Targeting Dejan Lovren helped us win, says Watford's Troy Deeney
Watford striker torments Croat en route to ending Reds' 44-game unbeaten run
Watford striker Troy Deeney said his plan to focus on Liverpool's weak link Dejan Lovren was key to helping his side to a shock 3-0 win over the English Premier League leaders yesterday morning (Singapore time).
The Reds arrived at Vicarage Road on the back of a 44-game unbeaten streak, but served up their worst performance of the year against the 19th-placed Hornets.
And fundamental to the Reds suffering their first defeat of the EPL season was a shoddy defence, with Lovren, who took the place of the injured Joe Gomez, putting in a dreadful display while under duress from the Watford captain.
"(Virgil) van Dijk is a class act," Deeney, who bagged his side's third goal, after a brace from strike partner Ismaila Sarr, told Sky Sports.
"He's (one of the) top-five defenders in the world and it's tough to get anything from him.
"He's fast, strong and you try and pick on the weaker of the two - no disrespect to Lovren. (For the first goal) he tried to fight me from the throw-in and I rolled him.
"He tried to fight me and wasn't even watching the ball and it worked out perfectly because we scored from it."
That excessive physical aggression proved to be Lovren's undoing, said former England captain Alan Shearer.
"They battered the back four," Shearer said on BBC's Match of the Day.
"Everything that came up to Deeney, he had a fight with Lovren and you can't do that.
"Too many times that happened, Sarr getting the ball and turning. If they didn't win the first ball, they won the second one."
The third goal came from a long ball from Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster. Lovren had the chance to clear it, but he was muscled off the ball.
"Get up Lovren, you have been pushed around all afternoon from Deeney," Shearer said when reviewing the goal.
The Croatian centre-back was also criticised by beIN Sports pundit Andy Gray.
"What Deeney did, there's a saying in football, you get ragdolled, when a centre forward bosses you. That's what Deeney did to Lovren today," Gray said.
Ex-Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy said yesterday's defeat would have a "knock-on effect to how the Reds approach other competitions, notably the FA Cup".
Juergen Klopp's side travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday morning (Singapore time), before an EPL home clash with Bournemouth on Saturday.
"If Liverpool had beaten Watford, Klopp might have picked a stronger team against Chelsea, knowing he could then give some players a rest at home to Bournemouth," Murphy said in his Daily Mail column.
"His plans might change now. The Bournemouth game is important so that one blip doesn't extend into a run...
"Hence, the FA Cup tie could see a weakened line-up again, even if it reduces Liverpool's chances of winning the Treble."
Although the defeat ended the Reds' run of 18 consecutive EPL wins, Klopp believes the setback could prove liberating.
"I see it rather positive because from now on we can play free football again," the 52-year-old German said.
"We don't have to defend or try to get a record, we can just try to win games again and that is what we will do... The boys performed and that's why we won the games, but tonight we were not good enough."
Klopp was quick to praise Watford for a well-deserved win, saying: "We didn't perform like we should have and Watford performed exactly how they wanted."
The Reds remain 12 points away from sealing their EPL title and van Dijk, who took over as skipper as Jordan Henderson was injured, has backed his team to bounce back.
Said the Dutchman: "We won't walk away from this - it's not acceptable that we lose 3-0 in that way."
REDS' UPCOMING GAMES
- Wednesday: v Chelsea (Away)
English Premier League
- Saturday: v Bournemouth (Home)
- March 16: v Everton (A)
- March 21: v Crystal Palace (H)
- April 5: v Manchester City (A)
- March 11: v A. Madrid (H)