Watford

1

Ipswich Town

2

Watford succumbed to their second defeat in 11 games despite dominating for large periods against promotion hopefuls Ipswich Town.

Yáser Asprilla’s fourth goal of the season handed the Hornets an early lead as Valérien Ismaël’s side looked to extend their unbeaten run to four games.

The Tractor Boys struck back though through George Hirst, then secured all three points during the game’s latter stages when Sam Morsy capitalised on a defensive slip-up to leave Watford trailing for the first time.

It was a harsh scoreline on the Golden Boys, who had chances of their own to win against an Ipswich side who have experienced defeat just twice this season.

In front of the onlooking Sir Elton John and Ed Sheeran, Jake Livermore returned to an otherwise unchanged Hornets line-up having missed Saturday’s Southampton draw with a knee injury; Francisco Sierralta the man to make way.

In contrast to the opening stages of the Saints contest at the weekend, there were early chances for both teams. First Mileta Rajović nodded over from Ken Sema’s cross, then Ben Hamer made a routine save from a weak header by Ipswich winger Marcus Harness.

Watford’s positive start was rewarded with 12 minutes played, though there was an element of fortune to the opener. Asprilla intercepted a misplaced pass by goalkeeper Václav Hladký and teed up Rajović, who saw an initial shot saved before his Colombian teammate lashed home the rebound.

Despite falling behind, the Tractor Boys looked assured in possession and went close to equalising shortly after through Conor Chaplin, whose left-footed volley was too central to trouble Hamer.

The leveller did come though, Hirst tapping in from close range after Hamer had kept out Chelsea loanee Omari Hutchinson’s deflected shot on 24 minutes.

Though Watford were a constant threat on the break, Ipswich were looking well worthy of their lofty position in the Sky Bet Championship standings and they twice threatened to go ahead around the half-hour mark – Hutchinson curling wide from distance and Harness drawing a save from Hamer.

Hirst found the net for a second time – heading in from a teasing Leif Davis free-kick – but referee Darren England spotted a trip on Ryan Porteous and the goal was overturned.

Watford emerged positively from the half-time break, Sema in particular asking questions of the Ipswich backline. After forcing a corner with a deflected cross-shot, moments later the Swedish winger saw an edge-of-the-area effort blocked.

Hirst had Ipswich’s first meaningful chance of the second half just after the hour and it needed a goal-line clearance to stop the forward’s angled drive from going in.

As they have so frequently of late, left-flank pairing Sema and Jamal Lewis combined excellently to create the Hornets’ next opening. Ex-Norwich full-back Lewis connected with Sema’s weighted pass into the box and saw Hladký divert his shot wide.

Ismaël made his first two changes with just over 20 minutes remaining and the game finely balanced, Tom Ince and Vakoun Bayo replacing Asprilla and Rajović.

They were both involved straight away, Bayo winning possession and teeing up Ince, who made up ground and fed Edo Kayembe, only for the DR Congo international to shoot over from just inside the box.

Watford were left to rue those missed chances – and an unforced error – with 10 minutes to go as Ipswich captain Morsy pounced on Wesley Hoedt’s heavy touch, composed himself and drilled through Hamer’s legs to hand the visitors a late lead.

Two more substitutions followed, with Kayembe and Sema withdrawn for Matheus Martins and Saturday’s hero Rhys Healey.

There was to be no late drama on this occasion however, as the visitors played out a win that saw them climb to the top of the table, having played a game more than Leicester City.

For the Hornets, a trip to Preston North End awaits this Saturday (December 16) as the Christmas fixture schedule gathers pace.

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