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Salah scored twice as Premier League leaders Liverpool battled to victory over Watford - BBC

By Emma Sanders
BBC Sport at Anfield

Mohamed Salah took his tally up to nine Premier League goals for the season with a double against Watford

Mohamed Salah scored twice as Premier League leaders Liverpool battled to victory over strugglers Watford in Nigel Pearson's first game in charge.

Salah curled the ball into the far corner for the opener before flicking in a late second in the final minute of normal time at Anfield.

Watford missed chances in both halves, while Liverpool's Sadio Mane had a header ruled out for offside following a review by the video assistant referee (VAR).

Liverpool remain unbeaten in the league this season while Watford are six points - and with a substantial goal difference to overturn - adrift of safety.

The Reds were made to work for their victory though - goalkeeper Alisson making smart saves after the break, while Watford's Ismaila Sarr also wasted a huge chance.

Salah squandered opportunities of his own too, but Liverpool did enough to pick up their 16th victory of the season and open up a 10-point gap at the top, with second-placed Leicester being held at home by Norwich later on Saturday.
Liverpool grind out another win

It wasn't pretty, but once again Liverpool got the job done.
Jurgen Klopp's side have made Anfield a fortress and it was clear from the start that they were going to dominate possession and break Watford down.
A long ball over the top from Virgil van Dijk almost set Salah on his way within minutes of the starting whistle and Roberto Firmino could have scored shortly after, pouncing on a loose ball on the edge of the area.
But the chances were few for Liverpool in a first half that saw Watford defend in numbers and remain compact.

Watford had chances on the break but didn't take them - Will Hughes dragging a shot wide and Etienne Capoue having an effort blocked in the box.
In the end it was Liverpool who capitalised with a break of their own - Firmino, Mane and Salah combining for the opener.

Sarr missed a golden opportunity to equalise five minutes later, and Alisson was kept on his toes as he made two smart close-range saves early in the second half. 

The Anfield crowd, who were frustrated at times by a lack of intensity and sloppiness, grew anxious as the game wore on - Van Dijk almost passing the ball into his own net following a mix up with Alisson and Trent Alexander-Arnold being caught out of possession on the right.

But the European champions, who are chasing a first league title in 30 years, were carrying winning momentum and victory here at Anfield leaves them heading into the new year with a healthy lead at the top of the table.
Organised but wasteful from Watford

Coming to Anfield in his first game in charge was always going to be a difficult task for Pearson, who replaced Quique Sanchez Flores as Watford boss earlier this month and was at Vicarage Road to see their 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace last week.

He was urging his side to remain tight and will have been pleased, on the whole, by their organisation at the back.

But Watford have not won in the league since 8 November - their only victory of the season - and they are the lowest-scoring side in the competition with just nine goals so far.
They had chances to score at Anfield - Sarr's fluffed attempt in the first half a huge miss, as he completely mishit a rebound from Gerard Deulofeu's dangerous cross.
Deulofeu, who got in behind a few times down the left, threw his arms up in frustration behind the goal as the Kop jeered before the ball had even gone out of play.
Those chances rarely come around again at Anfield but Deulofeu himself had one early in the second half, which he hit straight at Liverpool keeper Alisson.
Watford were never expected to take anything from this game but if they are to climb the table and get out of the relegation zone, they need to find their goal-scoring boots.

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Man of the match - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Mohamed Salah's two goals were enough to secure the points for Liverpool despite a host of missed chances for the league leaders
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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaking to BT Sport: "It was not the prettiest game but I am more than happy with that. At this stage you have to show resilience and I believe we did that today. We have so many games but we are happy with this. Watford had their chances but we scored ours. We could have made the game easier for us but it's intense to be constantly in charge of the game. We have to defend with passion not organisation sometimes and that was sometimes now, right?"

Watford manager Nigel Pearson speaking to BT Sport: "I have already told the players our destiny is in our own hands and that intensity of performance and decisive counter-attacking and creativity at times will serve us well for the rest of the season, we need to emulate that.
"It's always hard to come to places like this. There is a bit of risk and reward. We knew we would have to absorb pressure. The disappointment was their goal came from our set piece and that is something we need to address. I think we put them under strain and caused them problems but they have unbelievable players. We need to reflect on the performance and that going forwards will serve us well in the fight. I have seen more positives than negatives today. We have to make things happen and hopefully people have seen encouragement today."

Worrying times for Watford - the stats
Liverpool are unbeaten in 34 Premier League games (W29 D5), the third-longest run in the history of the competition after Arsenal (49) between May 2003-October 2004 and Chelsea (40) between October 2004-October 2005.
Watford's Nigel Pearson became the ninth manager to face Liverpool at Anfield in their first Premier League game in charge of a team - with all nine losing to the Reds by an aggregate score of 3-19.
Watford have won just nine points from 17 games this season - each of the nine previous teams to accumulate nine points or fewer after 17 Premier League matches were eventually relegated.
Liverpool have won their last 16 home top-flight matches - they've only had one longer run at Anfield in their history, winning 21 in a row between January and December 1972.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has won seven Premier League games against Watford; against no side has he picked up more victories in the competition (level with Crystal Palace).
Mohamed Salah has now scored 84 goals in 126 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool - two more than Luis Suarez (82) netted in 133 games for the Reds.
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah has scored eight Premier League goals against Watford; more than he has netted against any other team in the big 5 European leagues.
Sadio Mané has had a hand in nine goals in six Premier League appearances against Watford for Liverpool, scoring five and assisting four.

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