Welbeck re­cov­ers scor­ing touch in fine style at per­fect time for Wat­ford

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Premier League - By Tom Cary at Vicarage Road

The last time Danny Welbeck scored a Pre­mier League goal, he was still an Arse­nal player and Boris John­son was a back­bench MP. What a way to emerge from a 23-month hi­ber­na­tion; a sen­sa­tional over­head kick to light up a drab game and se­cure Wat­ford all three points. And quite pos­si­bly keep them in the Pre­mier League.

This cru­cial vic­tory lifted Nigel Pear­son’s fal­ter­ing team four points clear of As­ton Villa and Bournemout­h and out of the rel­e­ga­tion zone, al­beit hav­ing played a game more than their two near­est ri­vals. But more than that, it breathed new life and hope into Wat­ford’s sea­son.

This was a must-win game for Wat­ford, at home against a Nor­wich

City team whose heads have long since dropped. And they made very heavy weather of it.

For much of the first half, as Onel Her­nan­dez ran at the Wat­ford back four and Emil­iano Buen­dia buzzed about Vicarage Road, Nor­wich looked the more fluid side, as if they were play­ing with less pres­sure on their shoul­ders. Which they were.

It took the vis­i­tors just four min­utes to add to Wat­ford’s re­cent mis­ery; Kiko Fe­me­nia bul­lied off the ball by Her­nan­dez, who ad­vanced to the edge of the area and slipped a pass across to Buen­dia on the right.

The Ar­gen­tine still had plenty to do, but he checked back on to his left foot and sent the ball arc­ing past the de­spair­ing dive of Ben Fos­ter.

Wat­ford got back into the game a few min­utes later, when Craig Daw­son was al­lowed to ghost in at the far post and meet an Eti­enne Capoue free-kick. But while that gave Wat­ford par­ity, it also summed up their de­fi­cien­cies. Daw­son, a centre-back, was also the scorer of Wat­ford’s only other post-lock­down goal un­til this game, against Le­ices­ter City last month.

No won­der Pear­son looked so pleased by Welbeck’s con­tri­bu­tion at the end. It was not just the win­ner – spec­tac­u­lar though that was – it was his ath­leti­cism in gen­eral. His will­ing­ness to drive at Nor­wich’s de­fend­ers. A fit-again Welbeck is a real boost.

Yes, this was his first Pre­mier League goal for 23 months, since net­ting for Arse­nal against West Ham in 2018. But that can be largely at­trib­uted to the fact that Welbeck has hardly played since then. A bro­ken an­kle ru­ined his fi­nal sea­son with Arse­nal and this was only his fifth start for Wat­ford.

But, with Troy Deeney still labour­ing post-lock­down, he looked like the man most likely to score. Twice in the first half he went close with head­ers.

And a few min­utes be­fore his goal he drove at the heart of the Nor­wich de­fence and drew a foul on the edge of the area.

His win­ner owed a lot to Nor­wich’s weak de­fend­ing; Is­maila Sarr out­muscling Kenny McLean far too eas­ily on the right and Max

Aarons fluff­ing a clear­ance. But the 29-year-old’s strike was sen­sa­tional. “It means a lot to me and means a lot to the whole team,” he told Sky

Sports af­ter­wards, adding that he had “done it a few times in train­ing”.

“It is one that puts us on our way now. We will give it our all from now, but I am speech­less af­ter the goal. I knew I had caught it, kept my eye on the ball and it went in.”

How Wat­ford needed it. They have four games re­main­ing and two wins could well be enough. They may need to get them against New­cas­tle at home and West Ham, with Manch­ester City (home) and Arse­nal (away) their fi­nal two op­po­nents.

“No this does not give us breath­ing space,” Pear­son ad­mit­ted. “We do not have an op­por­tu­nity to not stay fo­cused.”

Spec­tac­u­lar: Danny Welbeck scores the pre­cious win­ner for Wat­ford at Vicarage Road

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