Jurgen Klopp praises 'exceptional' Liverpool stars after 44-match unbeaten Premier League run comes crashing down

Reds miss out on a host of records after 3-0 Watford defeat, but still lead the table by 22 points

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp praised his side after their incredible 44-match unbeaten Premier League run came to a crashing end at Watford.

Klopp's side still enjoy a 22-point lead at the top of the table, but their sluggish return from a two-week winter break in February was comprehensively punished in a 3-0 defeat.

Ismaila Sarr's quickfire double and Troy Deeney's strike 18 minutes from time ended Liverpool's hopes of beating the Premier League record as they ended their fine return of 18 successive victories, remaining joint best with Manchester City.

It is the first time Liverpool have been beaten in the Premier League in 45 matches, four short of equalling Arsenal's record in 2004. They also missed out on becoming only the second team to remain unbeaten throughout a Premier League campaign.

"What the boys did so far is exceptional but it is not over," said Klopp. "I don't think you can break records because you want to break records, you break records because you are 100 per cent focused on each step you have to do.

"Tonight we were not good enough and it is not a plus for me that in history they will look back in 500 years and say Liverpool nearly did it.

"Nearly did it is not my main concern. We cannot change that and any time we will lose a game, we will lose a game.

"We didn't wait for it, but it was clear it would happen so we didn't think about it. We still knew it would happen and tonight it happened. I see it rather positive because the closer we get to these records. We just try to win football games again and that is what we will do.

"We did not expect the number of games we won. It was never easy and it will never be easy, so now let's carry on."

After single-goal victories over struggling Norwich and West Ham either side of a Champions League defeat at Atletico Madrid, the European Champions were well beaten at Vicarage Road.

A 55-point gap separated the sides before kick-off, but the out-of-sorts visitors failed to muster even a single effort on goal in the first 45 minutes.

"I am not surprised by the performance because that would mean I never saw something like that before. I saw it a lot of times," said Klopp.

"What I can say and I think is 3-0 is a bit harsh, but we had a big hand in that so we don't have to think about that.

"The most important thing is congratulations Watford, well deserved. That is what should be the headline. We didn't perform like we should have and Watford performed exactly like they wanted."

Watford's bright start threatened to be blown off course when Gerard Deulofeu had to stretchered off with a nasty looking knee injury that seems certain to end his season.

Andy Robertson's driven effort finally forced Ben Foster into a save early in the second half, but just as Liverpool were beginning to build up a head of steam, they were stung by two quick strikes by Sarr.

Firstly, the Senegalese beat Robertson to Abdoulaye Doucoure's low cross to stab home at the near post.

Six minutes later, Sarr had too much pace for a flat-footed Liverpool defence as he raced on to Deeney's through ball and showed fantastic composure to lift the ball over the advancing Alisson Becker.

Sarr also had a big part to play in Watford's third as he pounced on a short passback and had the vision to pick out Deeney, who lofted the ball nonchalantly over Alisson to make it 3-0.

"It's not acceptable we lose 3-0 here," said Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk. "We want to strike back straight away."

Watford had thrown away a lead in three of their last four Premier League games to fall back into the bottom three.

But they never looked in any danger of doing so again as they moved back out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

"It's such an important win for us. But it is one win," said Watford boss Nigel Pearson.

"It's in our own hands, and we have to deliver that performance week in, week out."

Sarr should even have had a famous hat-trick with his final touch as he curled wide when one-on-one with Alisson.

However, that was the only gloss missing from a glorious night for Watford as Liverpool remain four wins away from the title.