Flores relief as Watford ‘spirit’ earns first win
Quique Sanchez Flores could breathe a much-needed sigh of relief after his Watford team finally ended their wait for a Premier League win and sent Norwich crashing to the bottom of the table.
A painful run of 11 league games without victory this season meant that the visitors arrived here under immense pressure, but it took just 76 seconds for a solo effort from Gerard Deulofeu to ease the strain – and then an eye-catching backheel from Andre Gray secured a precious success.
Watford went down to 10 men for the final quarter of the game, as
Christian Kabasele was dismissed for a petulant, second yellow card, but they were already 2-0 up and had enough to resist the troubled home side.
Daniel Farke, the Norwich manager, was scathing of his side, saying this was like football on the beach from them at times, blighted by “nursery, naive mistakes”.
Sloppy defending led to both goals, particularly when Emi Buendia lost possession to allow the influential Deulofeu to strike.
Flores, in contrast, could enjoy hugs with his players at full-time. The Spaniard’s team had arrived in bottom place, but moved a point clear of Norwich and above Southampton on goal difference.
The Watford head coach said: “We knew this was a significant match and it looked like a final. We needed to give our energy, spirit and put our souls on the pitch.
“I know how you can feel under this pressure – nervous, like everything is rushing. It’s not easy. It’s not nice. It was necessary to change this negative atmosphere.
“If you don’t win in sport, it’s difficult to believe. I hope this result can make them realise they are much better than their results.”
Norwich were the ones who looked under the strain in a horrific start. After Buendia’s blunder, Deulofeu ran forward at a panicking home defence, cruising into the penalty area and striking coolly.
Farke’s team are yet to keep a home clean sheet this season and Watford, the league’s lowest scorers, exposed them. Norwich eventually managed to enjoy spells of possession, but Watford hurt them on the counter-attack in an end-to-end first half.
The visitors made a positive start to the second period and Deulofeu was heavily involved as they scored again. He crossed for Gray who, with his back to goal, flicked in.
There was a deflection off Jamal Lewis, but the moment should have felt sweet for the goalscorer after his challenging start to the season.
Ben Foster performed heroics in the Watford goal, leaping to his left to keep out a 25-yard strike from Lewis. Kabasele’s red card did not help the visitors’ cause, though, as he barged into Josip Drmic, having previously been booked for a foul on Onel Hernandez.
Foster needed to make another save, keeping out Kenny Mclean’s effort, but the home side did not offer enough threat.
Norwich’s win over Manchester City in mid-september has been followed by seven games in which they have scored only twice and collected just one point. Talisman Teemu Pukki has not scored during that run. Watford, in contrast, put behind them their lack of a clinical edge from earlier in the season.
Farke said: “It’s a pretty annoying and frustrating evening. We dominated possession, had nearly 20 shots but, if you produce naive, nursery mistakes in front of goal, it’s difficult at this level to win. It’s difficult even to win games on the beach when you play like that.”
Norwich City (4-2-3-1) Krul 6; Aarons 6, Tettey 5, Godfrey 5, Lewis 5 (Vrancic 81); Trybull 6, Mclean 6; Buendia 6 (Cantwell 62), Stiepermann 6 (Drmic 62), Hernandez 7; Pukki 6. Subs Fahrmann (g), Byram, Amadou, Srbeny. Booked Vrancic.
Watford (5-3-2) Foster 7; Janmaat 7, Kabasele 4, Dawson 6, Cathcart 6, Holebas 6 (Masina 88); Doucoure 7, Capoue 7, Hughes 7; Deulofeu 7 (Mariappa 70), Pereyra 7 (Gray 31). Subs Gomes (g), Deeney, Chalobah, Femenia. Booked Kabasele, Hughes, Masina. Sent off Kabasele (65).
Referee Andre Marriner (West Midlands).
Cute finish: Andre Gray scores Watford’s second goal with a close-range back-heel