Premier League Norwich avoided an upset as Gary Hooper scored late in normal and extra-time on his first start to see off Watford in the Capital One Cup. Javier Acuna’s first Watford goal and Marco Faraoni’s 25-yard effort left Norwich teetering. But substitute Josh Murphy rifled home the game’s third superb goal, and Hooper flicked home Nathan Redmond’s cross in the 95th minute. Johan Elmander went close before Hooper poked in to complete Norwich’s escape.
The opening was all anticipation, and the drumrolls were provided by the immediate pressure that Norwich put on us a long way up the pitch. We’ve played City a million times before, this tie had none of the lustre of a Manchester United or a Liverpool… nonetheless, this is a competent top-flight City side, and to see them adopting such an archetypal Championship approach – pressure, pressure, pressure, but with better-than-Championship players – was ominous.
The formation appears designed with containment in mind; containment not just of the opposition, but of our own creativity and imagination, as if getting too carried away might prove dangerous, as if risk and chance are things to be eliminated at all costs. Reinforcement of those ideas comes from the bench, with substitutions so numbingly conservative that they’re announced in the small ads of the Daily Mail rather than over the tannoy. The totality is a crumbling communist edifice, built with the thought that attacking is merely defending with the ball.
The game where Glenn Hoddle scored that goal.
The Owls got on top in the first half against their sloppy opponents but were unable to make their dominance count, with Tom Lees coming closest to breaking the deadlock when his unmarked header grazed the post.
So what have we learned? Hardly news given Ivić’s reported stylistic preferences but we look an awful lot better at stopping the other lot than scoring ourselves. But for our marking at set pieces we looked pretty impenetrable today, as you’d hope from that extremely proficient back three with Cleverley and Chalobah sitting in front of them. Chalobah, as an aside, is becoming a candidate for that all-but-forgotten mantle of boo-boy, a role largely unoccupied for a decade or so but was excellent today, strong defending and effective supporting attacks. Better. All that’s stopping him dominating football games at this level is a need for a bit more assertiveness.
Hear the boys dissect Watford’s stalemate in Sheffield, which ended up being the classic game of two halves. The Athletic’s Watford correspondent Adam Leventhal joined Jon, Mike and Jason before and after the game to talk everything from transfers to tactics, as Vladimir Ivić continues to shape his Watford side.
The goalkeeper saved all three of United’s spot kicks, while the Hornets scored all of theirs to send the visitors through with a 3-0 scoreline in the shootout after clawing the game back from the brink of defeat.
Rob Hall’s 20-yard strike after good work from Joel Cooper gave League One Oxford the lead and they were seconds away from seeing out the win. But Ken Sema sent the game to penalties when he scored into an empty net after receiving Joao Pedro’s scuffed shot.
Some might question the wisdom of forking out a tenner for a stream to watch a single-camera view of the early stages of the League Cup. Those same people would probably leave early at the end of a 6-0 pasting, or opt against long drives across the country to watch irrelevant end of season dead-rubbers in the rain. This is a fundamental part of the process. To skip it would be like skipping puberty.
The Hornets reacquainted themselves with the Championship after a five-year absence with the sort of gritty win you need to chisel out regularly if you are going to have a real crack at navigating a way out of this notoriously difficult division.
Boro’s Britt Assombalonga came close to levelling the scores on several occasions and the visitors’ best opening came when the frontman’s curling free-kick was tipped over the bar by Hornets ‘keeper Ben Foster.
Whether Ivic can maintain the momentum rests largely on which players are sold before the transfer deadline, with Deeney and Welbeck reportedly close to joining Premier League clubs. But in young, hungry players such as Pedro and Jeremy Ngakia – making his debut at right-back following his move from West Ham – coupled with old hands such as Foster, Murray and the match-winner Cathcart, he will be hopeful of a successful first campaign in English football.
The official justifications for our many, many absences – 17, reportedly… that it’s hard to keep track tells you everything – range from injured to ill to unfit, often vague and understandably so. There’s injured and there’s “injured”, one suspects. Twitter rumour claims that Craig Dawson has refused to play, which if true given his miserable half-arsed effort against Spurs is comparable to Andy Cole’s notorious retirement from international duty.
With Championship football kicking off at Vicarage Road on Friday night and the Hornets looking to mount a promotion push, Vladimir Ivić’s side showed they still have some Premier League quality about them with a convincing win against Tottenham Hotspur at Vicarage Road.
No, not a full-strength Spurs, yes, a pre-season friendly and no, I’ve not spent too long dwelling on the detail. It’s a pre-season friendly after all, and if you cared you probably watched it yourself. But we beat Spurs, with a thing that has fun bits and gnarly bits and sparkly bits but is fundamentally a thing that isn’t fully formed yet.