Tag Archives: Ramadan Sobhi

Trouncing the Terriers

Players line up for the minute’s silence

Having missed the Bournemouth game, it was over a month since I had been to Vicarage Road, so I was very happy to be going back.  Don was just getting out of his car as I reached the West Herts and we were the only two waiting for the doors to open although a few other regulars joined us before the clock struck 12.  Our pre-match drinks were all the better as we discussed the win over Wolves, although none of us were particularly confident for today’s game.  Huddersfield would have to get a win at some point and we could all remember the previous year’s abject defeat.

The team news was rather pleasing as Gracia named an unchanged team allowing those who had come in and put in such a great performance at Wolves to keep their places.  So the starting line-up was Foster; Femenía, Cathcart, Mariappa, Masina; Hughes, Doucouré, Deulofeu, Capoue, Pereyra; Success.  Huddersfield were captained by erstwhile Watford hero, Jonathan Hogg.  Another Watford hero also returned as former chief executive, Julian Winter, hosted a Q&A for the visiting fans at The Flag pub before the game.  I was very tempted to gatecrash.

As this was to be the last game before Remembrance Sunday, the players were wearing poppies on their shirts and a minute’s silence was held before the game that was perfectly observed.

Celebrating Pereyra’s Worldie

The game started positively for the visitors and the first chance fell to Durm whose shot at the near post was turned wide by Cathcart for a corner, which was cleared.  Soon after, Mooy tried a shot from distance through legs that was saved by Foster.  The visitors threatened again as Mbenza cut the ball back to Pritchard but the shot was just over the bar.  Watford’s first chance came as the ball reached Success following a lovely passing move, he crossed for Pereyra, but a defender made the interception before it reached the Watford man.  The Hornets opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a goal that was a thing of beauty.  Pereyra received the ball on the left and just started to dribble through a throng of Huddersfield players, it seemed only a matter of time before one of them tackled him, but the ball was soon in the back of the net prompting mental celebrations that were tinged with disbelief at what we had just witnessed.  After 19 minutes the Hornets were two goals to the good as Deulofeu got the ball on the right, he only had to beat two players before shooting from an acute angle past the keeper and into the net.  It was another terrific goal.  How on earth will we choose the goal of the season in May?  Fair play to Huddersfield, they didn’t give up and could have got back in the game almost immediately as a shot from distance from Löwe was pushed on to the crossbar by Foster.

Celebrating Deulofeu’s goal

Then a lovely pass from Success gave Deulofeu the chance to increase the lead, he skipped into the box again, but this time shot wide of the near post.  At the other end, Pritchard played the ball across the box to Mooy whose low shot was easy for Foster to save.  The first booking of the game went to Huddersfield’s Billing for a foul on Success.  Billing almost turned hero soon after with a terrific shot from distance that Foster did brilliantly to tip over the bar.  The resultant corner was headed wide by Depoitre.  Watford could have had a third before half time as Success ran into the Huddersfield box, a last minute tackle sent the ball goalwards, but Lössl was able to clear off the line.

There was a rather bizarre sequence during the break as a fan was invited to interview Tommy Mooney, asked a bland question about his favourite goal before grabbing the ball that Mooney was holding and dribbling towards the goal.  He was tackled by a couple of ‘stewards’ one of whom proceeded to put on a display of ball skills.  This baffling event was sponsored by the company that has their name on our shoulders and introduced as the first in a series.  Despite the decent skills demonstrated by the ‘steward’, I do hope not.  The interviews with visiting Watford legends are so much more interesting.  After the strange interruption, attention returned to Mooney who reckoned that the first half was the best that he had seen from a Watford side.  Assuming that he wasn’t at Wolves last week, it was no exaggeration.

