Watford 0 Liverpool 3

Last updated : 15 January 2007 By Gary Holmes

Liverpool banished the memory of back-to-back cup thrashings by Arsenal with a consummate performance over lacklustre Watford at Vicarage Road.

Peter Crouch: A double eased the pressure on his manager.
Reds boss Rafa Benitez demanded a big performance to appease disgruntled supporters furious with the way their side wilted at Anfield against the Gunners and he got one as two goals for Peter Crouch added to Craig Bellamy's opener to help Liverpool strengthen their grip on third spot in the Premiership.

Watford, who gave a second-half debut to former Rotherham hitman Will Hoskins, rarely troubled Jose Reina in the Liverpool goal, although Jordan Stewart had him flapping at air with a 25-yard pile driver that crashed against the bar in the second half.

Despite Watford getting off to the brighter start it was Liverpool who registered the first notable effort on goal. The ball found its way to skipper Steven Gerrard but his first-time shot from the edge of the 18-yard box fizzed wide of Ben Foster's goal.

But Foster, Watford's on-loan Manchester United keeper, was forced into action in the 11th minute when Crouch peeled away from his marker before unleashing a bouncing half-volley towards the near-post. From the resulting corner, Steve Finnan's hopeful shot was prodded in by fellow defender Daniel Agger only for the linesman to rule out his effort for offside.

Crouch then should have done better from Finnan's in-swinging cross but he headed weakly into Foster's path.

But Watford, who meekly handed the visitors possession on too many occasions, went straight up the other end to create their best chance of the half.

Tommy Smith danced through a couple of challenges on the right before squaring the ball to Hameur Bouazza, whose low drive deflected off Jamie Carragher's heel and fell agonizingly short of Reina's left-hand post before Malky Mackay headed woefully wide from the corner as Watford finally enjoyed some sustained pressure.

The game was in dire need for a goal and Liverpool duly provided after 34 minutes. Bellamy's chip over the top of the watching Golden Boys defence found its way to Crouch and the lanky striker forced Foster into a save at his feet, before rolling the rebound back to Finnan who squared for Bellamy to stroke the ball into the unguarded net.

That breathed life into Liverpool who started to knock the ball about with confidence and displayed a patience they lacked in the opening half hour.

Crouch turned from provider to scorer five minutes before the half-time whistle when he was in the right place at the right time to head home the ball from ten yards after Foster had denied Bellamy.

Watford boss, Aidy Boothroyd rang the changes at half-time, bringing on Hoskins and Darius Henderson, but it made little difference as Liverpool stepped up a gear after the restart, and with Liverpool camped in Watford's half a third goal was inevitable and Welsh wizard Bellamy was again in the thick of things.

Ben Foster: A number of good saves.
He latched onto Xabi Alonso's raking pass before flying down the left and dragging the ball across the six-yard area for Crouch to bag his second and Liverpool's third goal.

Watford never recovered and only had Foster to thank for giving the score line an air of respectability with several smart saves from Liverpool's effective three-pronged attack.

Golden Boys man of the match: Ben Foster, outstanding again.

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