Allen in­spires Liver­pool in ‘cup fi­nal’

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - PREMIERE LEAGUE - By Chris Bas­combe at An­field

“Our cup fi­nal is here against Wat­ford,” was the con­tentious claim from Jür­gen Klopp. He might be the mas­ter mo­ti­va­tor, but not even the Ger­man coach could con­vince the Kop of that one.

There were no fans lin­ing the streets to wel­come the team bus, no Kop mo­saics, no ca­coph­ony of noise to in­tim­i­date Wat­ford.

Same venue, dif­fer­ent vibe, but nev­er­the­less Liver­pool won com­fort­ably to ex­tend top-six am­bi­tions into the fi­nal week.

Joe Allen and Roberto Firmino put dis­tance be­tween the sides in the kind of scruffy, un­ful­fill­ing game typ­i­cal of this time of year. Klopp will be sat­is­fied but se­cretly he must have hated a fix­ture he com­pared to “af­ter­noon tea”. His pri­or­ity is to ban­ish such days when the league cam­paign of­fers noth­ing to quicken the pulse.

It was not a com­plete over­haul for Wat­ford’s visit. Philippe Coutinho and Al­berto Moreno kept their place, but the other most im­por­tant out­field play­ers had a break. As tends to be the case amid mass al­ter­ations, so did the tempo and in­ten­sity.

Wat­ford, safe but won­der­ing if their man­ager will be re­placed, con­tinue to use that rare species in the mod­ern game – 4-4-2.

Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo ter­rorised Martin Skr­tel in the re­verse fix­ture and were in the mood.

Ighalo was not far away with a 40-yard chip, and only Skr­tel’s tackle stopped the striker when faced with Si­mon Mig­no­let.

Liver­pool took the lead when Chris­tian Ben­teke nod­ded into Allen’s path and the Welsh­man prod­ded be­yond Heurelho Gomes.

“In the meet­ing to­day I said it would be cool if he could play Joe Allen foot­ball,” said Klopp.

“Great tech­nique and high en­ergy – he takes to the sit­u­a­tion bril­liantly. He is a re­ally good player and with­out him the game would be com­pletely dif­fer­ent.”

Firmino dou­bled the lead 14 min­utes from time to dis­able an emerg­ing Wat­ford threat. Ighalo forc­ing Mig­no­let into a su­perb re­flex save on 55 min­utes was as close as they came. Gomes made a hash of Firmino’s drive from the edge of the box and the vis­i­tors’ hopes evap­o­rated.

Man­ager Quique Sánchez Flores an­swered more ques­tions on his fu­ture, pre­pos­ter­ous given Wat­ford’s league po­si­tion. “You need to live with this and some­times life is ridicu­lous,” he said. “It is im­por­tant to en­joy what we have done.”

No av­er­age Joe: Liver­pool took the lead through Joe Allen on their re­turn to do­mes­tic duty af­ter Euro­pean hero­ics

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