Watford came back from behind for just the second time this season to steal three points away from Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in a 2-1 victory.
In just the opening minutes, Watford should have been celebrating as Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra struck Vincente Guaita’s goalpost, as the Hornets got off to a frustrating start. Much of the first half saw Watford controlling the tempo of the game, as Deulofeu showed great promise going forward, but wasn’t good enough to find the net.
Just seven minute before halftime, confusion in the Watford end led to an Abdoulaye Doucoure clearance bounding off Craig Cathcart. A valiant attempt from Ben Foster was thwarted, as Paul Tierney signalled a goal as Palace took a 1-0 lead into the break.
The second half belonged to Palace, as Wilfried Zaha frustrated the Hornet’s defence all day. While he wasn’t able to convert, he was continually the centre of attack going forward. Watford were able to hone their defensive efforts on Zaha, as he was the only offensive threat going forward. Foster came with an outstanding save from Luca Milivojevic in the 60th minute, as he unleashed a volley, stretching Foster to his left to keep the game at 1-0.
Cathcart picked up the equaliser in the 67th minute from a Jose Holebas corner, as substitute goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey remained rooted to his spot. Watford were level, 1-1.
The most unlikely of substitutes, Tom Cleverley, was brought on in the 68th minute to replace Ken Sema, who had struggled all game long in attack and in containing Zaha.
A Holebas throw in provied to be the catalyst for Watford’s comeback, as James Tomkins headed the ball to Pereyra, as he dinked it to Cleverley, sending a bouncing ball skyward. Palace attempted to clear, but the ball fell to Cleverley who volleyed it past Hennessey to give the Hornets a 2-1 lead.
Foster freezes Palace
The man of the match, Ben Foster, continues to look in amazing form for Watford, as he turned back six attempts from Palace from 15 shots in total. He continues to be a bright spot in the Hornets defence, which has been a bit better than lacklustre the last few games. Foster turned up with some excellent saves on the day, especially from the strike off the foot of Milivojevic, which could have been game-changing had it gone in.
While the Watford defense only has four clean sheets throughout the season, Foster has been at the centre of the defence, helping to push them to 32 points on the season, maintaining their 7th spot in the league table. Watford look to keep the momentum going, “It’s not a conscious decision to just take your foot off the gas and roller coaster it to the end of the season, it’s a hard thing to overcome really. There’s definitely a mental, psychological side that you could do with looking into a bit more” said Foster.
No “punch on” attack
Christian Benteke returned to the pitch after missing 20 games, but didn’t look match fit. Introduced in the 78th minute for James McArthur, Palace were looking to kick start their offense that has centred around Wilfried Zaha for much of the season.
While Zaha caused problems for Watford, he struggled to convert on the attacking end. Benteke gives the Eagles a big body that will draw defenders in, allowing space to be created for Zaha to exploit. Today, the only threat came from Luca Milivojevic, but he’s not known as a prolific goal scorer aside from his penalty taking duties.
As Benteke regains match fitness, the Eagles could be in for a good run, as Roy Hodgson says a top ten finish isn’t out of the question. With the likes of Guaita, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Patrick van Aanholt in defence, the Eagles are just missing a few offensive pieces to be a much improved team.
Lack of attack nearly fatal
Going forward in attack has been a struggle for much of the season at Watford. The Hornets jumped out to 4-0-0 start the season, scoring nine goals. There has been a rebirth over the last few weeks, as the Hornets continue to score goals, scoring 12 in the last six games.
What continues to frustrate are the goal attempts versus shots on target. For the season, Watford have 267 attempts, but just 88 on target, which is a 33% shot accuracy. Over the last four gameweeks, they have scored seven goals, yet the Hornets continue to struggle with a 24% shot accuracy, with just 12 shots on target, the fourth worst over that stretch.