Liverpool’s unbeaten season in the Premier League was ended in spectacular fashion as Ismaila Sarr’s double moved Watford out of the relegation zone with a 3-0 win at Vicarage Road.
The comprehensive scoreline helped the Hornets edge ahead of Bournemouth, who held Chelsea to a 2-2 draw, while West Ham also boosted their chances of survival with a 3-1 win over Southampton on Saturday.
Liverpool remain 22 points clear and well on course for a first league title in 30 years.
But their hopes of doing so by matching Arsenal’s invincible season in 2003/04 were ended by an inspired display by Watford.
“You have to accept it, it’s not so easy, but it’s the proof we were not good enough tonight,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp after his team’s 44-game run without defeat in the league came to a crashing end
Sarr struck twice in six minutes early in the second half before the Senegalese turned provider for Troy Deeney to wrap up a famous win.
“Ismaila Sarr is an unbelievable player, unbelievable talent. He still has a lot to learn, and will continue to learn, but I think it’s a full team performance,” said a proud Watford captain Deeney.
– Alonso rescues Chelsea –
Bournemouth were also victims of Liverpool’s collapse as they fall into the bottom three after failing to hold out for victory against Chelsea.
Philip Billing missed two big early chances for the Cherries and Eddie Howe’s men were punished as Marcos Alonso’s calm finish after Olivier Giroud hit the bar gave Chelsea a half-time lead.
Two goals in three minutes from Jefferson Lerma and Josh King turned the game around and inflicted another blow to Chelsea’s chances of holding onto their place in the top four.
Alonso’s predatory header after Aaron Ramsdale parried Pedro Rodriguez’s shot at least ensured the visitors left the Vitality Stadium with a point.
However, Frank Lampard’s men have now won just five of their last 16 league games and could see their lead over fifth-placed Manchester United cut to just a point if the Red Devils win at Everton on Sunday.
“We had a bad 10-minute spell where they scored and that I don’t like. I’m pleased with the character to get a draw but we should win the game,” said Lampard.
“People talk about the defence but if you are 1-0 up and leave teams in the game then one set piece can change the game.
“We should score more goals and then we don’t have that problem.”