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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 January 2007, 14:40 GMT
Watford 0-3 Liverpool
By Jonathan Stevenson

Peter Crouch celebrates his first goal at Vicarage Road
Crouch scored his 16th and 17th goals of the season at Watford
Liverpool ended a turbulent week with an emphatic Premiership win at Watford.

After two cup exits at home to Arsenal, the under-pressure Reds responded with a fine display, Craig Bellamy scoring the first from Steve Finnan's cross.

Peter Crouch got the next, nodding into an empty net after Ben Foster pulled off a stunning save to deny Bellamy.

Crouch made it 3-0 by slotting home from 12 yards after more good work from Bellamy, while Jordan Stewart hit the bar from 30 yards for a poor Watford.

The Hornets remain rooted to the bottom of the Premiership, still 10 points from safety.

As for the visitors, the game provided exactly the sort of therapy they were after following two destructive defeats against Arsenal in the FA Cup and Carling Cup.

606: DEBATE
IP

Having been widely criticised for his team selection in their 6-3 drubbing on Tuesday, Rafa Benitez once again took a risk with the side he picked.

Recalling seven players, the Spaniard chose to adopt a 3-4-3 formation with Bellamy, Crouch and Dirk Kuyt all playing together for the first time up front.

It was Steven Gerrard who nearly struck first, whistling a crisp volley just past the post from 20 yards, before Crouch forced Foster to save at his near post.

Watford's best hope of a goal looked like coming from a set-piece, with Malky Mackay glancing a header wide from a Stewart inswinger.

But Liverpool were dominating possession and after Bellamy was foiled by some fabulous last-ditch defending from Jay DeMerit, they took the lead.

Bellamy clipped the ball in to Crouch and after Foster foiled him the ball fell to Finnan, who found Bellamy six yards out to tap into an empty net.

Five minutes before half-time Crouch doubled the lead. Kuyt headed the ball through to Bellamy and after Foster made a sensational one-handed save to deny him, Crouch nodded home.

Desperate for a change in fortune, Watford boss Aidy Boothroyd took off Al Bangura and Anthony McNamee at half-time and sent on Darius Henderson and Will Hoskins, making his first appearance since signing from Rotherham.

But straight after the restart it was all over. Bellamy found space down the left and he neatly picked out Crouch on the penalty spot, the giant striker coolly slotting into the corner.

It then seemed a question of how many Liverpool would score, though Gerrard uncharacteristically lashed wildly wide from 15 yards.

With Watford's hopes dead and buried they started playing better, Stewart crashing a vicious 30-yarder against Jose Reina's goal and Hameur Bouazza forcing the Spaniard to make a save.

But Liverpool were never in any serious danger and easily held on to strengthen their hand in third place.


  • Watford boss Aidy Boothroyd:
    "I felt they were there for the taking. If we'd done what we usually do, we may have got something.

    "When we play one of the big four, a choke goes on for some of the players.

    "They come up against people they are used to seeing on the television, and some of them cannot cope with it. We didn't show heart and soul or passion."

  • Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez on the criticism he received after their two cup defeats to Arsenal:
    "I was surprised, for sure.

    "Sometimes, people do not understand what you are trying to do and what we are trying to analyse.

    "After the defeats, we needed to show character. I could see that the players were really focused on controlling the game and creating lots of chances."


    Watford: Foster, Mariappa, DeMerit, Mackay, Stewart, Smith, Mahon, Bangura (Henderson 46), McNamee (Hoskins 46), Young, Bouazza.
    Subs Not Used: Lee, Francis, Doyley.

    Liverpool: Reina, Agger, Hyypia, Carragher, Finnan, Alonso, Gerrard, Aurelio, Crouch (Pennant 69), Bellamy (Fowler 84), Kuyt (Riise 77).
    Subs Not Used: Dudek, Guthrie.

    Goals: Bellamy 34, Crouch 40, 48.

    Att: 19,746.

    Ref: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).

    SEE ALSO
    Saturday's football photos
    13 Jan 07 |  Football


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