MATCH REPORT: Watford 0-1 Sevilla
A VITOLO strike condemned Watford to a single-goal defeat at the hands of the reigning Europa League champions Sevilla in tonight's final pre-season friendly at Vicarage Road.
The Spanish right-winger scored the night’s only goal with 20 minutes to go, a close-range effort to the left of the target, and despite going close on a number of occasions Watford failed to find the equaliser they desired.
Odion Ighalo went closest for the Hornets in the first-half with a header which rebounded off the post, and Troy Deeney's late headed effort was looking destined for the bottom corner before Sevilla keeper Beto produced a good flying save.
So defeat for the Golden Boys at The Vic, but attention now turns to the opening day Premier League trip to Everton next weekend.
Quique Sanchez Flores named a strong Hornets XI ahead of their final pre-season friendly.
Goalkeeper for Watford was Heurelho Gomes, with Allan Nyom and Ikechi Anya occupying the full-back roles, while Sebastian Prodl and Craig Cathcart formed the centre-half partnership.
The two in the deep central midfield roles were Etienne Capoue and Valon Behrami, and ahead of them in more advanced positions were Miguel Layun, Ighalo and Steven Berghuis.
Leading the line for the Golden Boys was skipper Deeney.
Almen Abdi (knee) and Jose Manuel Jurado (muscular) were left out as a precaution with slight knocks.
Grzegorz Krychowiak had the game’s first chance, heading wide after Gomes came off his line to try and collect a deep Denis Suarez free-kick on six minutes.
There was a lengthy delay after Italian international striker Ciro Immobile took a heavy blow in the process, and after receiving treatment for eight minutes he was stretchered off, to be replaced by Juan Munoz.
Benoit Tremoulinas forced Gomes into his first save 17 minutes in, the Brazilian keeper tipping over a shot from the edge of the area.
The woodwork denied Los Rojiblancos an opener shortly before the half-hour, skipper Coke driving against the near post, seemingly via Gomes’ fingertips, from the right side of the penalty box.
Then on 31 minutes it was Watford’s turn to strike the post, Nyom’s right-wing cross diverted onto the stanchion by the head of Ighalo, and cleared to safety by the covering Sevilla defender.
Capoue showed good vision to pick out Layun with a precision pass as Watford counter-attacked on 38 minutes, and the Mexican did well to cut inside from the left before drawing a save from Beto with a right-footed curler.
New signing Berghuis had a crack at goal four minutes before the break, but the Dutch winger’s effort lacked power and it was a comfortable save for Beto.
Juan Carlos Paredes was introduced at the break in place of Berghuis, adopting a more advanced role than usual on the right of the three attacking midfielders.
Layun – one of the Hornets’ better performers thus far – attempted a right-footed scissor kick four minutes into the second half, and his ambitious effort from 20 yards wasn’t too far over the bar.
Jose Holebas came on at left-back on 53 minutes, replacing Layun and allowing Anya to push further up the pitch.
Deeney drilled a stinging half-volley towards the bottom corner just after the hour, but Beto got down quickly to keep the Watford captain’s fierce shot out.
Ighalo made way for Matej Vydra in the Hornets’ attack on 64 minutes, and the Czech striker nearly put the hosts ahead within five minutes, volleying over from close-range when Paredes’ right-flank cross was deflected into his path
It was Sevilla who did take the lead though, 70 minutes into the game, Vitolo’s low drive finding the bottom corner from close-range and handing the initiative to Unai Emery’s men.
With 10 minutes remaining, Flores opted to bring on Ben Watson, and Behrami was the man withdrawn in a straight defensive midfield swap. And the changes continued into the final three minutes, Gabriele Angella replacing Cathcart in defence.
Paredes delivered a fine cross from the right-flank on 88 minutes, picking Deeney out on the penalty spot, and it required a fully stretching Beto to keep out the striker’s header with a firm catch.
HORNETS: Gomes (GK); Nyom, Cathcart (Angella, 87), Prodl, Anya; Behrami (Watson, 80), Capoue; Layun (Holebas, 53), Ighalo (Vydra, 64), Berghuis (Paredes, HT); Deeney (c).
Subs not used: Arlauskis (GK), Gilmartin (GK), Forestieri, Paredes, Murray, Pudil, Smith, Hoban.
Yellow cards: Behrami (36)
SEVILLA: Beto (GK), Tremoulinas, Krychowiak, Kolodziejczak, Immobile (Munoz, 14), N'Zonzi, Luismi (Rami, 77), Suarez (Kakuta, 77), Vitolo (Krohn-Dehli, 77), Konoplyanka (Ferreira, 64), Coke (c) (Reyes, 64).
Subs not used: Rico (GK), Soria (GK), Carmona, Cotan, Matos.
Goal: Vitolo (70)
Yellow cards: Tremoulinas (23)
Referee: Kevin Friend