Watford vs Wolverhampton Wanderers. Premier League.
Report and highlights as Hornets record another vital win in their battle to beat the drop
Saturday 4 January 2020 08:00, UK
Ten-man Watford held on to beat Wolves 2-1 at Vicarage Road and boost their Premier League survival hopes in the process.
Gerard Deulofeu made the vital first breakthrough on the half-hour mark with an excellent finish into the bottom right-hand corner for his third goal against Wolves in all competitions.
Abdoulaye Doucoure's deflected drive doubled the hosts' lead four minutes into the second half as another win appeared on the cards for Nigel Pearson's side.
However, Pedro Neto's strike - again with the aid of a crucial deflection - on the hour-mark, coupled with Christian Kabasele's VAR-assisted red card 11 minutes later, led to a nervy finale for the hosts.
As a result, Watford have now moved level with West Ham in the relegation zone after recording successive league wins for the first time since February 2019, while Wolves remain seventh in the table.
Home Team: Foster (7), Femenia (6), Dawson (6), Cathcart (7), Kabasele (6), Chalobah (7), Doucoure (8), Capoue (7), Deulofeu (9), Deeney (7), Sarr (8)
Subs: Masina (6), Holebas (6), Pereyra (6)
Away Team: Patricio (6), Doherty (8), Bennett (6), Coady (7), Dendoncker (6), Jonny (6), Traore (6), Moutinho (6), Jonny (6), Saiss (6), Neto (8), Jimenez (6)
Subs: Neves (6), Jota (7), Vinagre (6)
Man of the match: Gerard Deulofeu
The home team came into this match on the back of a confidence-boosting home victory over fellow strugglers Aston Villa on Saturday, despite again being reduced to 10 men.
Pearson's men clearly took that confidence with them into this contest, although their 30th-minute opener owed much to a mistake from makeshift Wolves central defender Leander Dendoncker, who gifted possession straight to Ismaila Sarr when trying to play out from the back.
The Spaniard then fed Deulofeu in the left channel of the area, with the Spaniard then doing brilliantly to beat Rui Patricio from an acute angle.
Watford's slender lead was doubled at the start of the second half when Deulofeu drove at the visitors' back-line, which the forward opened up with a cleverly disguised reverse pass to Doucoure.
The midfielder then cut back inside, before firing an unstoppable shot - with the aid of a hefty deflection - into the roof of the net as the hosts appeared to be cruising towards another win.
Wolves took just 11 minutes to hit back, though, as Neto's speculative shot from just outside the box looped up off Nathaniel Chalobah's leg, as the defender tried to make a block, and over the diving Ben Foster.
Watford defender Craig Cathcart started despite coming off against Aston Villa at the weekend with injury, but midfielder Will Hughes - who was also forced off through injury - missed out.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo recalled Matt Doherty, Raul Jimenez, Romain Saiss and Adama Traore, who all missed out at Anfield on Sunday.
Kabasele then got his marching orders after VAR deemed the Watford defender was the last man when bringing down Diogo Jota on the edge of the box, and the home side were made to dig in for the closing stages.
But Pearson has instilled a new fighting spirit in Watford's players since replacing Quique Sanchez Flores four games ago, during which period the new man has picked up 10 points.
Nigel Pearson: "I've not seen it yet but the players felt it was harsh because of the type of contact and the proximity of team-mates to deny a goalscoring opportunity. VAR is here and everybody will have had some difficult experiences with it and some experiences that will have gone their way.
"Technology is good for the sport but clearly this season there will be a few teething problems. It's still down to interpretation so there will always be a human element there.
"All sports that have introduced technology have had problems. Rugby has got it as close as possible to perfect because we can hear the discussion going on. Now that it's here we've got to run with it. It's disappointing to have a player sent off for the second home game on the trot. We'll deal with it."
Nuno Espirito Santo: "I haven't seen the images yet but from the pitch I think Diogo had a clear chance at goal. It was one v one against the goalie. The referee saw it one way, VAR saw it the other way.
"We have to get it clear for the game to flow and to have freedom of the ball. The Premier League is known for having good referees and good dynamism to the game and this is what we want.
"VAR should help the referee. The decisions referees make we should trust. VAR is video assistant referee. The referee should decide. It should be clear and obvious.
"One of the things that disappoints me is when the crowd starts singing - this is a clear sign. The referee should improve, VAR should improve. We must get used to VAR but the fans are not liking it and this is what worries me most."
"Neither team played particularly well, but Watford got that good finish from Deulofeu in the first half and then it was a case of, can they get that second goal to kill them off, as we know what a strong team Wolves are?
"Eventually they got that second goal thanks to a good finish from Doucoure, with the help of a slight deflection, and then Neto pulled one back for Wolves and you think they are going to pile the pressure on now.
"Then there was the red-card incident, so they had to play the last 20 minutes, plus stoppage time, with 10 men. But they defended really, well, they were professional and kept the ball near the corner flag for three or four minutes to kill time off as you have to.
"And Pearson will be really pleased with that."
Where would Watford be this season without their twinkle-toed Spaniard, who was again an inspiration in attack against Wolves on New Year's Day.
The forward gave his team their vital opening goal with an excellent finish into the far corner of the net, before playing a pivotal role in their winner with a lovely pass for Doucoure.
All of which means the former Barcelona player, 25, now has three goals and two assists to his name in 20 Premier league games so far this season.
Watford take on Tranmere at Vicarage Road in the FA Cup third round on Saturday afternoon (3.01pm), before travelling to fellow strugglers Bournemouth in the Premier League on Sunday January 12 (2pm) - live on Sky Sports Premier League.
Meanwhile, Wolves face Manchester United at Molineux in the FA Cup third round on Saturday evening (5.31pm), before entertaining Newcastle in the league on Saturday January 11 (3pm).