate impact but Mohamed Salah scored in each half to seal the win. It was also Liverpool’s first home clean sheet of the season as they have three-straight shutouts in all competitions.

With the win Liverpool move 11 points clear, momentarily, at the top of the table on 49 points, while Watford remain bottom on nine points.


3 things we learned

1. Sluggish Liverpool grind it out: It wasn’t pretty, especially in the first half, but Liverpool got the job done. That has been the story of their incredible season so far. Klopp’s side have now won 16 of their 17 games this season and are unbeaten but Klopp’s side lacked energy in the attacking third and maybe that is to be expected after their draining win in Salzburg on Tuesday. This was another case of grinding it out and like all title-winning teams, Liverpool have the knack of doing just enough to get over the line. In past seasons they’ve played so much better but dropped points in games like this.

2. Watford squander glorious chances: New manager Nigel Pearson will be filled with optimism by the way his team played, especially in the first half. He will also be concerned with the lack of confidence the Premier League’s lowest goalscorers have in front of goal. Doucoure and Sarr were guilty of missing big chances and for all over their energetic play in midfield and excellent deliveries from out wide, Watford failed to make the most of it. The Hornets know it will be a tough battle to stay up this season but if they can keep creating as many chances as they did against Liverpool they will give themselves a fighting chance.

3. Injuries begin to hit hard: Wijnaldum joined Liverpool’s growing injury list, as he joins Lovren, Matip and Fabinho on the sidelines, while the likes of Alisson and Salah have only recently returned to full fitness. The long-hard grind of competing in multiple competitions has sucked the life out of Liverpool, as they now face Aston Villa in the League Cup quarterfinal on Tuesday with one team and another squad of players fly out to Qatar for the Club World Cup semifinal on Wednesday. Liverpool face Leicester, Wolves, Sheffield United, Tottenham, Man United and Wolves in their next six PL games. They will need to keep players fit to get through that tough stretch of games unscathed.

Man of the Match: Mohamed Salah – Had the extra bit of quality to win the game and always looked dangerous on the last shoulder of the Watford defense. The Egyptian king is back fully fit and almost back to his best.


The first big chance of the game arrived for Watford as Ismaila Sarr‘s cross from the right was just missed by Troy Deeney who came flying in at the near post.

Liverpool eventually got going as Trent Alexander-Arnold whipped in plenty of dangerous balls from the right and Mane then sparked an attack but Jordan Henderson fired over.

Will Hughes then dragged a shot wide for Watford as the Hornets held their own in the first half as Virgil Van Dijk cleared after Abdoulaye Doucoure ran into the box and sent in a cross. Doucoure then totally missed the ball from a good position as Watford were more dangerous than the hosts.

But Liverpool then scored with their first, and only, shot on goal in the first half as they hit Watford on the counter. Firmino and Mane set up Salah and the Egyptian winger curled home a superb shot into the far corner.

Right on half time Watford should have levelled as a cross into the box found Sarr but he fluffed his lines badly at the Kop end as his new manager Nigel Pearson was left shaking his head in disbelief.

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At the start of the second half it seemed like Liverpool had doubled their lead as Xherdan Shaqiri whipped in a superb cross which Mane headed home, but VAR checked the goal and Mane’s hip was offside.

Watford had a glorious chance on the break to equalize as Gerard Deulofeu was played in but Allison came out and stood tall to keep Liverpool ahead.

Liverpool had various half chances during the rest of the game as Salah and Firmino tried to put the game to bed but Georginio Wijnaldum had to come off injured and the flow of the game was impacted.

After a defensive mix-up Watford’s Deulofeu whipped in a corner which hit the post as Liverpool looked nervous late on, but Salah then flicked home superbly to make it 2-0 and seal yet another win for the Reds.

Bentaleb joins Newcastle; Blades sign Robinson; Campana to Wolves

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Three Premier League clubs made signings on Tuesday as Nabil Bentaleb has joined Newcastle United, Leonardo Campana has arrived at Wolves and Jack Robinson has signed for Sheffield United.

