Watford 2-1 Crystal Palace: Roberto Pereyra, Jose Holebas seal third straight win
Report and highlights as Wilfried Zaha strikes late in vain
By Kate Burlaga
Last Updated: 26/08/18 9:51pm
Watford survived a late scare to seal a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace and win three games at the start of a top-flight season for the first time.
Wilfried Zaha struck 12 minutes from time at Vicarage Road to raise hopes of a visiting fightback but the hosts held on as Roberto Pereyra's 53rd-minute strike and Jose Holebas's freak second (71) proved enough.
Palace had been denied by several fine Ben Foster saves in the first half and saw Joel Ward head agonisingly wide deep into stoppage-time on a frustrating afternoon where Roy Hodgson may again curse the officials.
Watford: Foster (8), Janmaat (7), Cathcart (6), Kabasele (7), Holebas (7), Capoue (7), Doucoure (6), Hughes (6), Pereyra (8), Deeney (7), Gray (6).
Subs used: Sema (6), Success (n/a).
Crystal Palace: Hennessey (6), Ward (7), Kelly (6), Sakho (6), Van Aanholt (6), Townsend (7), Milivojevic (6), McArthur (6), Schlupp (6), Benteke (6), Zaha (7).
Subs used: Meyer (6), Sorloth (n/a).
Man of the match: Roberto Pereyra
Watford - third in the fledgling table - had started brightly on the slick surface, Pereyra whipping in a ball that just evaded Andre Gray at the far post, but the game quickly became fractious as the rain fell.
Zaha, memorably mocked by Watford's mascot back in December 2016, drew the ire of the home crowd for a tackle on Holebas but had been dangerously halted himself minutes earlier by Etienne Capoue's studs, the card dubiously yellow rather than red.
Watford were unchanged from their 3-1 win at Burnley last weekend.
Joel Ward replaced the suspended Aaron-Wan Bissaka in Crystal Palace's starting XI but there was a further late change when James Tomkins suffered a calf injury in the warm-up, Martin Kelly stepping in.
With the game's tempo brisk, Andros Townsend set up Christian Benteke for a header superbly clawed away by Foster and the Watford goalkeeper made another close-range stop to thwart James McArthur with only 16 minutes gone.
Palace had crafted the best chances but Watford slowly found a foothold, the impressive Pereyra twice going close and Daryl Janmaat, a consistent attacking threat, striking a Gray lay-off on the run just wide as the interval approached.
The hosts' momentum stretched into the second half and Pereyra finally made it count, cutting inside Townsend and finding the far corner after Capoue had found him following a muscular dart downfield.
Benteke had wasted one headed chance before Foster pushed the other clear but the Belgian went close with a far more ambitious effort, cushioning a ball with back to goal before curling just high and wide.
Palace's hopes instead seemed extinguished when Holebas tricked inside and delivered a deep cross that caught out Wayne Hennessey and dropped into the far corner.
Hodgson, who had been angered by decisions against Liverpool, threw on Max Meyer and it was his give-and-go that paid dividends, Zaha collecting the return ball before jinking at the byline and drilling low from an angle.
Substitute Alexander Sorloth failed to connect with a late Palace corner, before Ward fluffed his lines from another as Javi Gracia's side held on for victory and 'Harry the Hornet' thumped his drum in celebration.
Man of the match - Roberto Pereyra
Roberto Pereyra had seen one half-volley deflected behind and fired another good chance straight at Wayne Hennessey before finally making the breakthrough with a superbly taken goal. Especially influential in the first half, he had four shots on target overall - the most of any Hornets player - as well as delivering three crosses and a key pass.
- This was Crystal Palace's first league defeat away at Watford since February 2009 (0-2 in a Championship meeting), having been unbeaten in seven trips prior to today (W3 D4).
- Watford's current run of three consecutive wins in the Premier League is their second-longest winning streak in competition history, and just one short of their record of four games (in December 2015 under Quique Sanchez Flores).
- Watford have lost only one of their nine home games in the Premier League under Javi Gracia (W6 D2), including wins in each of their most recent three.
- Wilfried Zaha is now Crystal Palace's top scorer in Premier League history (24), overtaking Chris Armstrong who netted 23 goals in the competition for the Eagles.
- Roberto Pereyra has been directly involved in seven of Watford's last 11 goals in the Premier League, scoring six and assisting another.
- Jose Holebas has been directly involved in three of Watford's four Premier League goals at Vicarage Road this season (one goal and two assists).
Notes for Southgate
Andros Townsend has not given up of hope of playing for England again but though he delivered several dangerous early balls, he was turned for both Watford's goals.
Watford travel to Reading for a second-round Carabao Cup clash on Wednesday, before welcoming Tottenham to Vicarage Road on Super Sunday. Palace start their League Cup campaign at Swansea on Tuesday and then tackle Southampton at Selhurst Park on Saturday.