Watford 2 Newcastle United 1
- Roger East
Watford completed a Premier League double over Newcastle United in an action-packed encounter at a sun-drenched Vicarage Road.
Roberto Pereyra and Andre Gray rewarded the Hornets for a purposeful start by establishing a two-goal lead inside the opening 30 minutes, and Javi Gracia’s side could have been out of sight by the interval had Martin Dúbravka not kept out Troy Deeney’s penalty.
That save proved crucial as United made a game of it in the second half. Ayoze Pérez pulled one back to give the Magpies renewed hope, but – despite a period of late pressure – they were unable to complete an unlikely comeback.
Exactly two minutes were on the clock when Argentine Pereyra gave Watford the lead. United’s defence stood off Gray, who – perched on the edge of the penalty area – tried to pick out strike-partner Deeney. Paul Dummett got to the ball first, but only managed to direct it straight to Abdoulaye Doucouré. The bustling midfielder dropped his shoulder before teeing up Pereyra at his opposite side, and the wide-man fired home.
The Magpies almost found themselves further behind within the blink of an eye. Gray again found himself in space deep inside the Newcastle half, and threaded a low pass through for Pereyra. Dúbravka managed to deny the Hornets’ goalscorer before getting down quickly to block Deeney’s follow-up. Still, the danger wasn’t over with, and Étienne Capoue saw a right-footed effort deflect narrowly wide.
Dúbravka had to make another save shortly before the half-hour mark. Mo Diamé lost possession in midfield, and – again – a through pass caught out the Magpies’ backline. Gray latched onto Deeney’s ball, but the Slovakian ‘keeper stood firm.
But, just a minute later, Watford duly added to their advantage. Pereyra twisted and turned deep on the left, and floated a dangerous ball into the penalty area. Dúbravka tried to claim it but couldn’t, and Gray was on hand to nod into an empty net from just a couple of yards out.
It could easily have got worse for Newcastle before the break. They lost the ball again – this time after a Jacob Murphy error – and Gray got into a foot race with Dummett after taking a heavy touch. The left back slid in but missed the ball, and referee Roger East pointed to the spot. Up stepped Deeney, but Dúbravka produced a powerful stop low to his right before doing brilliantly to keep out the rebound.
The Magpies would have been glad to hear the half-time whistle and head into the away dressing room to regroup. They looked a little more solid as the second period got underway, and – ten minutes in – they got back into the game. Birthday boy Javier Manquillo latched onto Jonjo Shelvey’s ball down the right flank before swinging in a superb cross for Pérez, who found the far corner with a fine first-time finish.
Another Manquillo delivery very nearly led to an equalising goal with 65 minutes on the clock. Adrian Mariappa – a surprise replacement for Deeney – attempted to cut out the Spaniard’s ball but ended up heading it the wrong way, and goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis had to be alert to gather.
The game started to become more fragmented as the final quarter of an hour approached. Capoue's 20-yard strike deflected wide after the Magpies failed to close down the Frenchman, before Pérez back-heeled a Shelvey corner agonisingly past the near post after running across his marker.
With Deeney, Gray and Pereyra all withdrawn, Watford were – seemingly – quite happy to adopt a counter-attacking approach late on. It looked to be a dangerous game to play, and Mikel Merino came close to restoring parity for Newcastle after meeting DeAndre Yedlin’s low cross, with the Spaniard’s left-footed attempt taking a nick off a defender before dropping onto the roof of the net.
Watford were hanging on as four minutes of additional time got underway, but they just about did enough to get over the line and end a disappointing run of form of their own.