Bentaleb, 25, has initially joined Newcastle from Schalke on loan with an option to make the deal a permanent one at the end of the season.

The former Tottenham midfielder will add extra quality to the engine room as Steve Bruce‘s side continue to sit pretty in midtable despite a laundry list of injuries to deal with.

“I’m very happy to come back to the Premier League, especially with a club such as Newcastle,” Bentaleb said. “The project really interested me. I wanted absolutely to come back to the Premier League. The coach had some trust in me and the club also – I saw that straight away – and I think it’s the perfect move for me.”

Bentaleb has so much promise and showed that as a youngster for Spurs and for Algeria at the 2014 World Cup and he was a regular at Schalke over the past few seasons before falling out of favor during the 2019-20 campaign as he is yet to make an appearance due to suffering a torn meniscus in September.

Wolves have been trying to complete the deal for Campana for some time but everything is now sealed for the Ecuador international to arrive in the Premier League.

Campana, 19, has been a star for Ecuador at youth international level and he’s signed a three-and-a-half year deal with Wolves to become the understudy to Raul Jimenez. He rose to prominence at the South American U20 Championships last summer as the top goalscorer at the tournament as Ecuador won the title. He has already graduated to the full national team and he is ready to get going in England.

“I am excited about the work the team has achieved this season. I know they support each other, their relationship with the manager is a good one and I know all the players get along really well. That motivated me to come here and to be part of this big family,” Campana said.

As for Robinson, 26, he arrives on a two-and-a-half year contract from Forest for an undisclosed deal as Blades boss Chris Wilder revealed he tried to sign the left-sided center back when he previously played for QPR.

“It’s a big confidence boost coming somewhere you know you’re wanted,” Robinson said. “The gaffer has done an unbelievable job over the last 3 years and I’m really excited to play under him. It’s a privilege to sign here, excited to be back in the Premier League I’m ready to show the fans why the gaffer has signed me.” 

Robinson, a Liverpool academy product who made his debut for them as a 16-year-old, will be one of Wilder’s three center backs and is keen to perform the overlapping role in Sheffield United’s quirky but hugely effective system.

Both of the signings are fairly prudent ones but bolster squads which need it after fine starts to the season as both Wilder and Bruce need extra players as they aim to push for at least a top 10 finish in the Premier League.

Mourinho denies bust-up with Rose

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Jose Mourinho has denied he has had a training ground bust-up with left back Danny Rose.

Reports had circulated that Rose and Mourinho were involved in a heated argument in training on Monday after the England left back was unhappy to be left out of the squad for the 0-0 draw at Watford on Saturday.

Mourinho had said that Rose was out injured with a back problem but the left back has since denied he wasn’t fit to play against the Hornets.

Speaking to the media ahead of Spurs’ home game against Norwich on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com), Mourinho wasn’t having any of it.

“I don’t know what you mean by tension in the air, I don’t have a problem with him,” Mourinho said. “On the Thursday before Watford late evening I got a call from my medical staff saying that Danny was calling them with a problem in his back and he wouldn’t train the next day. Friday it was a bit of a surprise to see him training, but even so I decided to play with (Japhet) Tanganga and have Ryan (Sessegnon) on the bench. That is the situation.”

Mourinho added that Rose’s display against Liverpool was “not phenomenal” and reading between the lines, he was dropped.

If there wasn’t an incident or at least some anger between Rose and Mourinho, why would reports of this nature surface?

With youngster Japhet Tanganga starting at left back for Tottenham, and doing a very good job as Mourinho praised him afterwards, it is understandable that Rose would have his nose put out of joint a little.

The England international has less than 18 months left on his current contract at Spurs and has already spoken publicly about his plans to run down that deal as chairman Daniel Levy hasn’t offered him a new deal.

It will be intriguing to see how this plays out as Tanganga now seems to be Spurs’ first choice left back and Rose will have to be happy with playing a bit-part role between now and the end of the season.