Masina dummying as Pereyra lines up a free kick

Watford started the second half well with Deulofeu finding Success whose shot was saved by Lössl.  The same two players combined again a minute later, this time it was the Spaniard who had sight of goal, but a combination of keeper and defender put him off and he shot just wide.  Soon after Success found Deulofeu again, this time he shot over under pressure from a defender.  Deulofeu and Pereyra then combined to feed Hughes, but the shot was straight at Lössl.  It wasn’t all Watford though as Mbenza tried a shot from wide on the left which was saved by Foster.  Just after the hour mark, there was a rash of substitutions as Mounie and Sobhi replaced Depoitre and Mbenza for the visitors and Deulofeu made way for Sema.  The Watford man appeared to be furious when he reached the dug-out.  Watford’s first booking went to Masina for a nasty foul on Löwe.  Wagner made his final substitution as Billing made way for Bacuna.  Watford’s third goal came with 10 minutes remaining as a free kick was taken short and chipped by Capoue to Femenía who crossed low to Success in the middle of the box where he made no mistake with his finish.  It was a move that came straight from the training ground and it certainly calmed my nerves as it had surely sealed the points for the Hornets.  The goal scorer’s work was done for the day and he made way for Gray.  Soon after, Cathcart sustained a knock and was replaced by Kabasele.  In time added on, Watford had a couple of chances to increase their lead.  Doucouré made a great forward run, but his cut back flew behind the advancing forwards.  Then Pereyra tried a shot from a tight angle that was pushed over the bar by Lössl.  The final chance fell to Sema, who went on a brilliant run, beating a couple of players, but his finish was disappointing and the shot flew wide of the target.  So the final whistle went on a very pleasing 3-0 win for the Hornets.

Celebrating with Success

Back in the West Herts and Richard received a message from a Huddersfield supporting friend of his noting that the third goal had been good!  We could only assume irony was involved.  There were smiles all round as it had been a very good day at the office.  Despite Huddersfield’s chances and some heroics from Ben Foster, it felt like a comfortable win for the Hornets.  There was certainly some gorgeous football on show, with some sublime passing.  That and three very decent goals meant that the Watford fans had been royally entertained.

The joy was tempered somewhat by the worrying news of Glenn Hoddle’s collapse.  Then, when I returned home, I heard of the Leicester owner’s helicopter crashing and the death of a Brighton fan after their game.  The Leicester owners have been such a boon to both the club and the town, when something so awful happens, all football fans share the pain.  My thoughts are with the family and friends of all affected this weekend.

 

Stymied by Stoke

The piper plays Flowers of the Forest

Back to Vicarage Road again and, after a busy week, it was lovely to sit down with the crowd for the pre-match pint.  I bumped into someone that I hadn’t seen for a while, a regular who had almost given up in the dark days at the end of Mazzarri’s reign.  He was all smiles again, thoroughly enjoying the football as we all are.  I must admit that, going into this game I was less confident than last week against Chelsea.  There is something about Stoke and their negative style of play that made me think that we could struggle.

Since it was the last game before Remembrance Day, there was a piper on the pitch to play Flowers of the Forest.  This was followed by a minute’s silence.  Both were observed impeccably by the crowd.

Team news was two changes for the Hornets with Capoue and Carrillo coming in for Mariappa and Pereyra.  So the starting line-up was Gomes; Holebas, Britos, Kabasele, Femenía; Capoue, Cleverley, Doucouré; Richarlison, Deeney, Carrillo.

Rare first half action in the Stoke box

There was a slow start to the game, with Watford having most of the possession but being given little space by the visitors.  So it was a bit of a shock when Stoke took the lead on 16 minutes after a corner from Shaqiri reached Fletcher on the edge of the box from where he powered a shot through the bodies in the box and past Gomes.  You couldn’t help thinking that, having taken the lead, Stoke would make it difficult for us.  There was certainly little in the way of goal attempts in the half.  The first half chance came as Holebas played a ball into the box for Deeney, who was unable to reach it.   A Cleverley corner was headed on by Britos, to Capoue who tried and failed to finish, but was in an offside position anyway.  Watford’s best chance of the game so far came in the 38th minute as Cleverley played a lovely ball to Deeney who tried to place his shot, which drifted wide.

That was it for the first half.  The whistle was greeted with a few boos from the Rookery.  Who are these people?  It hadn’t been pretty, but any football had been played by the home side.

The beautiful game did make an appearance during the half time penalty shoot-out when a young girl from Holy Rood floated a perfect chip over the keeper.  Sign her up!

