Jurgen Klopp feels Liverpool proved some doubters wrong after they turned on the style to crush Watford at Anfield and stay top of the Premier League.
The Reds had dropped six points in their previous four top-flight games but two goals each by Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk, as well as another from Divock Origi, helped them to their biggest win of the season.
“You know what was written and said about us. It is of course not right,” Klopp told BBC Sport afterwards.
“These boys are outstanding and today they showed so much passion.”
With 10 games of the league season left, Liverpool stay one point clear of nearest rivals Manchester City, who beat West Ham 1-0 on Wednesday.
Klopp’s side were 2-0 ahead in 20 minutes as Senegal forward Mane headed the first before doubling the lead with an outrageous backheel, Trent Alexander-Arnold providing both assists.
Mohamed Salah hit the post before Divock Origi beat Ben Foster at his near post to make it 3-0.
Van Dijk scored two late headers, including one from another Alexander-Arnold assist.
Klopp went on the pitch at the full-time whistle to applaud Liverpool’s fans and headed back to the dressing room with a huge smile and his arm draped around Alexander-Arnold’s shoulder.
The 20-year-old England defender marked his return to the side, after being left out of Sunday’s draw at Manchester United, with an outstanding performance as poor Watford were put to the sword.
Alexander-Arnold’s pace caused the Hornets’ defence all sorts of problems while Adam Masina had a torrid time at the hands of Salah.
This was a timely return to winning ways for Liverpool after one win in their previous five league and cup games.
Mane’s header set them on their way but it was his second which showed Liverpool had their swagger back – a spectacular backheel past Foster.
Origi has been a spectator for most of the season, but with Roberto Firmino missing because of an ankle injury, the Belgium forward marked his rare appearance with a right-foot finish in front of the Kop.
Before this game, Van Dijk had scored one goal for his club this season but found the net twice in the space of three minutes as Watford caved in.
Liverpool will face tougher opponents during the run-in, while they will be replaced at the top of the table on Saturday if City avoid defeat at Bournemouth as Klopp’s side are not in action until Sunday at Everton.
However, there is fresh optimism at Anfield after a resounding win.
“We have 69 points,” added Klopp, adding, “We could have had 75 but we are having a really good season. Let’s enjoy the ride and see where it takes us.”
Liverpool 5-0 Watford: Jurgen Klopp says Reds answered critics with convincing win
Another Anfield thrashing for Watford
Watford have had a terrific season under Javi Gracia, the Spaniard guiding the Hornets to a ‘best of the rest’ seventh spot in the table and a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Yet they were blown away by Liverpool in such a manner that Wolves, who were not playing, moved ahead of them because of a superior goal difference.
Watford’s last three visits to Anfield have resulted in 5-0, 5-0 and 6-1 defeats.
This was their seventh loss in eight top-flight games against the ‘big six’ this season – and they rarely looked like getting back into the match once Mane headed Liverpool in front inside 10 minutes.
Troy Deeney spent most the night helping out in defence as Watford were overwhelmed by the home team.
“Our target was to win but when you find an opponent like Liverpool then it’s very hard to get the points,” said Gracia.
“It’s important to be calm and keep confidence in ourselves now because our levels have been good.”
Their next away game is at Manchester City on 9 March. Liverpool will hope Gracia’s side can give a better account of themselves at Etihad Stadium than they did at Anfield.