His experience and quality is undoubted but with Spurs’ defensive unit all over the place this season, Mourinho is well within his rights to mix things up with formations and personnel as he tries to make Tottenham tough to beat.

Solskjaer: United have made “strides forward”

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Ole Gunnaer Solskjaer believes his Manchester United side have taken “strides forward” following their 2-0 defeat at bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday.

United were outplayed for the vats majority of the game and were lucky to be only 1-0 down heading into the 90th minute but the grit and determination they showed impressed Solskjaer who lauded his young team.

Without the injured star duo of Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba for the daunting trip to the Premier League leaders, United’s manager was in a positive mood ahead of their clash against Burnley on Wednesday (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

“We lost to Liverpool. A team that you all say are fantastic and we’ve been in the game until the last kick of the ball. For me, that’s strides forward,” Solskjaer said. “Of course we’re disappointed about losing the game. We don’t want to be behind them in the league. But there are signs there that we’re on the right track, definitely.”

Is Solskjaer’s positivity misplaced?

Some would argue that United were lucky that Liverpool’s finishing was lackluster and that is true but the Red Devils hung in there and should have equalized in the second half but Anthony Martial blazed over.

They were missing at least four or five players in key areas for the trip to United as Rashford, Pogba and Scott McTominay were out injured and they badly need another attacking midfielder (ahem, Bruno Fernandes) to help with their play in the final third.

Solskjaer is right, there were positives for United. Fred played extremely well in midfield and both Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka stood tall defensively out wide. But the main takeaway from their trip to Liverpool was that United were delighted to not lose by three or four goals. The gulf in class between the two teams was clear for all to see and although United are trying to sort out their disjointed and confused squad by signing young, talented players, they are so far off Liverpool it is scary.

USMNT youngster Vassilev praised by Villa boss

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18-year-old USMNT youngster Indiana Vassilev has been praised by Aston Villa boss Dean Smith after making his Premier League debut at the weekend.

Vasillev came on for the final 25 minutes at Brighton and Hove Albion with Villa 1-0 down and helped them rescue a point as his run opened up the chance for Jack Grealish to score a late equalizer.

The lively attacking midfielder/forward has excelled in Villa’s reserve side after his arrival in England in the summer of 2018 following impressive displays for the U.S. youth national teams.

With Villa struggling with injuries up top after main striker Wesley went down with a season-ending injury early this month, Smith is clearly ready to put his faith in Vassilev.

“He is definitely ready to start,” Smith said. “The kid’s a bright spark, and we’ve seen that when he’s come on so far. He gave them (Brighton) problems on Saturday when he came on. It was a super ball from Douglas but, unless Indi makes that run down the side, he doesn’t drag Webster across, and Jack get in for the goal. He knows what he’s doing up there, he’s got a lot of pace, and he can run all day as well.”

Villa’s boss didn’t stop there though, as he also revealed that the young striker born in Savannah, Georgia has the backing of the senior players around him to go on and become a regular contributor in the Premier League.

“I’ve never been afraid to go and put young kids in if I feel they’re ready. I congratulated him after the game and said, ‘You’re a Premier League player now.’ He’s surprised me in a good way,” Smith added. “Sometimes when you give an opportunity to a young player they can sink or swim. He is certainly a swimmer. He has looked really good so far. You can always tell how the reaction is through the other players, in their relationships with them. You can see them all behind him. He goes in and puts a shift in for them. If you do that and have quality to add to it you will do alright in the dressing room. He’s got a goalscoring ability, he knows where the back of the net is, he knows what runs to make. Tactically he’s intelligent. Physically he’s impressive as well.”

Vassilev comes from a long line of soccer players and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all played in Bulgaria and he was born and raised in the USA after his parents emigrated from the eastern European country in the early 1990s.

It looks like the USMNT have another top talent breaking through in Europe which is great news for Gregg Berhalter and potentially even better news for Villa as they badly need a forward to deliver goals in their fight against relegation from the Premier League.

Expect to see more cameos, and maybe even starts, from Vassilev in the final months of the Premier League season.