Norwich City




Watford’s first outing of 2023 yielded a stunning, late victory at Norwich City, with an injury-plagued Hornets side ending a run of successive defeats with a 1-0 win courtesy of a dramatic Vakoun Bayo winner.

A lively first 45 minutes included a feast of chances at either end, with Keinan Davis and Ismaïla Sarr looking especially dangerous in black and white before Samuel Kalu went off injured.

Davis and Christian Kabasele also had to be replaced on the flip side of the interval, adding to the seemingly ever-increasing number of Watford absentees, but after Bayo and Sarr continued to spark away attacks the former finally broke the deadlock on the counter-attack four minutes from the end.

Three points in East Anglia lifts Watford back into the play-off places after 26 Sky Bet Championship matches, ahead of an Emirates FA Cup third-round contest at second-tier rivals Reading on Saturday (January 7, 12.30pm KO).

With the tally of unavailable first-team players standing at 11, Head Coach Slaven Bilić made three changes to the XI that had tasted defeat against Swansea City last time out, with James Morris being drafted into the starting line-up for his full league debut, alongside Kalu and Francisco Sierralta.

A spell of home pressure saw Jeremy Ngakia earn a fourth-minute yellow card for a pull out on the right, with Sierralta and Daniel Bachmann both remaining alert to weather the early storm with strong clearances at the back.

It wasn’t long before Davis enjoyed Watford’s first chance at the other end, however, the 24-year-old forward forcing a strong save from Angus Gunn at his near post after neat play by Kalu and Mario Gaspar.

The first 10 minutes in Norfolk involved injury scares to Kabasele and Leandro Bacuna, but with both men soldiering on the Hornets continued to push for an opener, and Davis maintained his threat with an off-target effort on the quarter-hour.

Davis turned creator with the visitors’ next attack, Watford’s number seven beating Ben Gibson and then teeing up Sarr, whose shot from the penalty spot was expertly blocked before it could test Gunn in goal.

A smart, low Ngakia cross sparked an opportunity for Kalu shortly after the 20-minute mark, with the Nigerian shooting narrowly wide on the turn, before he was forced off in place of Bayo to add to Bilić’s ever-growing injury concerns.

Norwich thought they had taken the lead nine minutes before half-time - only for Grant Hanley’s back-post header to be correctly ruled out for offside - but with their tails up the Canaries stayed on the attack and Max Aarons soon flashed a shot wide.

A clever cross-field ball from Craig Cathcart initiated a headed opportunity for Sarr - with Ngakia and Bayo also linking up well in the build-up - and then Bacuna was again hurt in the midst of a string of heavy home challenges.

A cynical Hanley foul gifted the Golden Boys a free-kick on the corner of the hosts’ box, and though Bacuna’s set-piece didn’t threaten, Davis and Bayo remained lively at the top end of the pitch deep into seven minutes of first-half injury time.

Watford burst out of the blocks after the break and perhaps should have edged in front in the 51st minute, Gaspar heading back across goal to Bayo, who was denied by Gunn at point-blank range, before the Ivorian and Davis couldn’t quite convert their efforts in the follow-up.

The game remained an open affair as it drifted towards the hour, with Bayo heading tamely from a corner as he tried to lead the charge up top, and Kabasele and Bacuna rising highest to deal with a succession of home corners and deep crosses.

The 63rd minute delivered yet another injury blow to the Hornets, with Davis - who’d been among the best players on the pitch - hobbling off in obvious pain and being replaced by Yáser Asprilla.

Despite the setback Bilić’s charges kept going on the front foot, and the latest of a series of fine Morris balls almost set up a chance for Kabasele before Marcelino Núñez served a reminder of Norwich’s quality with a low shot in the 70th minute.

Bachmann was next to go down hurt after a coming together with Josh Sargent on the edge of the former’s box, and though he recovered, Kabasele did have to leave the field seven minutes before the end, after Adam Idah and Gabriel Sara threatened in yellow.

While Norwich were steadily growing in confidence, it was Watford who snatched the lead in the 86th minute, Asprilla threading through a fine pass to Sarr, whose inch-perfect pass left Bayo with a simple finish from close range.

Nine minutes of added time brought an expected barrage of home pressure, including a Sara free-kick that rattled the crossbar, but backed by tremendous support Watford held firm to secure a valuable win on the road.


Team Stats

Player Stats

Next Game