Football: Mooney brings Anfield to earth

Liverpool 0 Watford 1

THE SENSE of shock was more profound because it was so unexpected. Liverpool's supporters had come to embrace a new era, a new start and the first home game of a spanking new season. They sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" with earnest and unfamiliar vigour and a man outside Anfield was selling a fanzine with the words "Paul Ince's ego eclipses the sun" shouting from the cover. The past was being swept away with a gusto.

It should have been a bracing start against a side nominated as the Premiership's closest thing to cannon fodder; instead Anfield watched with accelerating dismay as eager hopes unravelled. It was dismal to witness for the non- committed, so for those who invest their dreams in Gerard Houllier's rebuilt team it must have been truly horrible.

These columns have lambasted the Liverpool of recent seasons whose ability to turn talent into frustrating failure was legend, but you left Merseyside on Saturday night with a growing nostalgia for players who had underachieved on a grand scale. No-one should underestimate Watford's tenacity in wresting their first League win from a trip to the former fortress but the opposition were little better than a shambles. The unlamented team of Ince, McManaman, McAteer etc would at least have attacked the Hornets with a growing intent, this lot did not manage a shot on target throughout the second half.

Houllier, whose position as manager will not withstand many fiascos of this nature, was as morose as anybody. "Apart from the early stages I did not recognise my team today," he said, and the sporadic booing that broke out as they left the pitch suggested the paying public had difficulty identifying this side as a side to win trophies as well.

The problems? The spine of the side had been ripped out with injuries to Michael Owen, Dietmar Hamann and Stephane Henchoz, but even with these mitigating factors they were manifest. A left-back is urgently required, centre- back Sami Hyypia barely won a ball in the air, Titi Camara gave Robbie Fowler scant support up front and Jamie Redknapp disappeared. Add an ankle injury to Vladimir Smicer that will keep him out him for three weeks and you could sense the gloom descending.

"We had four players who are discovering the Premier League," Houllier said of Hyypia, Camara, Smicer and goalkeeper Sander Westerveld, "and although they have the quality to settle in it is a matter of time and you don't get much of that in football. We know that." After spending pounds 25m in the summer the Frenchman has less than most.

"I was annoyed because the quality of our play deteriorated as the game went on," he continued, "but that is because the players wanted to do well, make things happen, and get the equaliser instead of playing their usual game. When we passed quickly and moved we created chances."

Liverpool did precisely that at the start and if Patrik Berger had scored after 33 minutes when Robbie Fowler put him clear the tone of the afternoon would have altered radically. When Chris Day saved with his legs, however, the belief in the home players dribbled away.

To give Watford their due credit, they helped them on their way. Tommy Mooney preyed on familiar Liverpool defensive disarray in the 16th minute and after that no cause was too distant to chase. Robert Page and Mark Williams were massive presences at the back and with Micah Hyde doing the running of two men in midfield, the prospects of an equaliser dimmed by the minute.

Indeed if Mooney had not had not squandered two opportunities late in the game and Rigobert Song not cleared off the line from Hyde's chip, Liverpool's embarrassment could have been significantly greater. No Watford side have even taken a point at Anfield before but no Watford side have ever worked harder. Their first points in the Premiership after two defeats were richly deserved.

It was something acknowledged by the home supporters who applauded Watford off the pitch. "It put the icing on the cake for me," Taylor said. "It's something I'll always remember about that game. It was a special moment. It was a great credit to them.

"A lot of people have said you have to beat the teams who will be around you to survive in the Premiership but I don't see it like that. There are three points at stake in every match and if you can get a scalp like we have today it sends a message to everyone."

The message for Watford is that survival will be hard but not impossible; for Liverpool it is that pre-season optimism might be misplaced. Certainly callers to various radio phone-ins seemed to think so.

The eclipse being viewed on Saturday night was not caused by "the Guvnor's" ego but Liverpool's shortcomings.

Goal: Mooney (15) 0-1.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Westerveld; Heggem (Song, 81), Carragher, Hyypia, Matteo; Smicer (Riedle, 72), Gerrard (Thompson, 57), Redknapp, Berger; Fowler, Camara. Substitutes not used: Staunton, Friedel (gk).

Watford (4-4-2): Day; Lyttle, Williams, Page, Robinson; Hyde, Palmer, Johnson (Eaton, 52), Kennedy; Ngonge (Foley, 70), Mooney. Substitutes not used: Gudmundsson, Bonnot, Walker (gk).

Bookings: Liverpool: Thompson; Watford: Page, Mooney, Williams.

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

Man of the match: Hyde.

Attendance: 44,174.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash