Blackburn Rovers


Watford fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers as Ryan Hedges’ second-half goal made the difference at Vicarage Road in the Sky Bet Championship.

Matheus Martins was involved in the thick of the action from the start, testing Rovers’ goalkeeper Aynsley Pears from close range and via the crossbar, with an incredible effort from the edge of the box whizzing just wide of the far post.

After the break, Mileta Rajović made his debut in Watford colours, coming on from the bench with Head Coach Valérien Ismaël looking to keep the pressure on the Rovers. Despite the home side’s dominance on the ball, it would be the visitors that broke the deadlock as Ryan Hedges fired past Daniel Bachmann twenty minutes from time.

Watford kept up the intensity in the closing stages with Martins hitting the woodwork once again, but the Golden Boys were unable to find the equaliser and claw themselves back into the game.

Head Coach Valérien Ismaël made three changes from the side that lost 1-0 to Stoke City last time out, as Jake Livermore, Imrân Louza and James Morris made way for Ismaël Koné, Edo Kayembe and Yáser Asprilla. New signing Rajović was named on the substitutes bench for his first game in Watford colours under the watchful eye of the Sky Sports cameras.

Before the encounter got underway, Vicarage Road stood together for a minute’s applause following the passing of former Watford goalkeeper Andy Rankin earlier this week.

It was a busy opening period for both sides as Watford and Blackburn looked to gain an early foothold in the match. Wesley Hoedt and Martins came closest to testing the Rovers’ goalkeeper, while Blackburn regularly got into dangerous positions.

The travelling side’s best chance in the early stages fell to Sammie Szmodics, who broke through past Ryan Porteous before firing a powerful effort at skipper Bachmann. The Hornets replied with their best opening moments later, as Martins forced Pears into a diving save low to his left-hand side.

Buoyed by the confidence gained from his first effort the Brazilian, who was a thorn in the Rovers’ side throughout the first half-an-hour, unleashed a venomous strike from the edge of the box which smashed the crossbar, flying away from danger.

Approaching the interval, the ball landed at Tom Dele-Bashiru’s feet following the completion of an intricate passing move, but the midfielder was unable to convert.

Martins picked up from where he had left off in the first-half, troubling the visitor’s backline, this time guiding another effort just wide of the top-right corner with most inside Vicarage Road thinking the ball had edged its way into the net.

Rajović was given a special welcome upon his introduction early in the second 45, replacing Vakoun Bayo, while Dele-Bashiru made way for Giorgi Chakvetadze.

In a race to find the all-important opener, full-back Ryan Andrews won an important free-kick deep into Blackburn territory. Half-time substitute Louza stood over the ball from a tight position and played a neat one-two with Chakvetadze to open the angle up, but he fired it just over the bar.

Heading into the final 20 minutes of the contest, and despite Watford’s supremacy for the majority of the half, Hedges fired Blackburn into the lead after an effective Rovers counter-attack was completed with a powerful finish from the Welsh midfielder.

Watford almost found the equaliser soon after as Martins’ effort hit the woodwork, forcing Pears to tip the ball onto the post with a reflex save, denying the Brazilian an overdue goal.

Although the Hornets continued to probe and test for a crucial goalscoring opportunity, the home side were unable to make another meaningful opportunity, falling to their second defeat in as many games in the second-tier.

A trip to the Midlands awaits next week before the season’s first international break, with Ismaël’s charges looking to turn around a three-game winless run against Coventry City [Saturday September 2, 3pm KO].


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