Cardiff City fought back from 3-0 down with ten minutes to play to give Watford a late scare at Vicarage Road.
On the back of late draw last week at Goodison Park, Watford were looking to build on the momentum from their Monday fixture. Gerard Deulofeu started up top with Troy Deeney and got the Hornets on the board after 16 minutes, dribbling through the heart of the Cardiff defence and slotting it past Neil Etheridge to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Watford weren’t finished yet, as they had done in previous games they controlled the ball and dominated possession. Roberto Pereyra, looking to build on his two assists, looked lively around the penalty box, cutting inside a few times, but his curling shots ending up just wide, as Watford took their lead into the break.
The second half started with the play of Domingos Quina looking comfortable and experienced in the middle of the pitch, playing alongside Abdoulaye Doucoure. Deulofeu rolled a ball into the path of Jose Holebas, who curled a great shot into the right corner of the goal past the outstretched reach of Etheridge. At 2-0, Watford were cruising to victory.
Just 14 minutes later, Watford continued to press Cardiff City, Quina scored his first Premier League goal off a nice pass from Deeney as he bent it into the left corner.
Cardiff came alive after an individual effort from Junior Hoilett down the left, firing a shot from the top of the box that found the top corner, dampening the home crowd’s high spirits. Just two minutes later, substitute Bobby Reid attempted a back heal inside the six-yard box that rebounded back to him, as he poked it home to draw Cardiff within a goal, 3-2.
There would be a flurry of activity at both ends, as Watford held under the cold wind and rain to pick up their first win since 27th October.
Domingos Quina, Watford’s future.
The 19-year old Portuguese midfielder was purchased from West Ham ahead of the 2018/19 season, never featuring for the Hammers. Quina showed his skill in an EFL Cup game in August, away to Reading, when he scored a brilliant goal from 30-yards out, giving the Golden Boys a 2-0 win.
After the Everton game, Javi Gracia hailed his performance, “Everybody knows he is a very good young player, but he has a great presence and an amazing future as well. He is always ready to help the squad like he did today.”
With the suspension to Etienne Capoue, three weeks ago, Quina has been handed two starts and has made a case for inclusion into the starting XI. Gracia now has depth in the midfield positions with Capoue returning next week and Tom Cleverley fit.
Midfield madness for Javi Gracia.
While Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure having been dominating figures in the midfield for Watford, Javi Gracia has made few changes to his starting XI with Capoue seeing a red card three weeks ago. The last two games, it’s been Domingos Quina starting in place of Capoue. Quina brings a bit more creativity and explosion to a solid Watford line that has the likes of Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra.
Tom Cleverley returned to fitness from a pre-season Achilles problem that has caused him to miss all of the 2018/19 season to date. Available to Gracia, he came on as a substitute and put in a strong shift, holding up play and tracking back on defensive duties. With Will Hughes out with a hip injury, the inclusion of Quina and Cleverley is welcomed news to Watford supporters.
Neil Etheridge shines despite loss.
It wasn’t the first time watching Neil Etheridge and feeling for the Philippines international, after putting in an excellent performance but coming away with nothing to show in the league table. Etheridge faced eight shots, conceding three goals, but he singlehandedly kept the Bluebirds in the game.
Unlike his 19 clean sheet performances last season, in which Cardiff conceded just 37 goals, there has been a completely different story this season since gaining promotion to the Premier League. However, Etheridge did keep out Perery repeatedly, turning away three of his curling shots to give his team a chance and keep Cardiff in the game.
Etheridge has made 62 saves for the Bluebirds, second best in the Premier League. While Cardiff slip to 16th in the league table, they are four points clear of the relegation zone. Neil Etheridge will need to continue to shine as their “star man” if the Welsh club has intentions of remaining in the Premier League.
Man of the Match – Gerard Deulofeu
The Spaniard picked the first goal of the game, his second of the season, assisting Doucoure and giving Watford the 2-0 lead. He continues to shine through the middle of the pitch, starting out of position as a forward. Exciting to watch, skilful on the ball and dynamic when attacking, Deulofeu put in one of his best performances of the season.