Watford 1 Newcastle United 1
- Jarred Gillett
Sean Longstaff’s stunning strike wasn’t enough to earn Newcastle United a first win of the season as Watford hit back to earn a point on Saturday afternoon.
Longstaff’s spectacular effort – his first goal in over a year – gave Steve Bruce’s men a half time lead at Vicarage Road.
They created enough chances to have moved further in front against the newly-promoted Hornets, but couldn’t find a way to put a second beyond Ben Foster.
And they were punished with 72 minutes on the clock, when Ismaila Sarr headed home a leveller from close range to earn Watford a draw.
It could have been worse for the visitors, who saw their opponents see what looked like a late winner from Josh King ruled out for offside after a VAR check with three minutes remaining, while Jacob Murphy missed a last-gasp chance to snatch a win.
But the contest finished level despite that late drama, leaving the Magpies still searching for that elusive first victory of 2021/22.
The hosts were quick out of the blocks, with Emmanuel Dennis squandering the first opportunity. Plenty of praise is due to United goalkeeper Karl Darlow, though, who prevented his side from going a goal down early on with two superb stops to keep out the Nigerian just two minutes into the contest at Vicarage Road.
Darlow kept his place in the Newcastle side after starting his first game of the campaign against Leeds last Friday night, but apart from that early opening for Xisco Munoz’s side, he wasn’t troubled too often in the first half. Instead it was Foster who was the busier stopper, tipping over Ciaran Clark’s header from Matt Ritchie’s corner as United grew into the contest.
And midway through the first half, Bruce’s men seized the advantage in some style. Allan Saint-Maximin made the goal but in truth it was one of his simplest assists in Newcastle colours; his lay-off found Longstaff just over 20 yards out at a slight angle just outside the box. His first touch set him up perfectly for the shot, which was arrowed into the top right-hand corner beyond the reach of Foster.
It was Longstaff’s first of the campaign and his first since a strike in the 4-1 win at Bournemouth in July 2020, and it was certainly one to savour. But after a Darlow stop from Sarr and a shot from the fit-again Joe Willock – whose inclusion following a toe injury came as something of a welcome surprise to Magpies supporters – the visitors had an even better chance to extend their lead. Saint-Maximin pounced on some poor defending to go one on one with Foster, who got a touch on the ball as the Frenchman tried to round him. When the ball then ran for Longstaff, his shot was too high.
With United holding their lead at the break, it was a cagey start to the second period as Munoz’s side built up a little momentum, with Josh King looking lively. Bruce’s charges still carved out opportunities – Miguel Almirón saw a shot saved, as did Joelinton, while Willock also tested Watford’s veteran stopper after being played in by Saint-Maximin.
But inside the final 20 minutes, the Hornets hit back and levelled the scores. King’s flick-on at a corner was turned in by Sarr, who nodded in the equaliser to leave Newcastle to rue their missed opportunities.
United then could have hit back as Clark headed another delivery wide of the upright, while Dwight Gayle was introduced from the bench for his first Premier League outing of the season, but in the end both sides could have stolen a victory in the final seconds.
Frontman King saw his late effort correctly chalked off for offside after a check from VAR, while United substitute Murphy was foiled by Foster after running onto Saint-Maximin’s pass in the final moments of stoppage time, meaning the points were shared after what was a frantic finale.