Watford recorded their first victory in seven Premier League matches as they recovered from going behind to beat Leicester City and claim a much-needed three points at Vicarage Road on Boxing Day.
It’s easy to forget that the Hornets were just three points off the Champions League places back in October and it seemed like their rotten recent run of form would extend to seven league games without a win when Riyad Mahrez found space at the back-post to head home a deserved opener.
But within eight minutes – and on the stroke of half-time – the hosts responded, with defender Molla Wague being left unmarked to prod home an equaliser and leave things level at the break.
Watford started the second-half in the ascendency just as they had finished the first and they got their reward in fortunate circumstances when the ever-influential Abdoulaye Doucoure’s shot somehow found its way into the back of the net from on the by-line off ‘keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Leicester pushed for a late equaliser only for Wes Morgan and Leonardo Ulloa to be denied by Heurelho Gomes, and Watford managed to hold out for a precious and richly-needed three points.
The result sees Watford move to within two points of Leicester in tenth place, now eight points adrift of Burnley in seventh place, whilst Claude Puel’s side remain in eight spot on goal difference.
Job done for Silva’s side
Watford’s early season momentum has slightly stalled somewhat in the past few weeks, and whilst there was nothing vintage about their win yesterday it will come as a relief to manager Marco Silva.
The Hornets hadn’t tasted victory in the league since the 3-0 win away at Newcastle in late November, going on a run of five defeats and one draw in the six matches prior to Boxing Day.
Tuesday’s win was also only their third in the previous 12 Premier League outings, picking up just ten points from a possible 36 since mid-October, and Silva will be hoping that getting three points against the Foxes can bring an end to a barren run that’s seen Watford drop down the table quickly.
It is perhaps the manner of victory that will have pleased the Watford boss more than anything, falling behind before half-time to a rare Riyad Mahrez header, and his decision to bring on Stefano Okaka and move Richarlison back onto the left-wing was one that ultimately turned things around.
Within moments Molla Wague – the centre-back making his first Watford start since arriving from Italian side Udinese on deadline day – levelled things up on the stroke of half-time, and from that moment on the hosts seemed to have a spring in their step.
Their winner came in fortunate circumstances but the Hornets won’t care how it went in, nor care that they scored twice from just one shot on target all game, and it’s now about backing this win up with another one against bottom side Swansea City this coming Saturday.
Another miserable Boxing Day for the Foxes
Leicester City supporters will be sick of the sight of Boxing Day soon as, for the 11th time in their previous 12 games played on December 26, they failed to win.
It’s a miserable record that has stretched throughout the club’s Premier League history and yet another Boxing Day defeat, this time at Watford, means the Foxes have now lost in their last four league outings on this particular day.
Claude Puel’s side will be left to rue their wastefulness in front of goal in a match where they would have been favourites prior to kick-off, and had Jamie Vardy not uncharacteristically missed when through on goal early on or had Wes Morgan’s late effort found the net it could have been different.
But instead they fell short against a team that possessed little attacking intent on the day, and the defeat means that Leicester have now gone four games without a win having lost just one of Puel’s first eight games in charge.
The ex-Southampton man claimed post-match that a draw would have been a fair result, and arguably so, but his side will have to pick themselves back up for a tough trip to Liverpool next up.
Doucoure’s return leads Watford to win
One of the main architects of Watford’s early season form, along with the irrepressible young Brazilian Richarlison, was Abdoulaye Doucoure.
And whilst Watford’s form has gradually derailed over the past months one man who hasn’t dropped his own performance levels is the Frenchman, and he was superb again against Leicester.
The 24-year-old central midfielder has been a revelation after an underwhelming first season at Vicarage Road last time out, spear-heading the Watford midfield in the long-term absence of Nathaniel Chalobah, and it was little surprise that he had the final say once against on Boxing Day.
He was a huge miss for Marco Silva in Saturday’s disappointing defeat away at Brighton & Hove Albion and it was clear to see how much his return buoyed his side, being the glue that holds this Watford side together, and he single-handedly created the winning goal from out of nowhere.
Whilst it went down as a Kasper Schmeichel own goal it once again highlighted the impact he has been having in front of goal for a central midfielder – after half of the season he’s already scored some six times – and it wouldn’t be surprising if there was heightened interest in him in the upcoming January transfer window.
But his impact runs deeper than his goal tally and he’s forged an identity for himself this season leading by example, being the driving force for a team that are a shadow of their 2015/16 selves.