Capoue and Holebas prepare for a short corner

The second half started at a cracking pace.  The first chance came as Doucouré played a gorgeous ball to Femenía who went on a run and crossed for Deeney, but Shawcross got a block in to prevent the shot.  The next chance followed the same pattern starting with a beautiful ball from Doucouré and finishing with Shawcross clearing before Deeney could shoot.  Next a cross from Holebas was flicked on by Deeney to Capoue, who couldn’t quite reach it to apply the finish.  Watford came closer still as Holebas played a cross-field pass to Carrillo who cut the ball back to Richarlison, but the angle was too acute for the Brazilian and his shot hit the side netting.  The first substitution came just before the hour mark as Gray replaced Capoue.  Stoke could have increased their lead when, completely against the run of play, there was a forward break from Sobhi, he cut the ball back to Allen who shot just wide of the target when he should have done better.  Watford continued to threaten as Cleverley advanced and put in a decent cross, but Butland’s fist reached the ball just before Richarlison’s head.  Another chance for the young Brazilian went begging as a cross from Britos reached him, but he couldn’t get a proper connection for the header and it flew wide.  Watford also should have done better with the next chance as a cross from Carrillo reached Gray, but he mishit the shot and it went wide of the near post.

Fisticuffs by the dugouts

Stoke’s first change came as Berahino replaced Sobhi in a substitution that seemed to take an age (they had been wasting time from soon after they scored).  Watford’s next chance came from a corner, but Doucouré’s shot was blocked and the ball was deflected over the target.  The second substitution for the Hornets came as Carrillo was replaced by Hughes, making his debut for the Hornets.  A rare attack by the visitors finished as Choupo-Moting shot straight at Gomes.  Watford had another decent chance as a lovely ball into the box from Doucouré was flicked on by the head of Gray, but Deeney couldn’t reach it to turn it in.  There was danger at the other end as a cross from Shaqiri wasn’t cut out but, even as Gomes hesitated, he did enough to cause Berahino to shoot wide.  Watford threatened again as Gray met a cross from Cleverley with a header that flew on to the roof of the net.  Soon after, it all kicked off on the sideline.  I don’t know what provoked it, but it seemed to start with Doucoure and Diouf who, in photographic evidence obtained from a friend in the SEJ stand, squared up to each other before everyone else got involved, including some members of the Stoke coaching staff, but it was only the initial perpetrators who were cautioned.  After the dust settled, Stoke made another substitution replacing Shaqiri with Adam.  There was another scuffle after Stoke had put the ball out when one of their players went down with cramp in their box.  It had appeared to be an attempt to waste time and the ball was, quite rightly in my opinion, not returned to them.  This incensed Allen who went for Deeney and it all got rather unpleasant.  The two men were booked, but the television pictures of the altercation suggest that Deeney may incur further punishment for his reaction, which would be unfortunate.  Watford had one last chance to win a point as Hughes found Gray, but the shot was deflected for a corner.  As it was late into time added on, Gomes came up to join the attack and was nearly caught out as Stoke broke upfield, Gomes was unable to tackle Adam, who advanced with an open goal to aim at but found the far post instead, much to the amusement of the Rookery faithful.

Doucoure on the ball

There were boos again at the final whistle, although most of these appeared to be aimed at the opposition.  Richarlison, Britos and Holebas had collapsed to the turf on full time with the latter staying prone with his shirt over his head for some considerable time.

It was a disappointing afternoon.  The football was horrible but, credit to Stoke, they played their game very well and we didn’t play ours.  The second half was much better as Watford attacked at pace, but the Stoke defence were very well organized and Butland didn’t have a save to make.  Special credit must go to Zouma, who had a great game keeping Richarlison very quiet.

As we walked up Occupation Road, a familiar face passed us, and I couldn’t help wondering if Pereyra would have made a difference, but it was one of those afternoons.

Back in the West Herts and the post-match analysis focussed on how horrible Stoke were to watch.  All very true, but you have to find a way past these teams and we failed to do that.  The positive is that this is one of very few games that have not been entertaining so far this season.  So let us put this one behind us and look forward to Goodison Park next Sunday.