A much improved Watford fell to a 2-0 defeat away at Liverpool, as Nigel Pearson took charge for his first game as head coach.

Two moments of ingenuity from Mo Salah late on in both halves made the difference between the two sides, but the Hornets produced enough on the pitch to suggest there is still fight left in them this season.

In truth, the visitors could have got something from the game, had Abdoulaye Doucoure and Ismaila Sarr done better with their chances in the first half, while Gerard Deulofeu was also wasteful, missing from a one-one-one in the second.

Watford had to be slightly inventive themselves, with injuries to Adam Masina and Roberto Pereyra forcing Pearson to field a team containing Adrian Mariappa at right back, while Kiko Femenia was shifted over to the left. Will Hughes was deployed behind Troy Deeney in a formation similar to that which Hayden Mullins used during his brief time in the hotseat.

In only the sixth minute Troy Deeney went with the wrong foot in trying to convert a cross from Sarr and missed from eight yards.

Worse was to follow as Hughes skimmed a shot wide with three team-mates in close proximity before the circus really came to town as both Doucoure and Sarr had embarrassing mis-kicks in front of goal.

By the time the latter had shinned it after Alisson Becker had parried Deulofeu's shot, Liverpool were ahead with a clinical counter-attack.

They broke from a Watford corner, won as a result of the Doucoure miss, with Roberto Firmino releasing Mane down the left.

He in turn put Salah through one-on-one with Femenia and the Egypt international cut back onto his right foot before curling a shot up and over Ben Foster which, judging by the spin of the ball, appeared to be wind-assisted.

It was the one moment of quality in a half which saw the hosts dominate possession but struggle to break down opponents who retreated 11 men to within 40 yards of their own goal when out of possession.

One driving run from Mane through the inside-left channel broke through those defences but Jordan Henderson blazed well over from the cross.

Mane was also put off by Foster charging out of his goal to force a heavy touch after Salah had held off two defenders to play his team-mate through on goal.

Alisson made two good saves early in the second half, one from Sarr and the other from Deulofeu - in between much Mane had his powerful, flicked header from Xherdan Shaqiri's cross ruled out after VAR adjudged his hip was fractionally offside.

If Watford were their own worst enemies in the first half it was Liverpool's turn after the break with over-complication in the penalty area seeing Firmino and Salah spurn chances.

But the worst incidence came 10 minutes from time when Virgil Van Dijk side-footed a 20-yard back pass past Alisson and could only watch with relief as the ball trickled past the post.

Salah eventually put the game to bed when he flicked home substitute Divock Origi's blocked effort late on with a well-improvised backheel.