Liverpool took a step closer to catching Manchester City with a scrappy 2-0 win over Watford in front of a quiet Anfield crowd, as they moved level with the Citizens ahead of their kick-off on Saturday afternoon.
The Reds were poor for large stretches of the first half, but scored with their only clear cut chance of the match, as Diogo Jota attacked a cross from Joe Gomez to nod past Ben Foster and undo Watford's good work for the opening 20 minutes.
Jurgen Klopp's side spurned several good chances in the air to double their lead, as they controlled possession in front of a quiet Anfield crowd for much of the second half. But, despite chances in the air, the Reds could not put the game to bed until they were awarded a penalty for a ridiculous foul from Kucka from a corner kick.
With Salah off the pitch, it was Fabinho who stepped up to convert the spotkick, firing it emphatically into the corner of the net from 12 yards. But, despite the scoreline, it was a rusty offering by Liverpool, and the anxiety around the stadium reflected that as Jurgen Klopp's side scraped past the Hornets.
Here's how they stacked up.
Alisson - 7
Made a crucial save just 34 seconds before Jota headed in the opening goal, giving the first half a very different look.
Joe Gomez - 8
Provided a beautiful cross for Jota's opener and provided another beauty that went unrewarded. Trent Alexander-Arnold who?
Joel Matip- 6
Continued to play the quietly impressive role next to Van Dijk to great effect.
Virgil Van Dijk - 6
Unflustered as always, but looked a little exposed against Ismaila Sarr in the first half.
Left plenty of space in behind him which Ismaila Sarr could have exploited had the final ball been better.
Jordan Henderson - 5
Barked orders as usual and probably helped his side in that regard, but was uncharacteristically sloppy on the ball.
Thiago - 7
Provided a passing masterclass in the first half, and reminded watchers just what he brings to Jurgen Klopp's side.
Curtis Jones - 4
Had a game to forget. Was not afraid to shoot from distance but could not find the target with any of them, and went off on the hour mark with what looked like a knock to his ankle.
Mo Salah - 5
Effectively shackled by Hassane Kamara, and drew a rare blank in front of goal. Was replaced just after the hour by Sadio Mane.
Diogo Jota - 7
Scored a much-needed opener when it looked as though Watford were threatening to take the lead at Anfield.
Roberto Firmino - 7
Enjoyed a strong first half on his return to the side with some good defensive work and clever link-up play. Still lacks the ruthlessness of Jota, however.
Calmed things down and offered more protection against the Watford counterattack. A welcome return to the first team, and capped it by scoring the second goal from the spot.
Sadio Mane- 5
Did very little to suggest that he should have started the game, and had no more luck against Kamara than his teammate had.
James Milner- N/A
Was only on for 20 seconds of normal time.
Ben Foster - 4
Made a big save when Jota struck straight at him but was made to look foolish for the Liverpool opener, as the Portuguese forward beat him to the ball. Had little else to do and stood no chance with the penalty.
Kiko Femenia - 5
A willing runner but was outshone by Kamara on the other flank. Struggled to deal with the interchangeability of Jota and Firmino.
Christian Kabasele - 6
Had a solid game in an encounter of few chances. Will be disappointed not to have tracked Jota for the opening goal but other than that did not put a foot wrong.
One brilliant sliding tackle in the second half prevented a seemingly certain goal, and Samir was composed and committed at the back. A valuable January addition.
Hassane Kamara - 8
Dealt with Mo Salah far better than Danny Rose did in the reverse fixture, and forced the Egyptian's withdrawal just after the hour. Can take plenty of pride in his performance.
Moussa Sissoko - 6
Probably the best of the midfield trio, Sissoko helped keep free-scoring Liverpool to just half chances, but left something to be desired with his marking from set pieces.
Imran Louza - 6
Worked hard to keep Liverpool's midfield and forward line honest, but offered little going forward. Faded later on and had to be replaced.
Juraj Kucka - 4
Solid but unspectacular, and undid all of his side's hard work by conceding a stupid penalty for a rugby tackle on Diogo Jota.
Ismaila Sarr - 6
Was a constant threat in the space left behind Andy Robertson, but failed to make the most of it and seemed scared of taking on Virgil Van Dijk.
Cucho Hernandez - 5
Couldn't really get into the game but offered a threat on the counter attack.
Joao Pedro - 5
Led the line well, especially against Liverpool's formidable defence, but missed a glorious chance to level the scores just before the hour mark.
Josh King - 5
Hardly had a touch as Watford faded late in the game.
Tom Cleverly - 5
Came on just before the second goal, and was a passenger for much of the remainder.
Emmanuel Dennis -4
Did nothing when he came on the pitch, and could not change the outcome of the match.