Mo Salah tore Watford apart, scoring four goals and setting up the other as the Hornets were hammered 5-0 on a freezing evening at Anfield.

The visitors – and in particular Miguel Britos and Jose Holebas who suffered a torrid game – found the Egyptian star almost unplayable from the outset as he made the early breakthrough, scored a second just before half-time and after setting up Roberto Firmino for the third shortly after the restart, he added two more to round off a record-breaking game.

The Hornets were barely able to lay a glove on their opponents, although Roberto Pereyra did hit the woodwork with a second-half free-kick, but while their top-flight status is not guaranteed yet, they go into the international break with an eight-point cushion over the bottom three.

Javi Gracia made just the one change from the side that lost 3-0 at Arsenal last time out, as Britos returned in place of Daryl Janmaat, but significantly switched to a 5-4-1 formation to try and counter Liverpool’s free-scoring threat.

There was also a welcome return for Craig Cathcart to the bench following his long injury lay-off.

The Reds were looking to get back on track following their 2-1 defeat at Manchester United last time out and Jurgen Klopp made four changes to his starting XI.

In came defenders Joe Gomez and Joel Matip while captain Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum started in midfield. Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dropped to the bench but Dejan Lovren was not involved due to a minor ankle injury.

The teams arrived on the pitch in a blizzard but the snow relented as the game got underway. The very opening exchanges were low key but it didn’t take long for the hosts’ terrific attacking triumvirate to make a decisive mark.

Salah had already tested Britos with one run before the Egyptian magician latched on to a ball over the top on the right after Holebas had not tracked his run, turned the Hornets defender inside out leaving him flat on his backside before firing league goal number 25 past Orestis Karnezis to make it 1-0.

Having got the early breakthrough, Klopp’s men were content to keep possession and knock the ball around patiently, waiting for further opportunities to present themselves.

Watford were afforded some ball, but not in any areas where they could potentially hurt the opposition, as barring some Reds set pieces, little of attacking consequence then happened until midway through the first half.

Liverpool were forced into an unwanted change in the 27th minute as Milner replaced the injured Emre Can following a couple of minutes when the Hornets had at least been able to enjoy some play in the opposition half.

That was to continue, culminating in a delicious nutmeg from Roberto Pereyra on Sadio Mane close to the byline that allowed him to advance in the penalty area from the right but his low delivery was cleared.

The former Juventus man was enjoying a good spell and next he sent over a cross from the right which saw Richarlison out-jump Gomez, but the header was at a comfortable height for Loris Karius.

But a significantly better save was to follow soon after at the other end, as Karnezis did superbly to push away a shot from Firmino after the Brazilian had latched on to a Salah pass and danced inside Sebastian Prodl.

However, three minutes before the break, Liverpool were to get their second.

The Hornets were caught on the sucker punch as Andrew Robertson got free on the left and sent over a superb cross into the channel between defence and goalkeeper and a grateful Salah tapped home for his second and 34th in all competitions this season, making him the highest scoring Liverpool player in history in their first season at the club.

The destiny of the points already seemed settled at the break, and that was even more the case within four minutes of the restart when the Reds netted a sumptuous third.

Unsurprisingly Salah was involved again, receiving a Henderson pass on the right side of the penalty area before beating Britos with ease again to send in a low cross to Firmino, who got across the front of Karnezis and beat him with a superb back-heel inside the far corner.

Watford tried to respond positively; Etienne Capoue fizzed a low shot not too far wide of Karius’ right-hand post and after Gomez had been booked for pulling back Richarlison on the left edge of the 18-yard box, Pereyra hit a curling free-kick which dipped over the Reds stopper and went overt via the crossbar.

Ominously though, the Reds were now enjoying themselves and Firmino was to have another opportunity on the hour when he glanced a Gomez cross from the right down and wide of the far post.

Gracia made his first change in the 65th minute as Richarlison made way for Will Hughes and a second followed five minutes later, Stefano Okaka coming on for Troy Deeney. At the same time, Wijanldum made way for Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The former Arsenal man was to warm Karnezis’ gloves with a shot from the edge of the area in the 77th minute but two minutes later the Reds’ Egyptian scoring king completed his hat-trick.

The goal originated from a throw-in on the right which saw Prodl get too tight to Mane and turned too easily before advancing into the area and slipping the ball to Salah. Watford got enough bodies around the player as he twisted but even though he was tripped by Abdoulaye Doucoure, he still had the sharpness of thought and reaction to stick out a leg and prod the ball past the off-balance Karnezis.

Firmino was then replaced by Danny Ings and Janmaat came on for Britos, before the final Liverpool substitute almost made it five, latching on to a Mane ball over the top and hitting a powerful right-footed shot which brought another fine save out of Karnezis.

But number five wasn’t long in coming; Karnezis again thwarting Ings from close range but this time the ball broke loose for Salah to hammer in his fourth as a torrid evening for the visitors came to an end.

Liverpool: Karius; Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Can (Milner 27), Wijnaldum (Oxlade-Chamberlain 70); Salah, Firmino (Ings 79), Mane. Subs not used: Mignolet, Klavan, Moreno, Alexander-Arnold.

Watford: Karnezis; Femenia, Mariappa, Prodl, Britos (Janmaat 81), Holebas; Pereyra, Doucoure, Capoue, Richarlison (Hughes 65); Deeney (Okaka 70). Subs not used: Gomes, Cathcart, Gray, Carrillo.

Bookings: Gomez for a foul on Richarlison (51).

Referee: Anthony Taylor.