Watford took on Bournemouth on Saturday, at Vicarage Road, in a match of little drastic consequence for either side, owing to both clubs’ respective positions at the centre of the Premier League table (Now 11th and 10th respectively).
Simon Francis’s absence due to injury prompted Eddie Howe to start natural wide man Ryan Fraser at RB, and it was evident that Watford took notice, creating most of their chances down his flank. Watford also changed up their tactics quite a bit, with Will Hughes trusted in a number 10 role, Roberto Pereyra on the left, and natural right back Kiko Femenia starting in a more advanced role to the right of Will Hughes.Embed from Getty Images
The match itself started lively enough, with Junior Stanislas’s early free kick finding Nathan Ake’s forehead, but Ake’s effort was repelled by the crossbar. Following Bournemouth’s lively start to the match, Watford grew into the game well, taking control of central midfield and large spells of possession, leaving Bournemouth to attack via the counter.
A spell of Watford pressure lead to a well-rehearsed training ground corner routine, with Kiko Femenia showing great technique, slotting brilliantly into the corner of Asmir Begovic’s net, who was helpless after the deflection on the shot. However, the lethargy of the international break took over moments later, with Watford playing keep ball for majority of the half, not looking with any urgency to add on to their advantage.
Bournemouth had a few good chances themselves, with Junior Stanislas looking very lively on the left flank, and Jordon Ibe replicating the same dynamism on the right, albeit with lesser efficiency. On the stroke of half time, Stanislas showed good skill to drop a shoulder and send Janmaat the wrong way to get a shot away, but no sooner did Orestis Karnezis make a great diving save from which a moment of brain fade by Jose Holebas meant Watford conceded the most soft, and simultaneously the most bizarre, handball penalty of the season till date. Josh King ensured that Holebas was made to pay, converting the resulting spot kick from 12 yards.
The second half showed a little more intent by the home side, with Will Hughes pulling the strings, and Pereyra troubling Ryan Fraser, and after several brilliant pieces of defending by Lewis and Steve Cook, the Hornets were able to claw their way to the lead, with Troy Deeney, Pereyra and Hughes all combining in the build-up down their left, creating the perfect opportunity for the Argentine to pass the ball into the back of the net, albeit via another deflection that left Begovic rooted to the spot.
Eddie Howe, clearly, was unwilling to accept the loss, throwing on veteran Jermain Defoe for the final quarter of an hour, leaving three strikers and two natural wide men on the pitch, as the Cherries pushed on for an equaliser. They trudged the ball from left to right, but were unable to find the cutting edge to unlock the defence, with Craig Cathcart’s energetic and purposeful presence, sniffing out danger and taking it out, following the footsteps of Sebastian Prodl, who was doing likewise before some rash tackles forced Javi Gracia into a substitution, fearing the defender might be shown a second yellow card .Embed from Getty Images
It was in the dying moments of the game that Watford did indeed let their guard down completely, and as a dead ball was chipped into the area, Nathan Ake won another vital header with relative ease, and Defoe found himself unmarked, a gesture for which he ensured Watford would be made to pay. The Englishman had ample time to allow the ball to bounce in front of him, and he unerringly slotted into the corner of the net after Karnezis was forced to leave his goal-line to try and come out to smother the chance.
All in all, it was a rather straightforward game, with clear cut chances few and far between, but it was to be expected after two weeks off during the international break for most players. In the end, neither manager would be overjoyed with the one point, but I don’t think either could categorically say they deserved to take all three, with the game being quite even for the entire 90 minutes.
Written by Ayush Verma.