Goal of the season contender from Can keeps Liverpool in pole position for Champions League spot
Watford 0 Liverpool 1
Liverpool took a significant step to sealing Champions League qualification as Emre Can scored a goal-of-the-season contender to down Watford on Monday night.
Jurgen Klopp had seen Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal drop points in the battle for the Premier League top four before his side travelled to Vicarage Road - and they took full advantage.
A largely forgettable 90 minutes was settled when Can lit up a cold Hertfordshire evening with a superb volley in first-half stoppage time to clinch a 1-0 win.
The victory moved Liverpool four points clear of United in fifth, although they have played a game more than their bitter rivals.
Watford, on 40 points and all but safe from the drop, were not at the races as they failed to react to captain Troy Deeney's criticism following the recent defeat at Hull.
The opening quarter of the contest was interrupted by injuries as Liverpool lost Philippe Coutinho with less than 10 minutes gone before Miguel Britos hobbled off for the hosts soon after.
Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was forced into action as he pushed a long-range Can effort away from goal.
The game stuttered along for the majority of the half with very little incident until Adam Lallana, Coutinho's replacement, hit the bar with a looping effort.
Lucas Leiva was then booked for diving as the half threatened to end with a whimper, only for Can to take centre-stage.
The ball was neatly worked in-field from the right and Lucas, the villain of the piece moments earlier, clipped in a cross which Can acrobatically volleyed home to open the scoring on the stroke of half-time.
The startlingly goal seemed to inject fresh belief into Klopp's men and James Milner saw a low free-kick saved soon after the interval - with Gomes also having to turn a Divock Origi strike behind for a corner as Liverpool looked to kill the game off with a second.
Origi should have doubled the lead on 57 minutes but shot tamely at Gomes when through on goal, with the Hornets finally working Simon Mignolet courtesy of an Etienne Capoue strike.
The Frenchman was booked for his protestations as referee Craig Pawson signalled for a goal-kick, but it at least stirred the home fans.
It also lifted the Watford players, although in their attempts to equalise they were almost caught on the counter-attack, with Nordin Amrabat just able to prevent Lallana tucking away a goal on his return.
Can could not repeat his earlier heroics as he ballooned a shot wide and Mignolet made a meal out of a late Daryl Janmaat shot.
As Watford poured forward, Liverpool's goal lived a charmed life with Sebastian Prodl smashing the crossbar with a stoppage-time volley.
This win may have not been as emphatic as the 6-1 drubbing doled out by Liverpool when the sides met in November at Anfield - where Can also scored as the Reds went top of the table for the first time under Klopp.
But, having struggled against sides in the bottom half and with their rivals dropping points, it was just as important for the German and his hopes of a return to Europe's top table.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"What a screamer !! Fantastic finish from Emre Can... Watford 0 Vs @LFC 1 #Top4" - Former Liverpool midfielder Luis Garcia (@LuchoGarcia14) acknowledges Emre Can's sensational overhead kick.
Emre Can. In a game where no player from each side had an outstanding game, Can's piece of magic in a subdued encounter earned the Germany international man-of-the-mach honours.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
In a game which produced very little action, Can's stunning overhead kick in first-half stoppage time will surely be a contender for goal of the season and could prove to be a crucial moment in Liverpool's campaign. Lucas, who received a yellow card for diving minutes prior to the goal, played a smart ball into an unmarked Can who used brilliant improvisation to volley past Heurelho Gomes and help Liverpool earn a much-needed three points.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Philippe Coutinho was brought to tears in November after injuring his ankle against Sunderland which many thought would end his season, only for him to return in January. Liverpool fans feared for worse when the Brazilian was forced off following a collision with Watford defender Adrian Mariappa after 10 minutes.
With a Champions League place at stake, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp will hope Coutinho will be fit enough to play in their remaining three fixtures. The Brazilian was seen with an ice pack wrapped around his right thigh. Substitute Adam Lallana was then taken off with five minutes to go having not played for five weeks.
Heurelho Gomes: 6 (Out of 10)
Daryl Janmaat: 6
Miguel Britos: 6
Sebastian Prodl: 6
Adrian Mariappa: 6
Nordin Amrabat: 7
Tom Cleverley: 6
Etienne Capoue: 7
Abdoulaye Doucoure: 6
M'Baye Niang: 6
Troy Deeney: 6
Christian Kabasele (On for Britos, 18 minutes): 6
Isaac Success (On for Capoue, 72 minutes): 6
Stefano Okaka (On for Amrabat, 85 minute): 6
Simon Mignolet: 6
Nathaniel Clyne: 7
Joel Matip: 7
Dejan Lovren: 6
James Milner: 6
Emre Can: 8
Lucas Leiva: 6
Georginio Wijnaldum: 6
Roberto Firmino: 6
Divock Origi: 7
Philippe Coutinho: 6
Adam Lallana (On for Coutinho, 12 minutes): 7
Daniel Sturridge (On for Origi, 83 minutes): 6
Ragnar Klavan (On for Lallana, 86 minutes): 6
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Leicester v Watford (Premier League, May 6)
Liverpool v Southampton (Premier League, May 7)