Fran’s Watford Blog: This was a very good showing from the Hornets. Some of the passing from the back can be scary, but when it is executed well it is a joy to watch. João Pedro was absolutely magnificent, he was everywhere. Sarr put in a decent showing and was good value for the goal. The defence were well organised, and it was good to see Gaspar put in a decent shift. Finally we are seeing some consistency from this team, they are working hard and playing as a team. They are doing the dirty work, closing down the opposition, but also showing some great skill going forward. The chants of “sexy football” were well merited.
Sky Sports: Cardiff had resisted wave after wave of pressure in the second period and looked to have held out for a point after Francisco Sierralta’s early own goal was cancelled out by a solo strike from Nathaniel Chalobah.
BHappy: Heaven knows we’ve come not to expect too much from free kicks. Five years and so on and so forth. There have been likelier candidates to break our duck in the interim than Adam Masina. Roberto Pereyra perhaps. Tom Cleverley. Zinckernagel. Troy, even. As he lined it up I was hoping for a touch off the bodies flying across the face of the goal. As he ran up it occurred to me that if this went in we were definitely going up. Masina absolutely smacked it straight at the keeper but Phillips was distracted with bodies running at and past him. The shot went straight through…
For the first time since the pandemic began a limited number of home fans were allowed to attend the game. The attendance was 1,973.
Official site: So, the team win six out of seven without the fans, scoring 16 goals in the process and yet the second the supporters are gradually and welcomely phased back in, the Golden Boys finish a home game pointless and goalless. You couldn’t make it up, really. It’s just been that sort of year, hasn’t it?
Deulofeu opened the scoring in the 18th minute in a first half where Cardiff felt they should have had a penalty when Josh Murphy went down in the box under a strong challenge from Daryl Janmaat (42).
Deulofeu had not scored for eight matches but looked as if he was back playing for Barcelona as he ran riot in the second half. Abdoulaye Doucoure headed Bennett’s free-kick clear and into the path of the former Everton player, who knocked the ball past Manga on the halfway line, before taking it round Neil Etheridge and slotting home his fifth goal of the season.
His third also came thanks to generous defending, this time from Harry Arter, who was intercepted by Etienne Capoue. The Frenchman sent Deulofeu through and he finished neatly. Not content with his offing, Deulofeu then switched flanks, and burst through on goal again after 73 minutes. He looked on for a fourth, but instead side-footed into the path of Deeney, who deserved to be on the scoresheet. Cardiff pulled one back nine minutes from time after Bamba latched on to a loose ball during a frenzied goalmouth scramble, but there was little interrupting the scenes of adulation in the away end, and Deeney completed the rout after 90 minutes from a Will Hughes lay-off.
The final whistle went sparking wild celebrations in the away end. The players all came over to celebrate with the crowd and the songs and cheers went on for some time. Deulofeu secured the match ball, despite an attempt by Doucouré to steal it. As the others left him to it, he stood alone in front of the away fans while we told him he was magic. It was a lovely moment.
What started off a tetchy, nerve-wracking evening turned out to be one of the best games of the season. Watford were sublime in the second half and produced one of the finest counter-attacking displays I have ever seen. Deulofeu was a man possessed as he embarrassed the Cardiff back line with some superb finishes.
This was a good win for Watford. Such was the harum-scarum nature of the closing stages, however, that a moment’s reflection was needed in order to be sure. After dominating possession and storming to a 3-0 lead with some sumptuous goals, they almost threw it away in the last 10 minutes. The final moments saw the hosts clinging on to the result, keeping the ball by the corner flag.
On a slippery pitch and near-freezing conditions, Deulofeu looked like he was on a slalom run as he waltzed past three defenders into the Cardiff penalty area and calmly placed the ball past goalkeeper Neil Etheridge to open the scoring.
There are parallels with following a football team, I think. A bit. Particularly that last point. It’s a drum I’ve banged before, no apologies for that. It’s the answer to that question we used to ask when we were in the second tier. “What’s the point of being a mid-table Premier League side?” Of being (Fulham/Stoke/West Brom/insert your choice here). No hope of challenging, limited peril until there is, then it stops. We are now that side. The side that are the go-to name for throwaway lines about mid-table irrelevance. Leicester answered that question in part of course. But there’s more to it. Being Watford (any team, but Watford more so, obviously) is great because it’s us. It’s being part of something. And being us is great wherever it is. Being good is fun. But it’s not all of it.
At the end of the match there was complete bafflement. Watford had been coasting until the first Cardiff goal, which seemed to give the visitors confidence and the home side jitters. While we weren’t exactly hanging on at the end, the memory of the last minute at Goodison Park on Monday was too fresh for me to feel comfortable until the final whistle had gone.