MATCH REPORT: Watford 0-0 Anzhi Makhachkala

THE Hornets were held to a goalless draw by Russian Premier League side Anzhi Makhachkala in Austria this afternoon (Saturday July 23) as they extended their unbeaten run this pre-season to four.

In a tight and cautious encounter, chances were few and far between for both sides with Troy Deeney coming closest for the Golden Boys at the end of the first-half, while Heurelho Gomes was also required to make one superb fingertip save just before the break.

Walter Mazzarri once again used the match to experiment with his side, with just Deeney and Étienne Capoue playing the full 90 minutes, while first-year professionals Charlie Rowan and Brandon Mason were also introduced from the bench. 

The Hornets' Head Coach made six changes to the side that defeated FC Union Berlin 3-1 on Tuesday evening, with Gomes, Craig Cathcart, Christian Kabasele, José Holebas, Ben Watson and Jerome Sinclair all coming into the starting line-up.

This meant Gomes started in goal, protected by a back-three of Kabasele, Cathcart and Britos, with Ikechi Anya and Holebas occupying the right and left wing-back spots respectively. 

Watson, Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure began in central midfield, with Sinclair and Deeney providing the attacking threat in a 3-5-2 formation. 

On a lovely afternoon in Austria, it was the Hornets who created the first opening of the afternoon. Watson’s pass set the advanced Anya free down the right-flank, but his drilled cross somehow evaded everyone in the Anzhi penalty-area. 

Both Anya and Holebas were providing excellent width for the Golden Boys from wing-back, with Holebas’ fine cross well defended 10 minutes later with Sinclair lurking dangerously. 

In a tight encounter, it took until the 25th minute for Anzhi’s first clear chance. Svyatoslav Georgievskiy turned superbly on the edge of the area before slipping in forward Philipp Budkovskiy. Fortunately for the Hornets, Watson had recovered superbly to make a crucial interception before the Ukranian could fire towards goal. 

With the game heading towards half-time, the match exploded into life in the final few minutes with a great chance falling to either side. First Anzhi’s lively Georgievskiy broke into the Watford half, and with no support, fired towards goal from all of 35 yards. The ball seemed destined for the back of the net with Gomes advanced, but the Brazilian recovered superbly to tip onto the cross-bar. 

The Golden Boys then had a chance to go into the break one goal to the good, with Anya again involved. The Scottish international found himself once more beyond the Anzhi full-back, this time crossing to Deeney but the Watford skipper couldn’t quite find the target from 12 yards. 

The Hornets began the second-half on the front-foot, with an early penalty appeal turned down by the referee after Sinclair appeared to be tripped inside the area. An excellent move including Watson, Deeney and Sinclair then followed, but the advanced Doucoure was unable to trouble the Anzhi goalkeeper when well-placed on the edge of the area. 

With both teams looking solid in the sweltering heat, chances were few and far between as the game headed towards full-time. 

Substitute Allan Nyom cleared well under pressure when Anzhi did threaten, helping to keep a deserved clean sheet for the Hornets and keep Mazzarri's men unbeaten so far this campaign. 

HORNETS: Gomes (GK) (Pantimilion, HT); Kabasele (Nyom, 60), Cathcart (Prödl, 60) Britos (Rowan, 80); Anya (Zūñiga, 65), Watson (Suarez, 60), Capoue, Doucoure (Mason, 75), Holebas (Amrabat, 60); Sinclair (Vydra, 60), Deeney (c).  

First Team 22/07/2016

KABASELE: “I’m Excited & I’m Ready”

CHRISTIAN KABASELE says he knows all about the challenges that await him during his first season in the Premier League.

The Hornets’ new defender – who signed from Genk in a five-year deal earlier this month – also revealed he contacted some of his England-based Belgium international teammates once his switch to Vicarage Road was complete. 

“I spoke with Eden Hazard, with Mousa Dembélé, with Christian Benteke, and they all said it [Premier League football] is difficult,” said Kabasele, speaking to watfordfc.com

“Benteke said to me ‘don’t give me a lot of kicks during the games because I know where you live!’ 

“I am expecting the rhythm and the level to be very high. It’s going to be difficult but I have to work hard for this.” 

Like many a player arriving in the Premier League, it’s long been an ambition of Kabasele’s to ply his trade at this level. 

The 25-year-old is looking forward to what will be a testing opening run of fixtures in 2016/17, with the Southampton opener followed by matches against Chelsea, Arsenal, West Ham and Manchester United. 

“I’m excited because it was a dream for me to play in the Premier League, and I’m ready to do all the work to make this happen,” he said. 

“I am looking forward to the first game, and the games after Southampton are also big games so if I play it’ll be a good beginning.” 

Asked to describe his main attributes, the central defender said: “I have good speed and I’m strong in the challenge. Also with the head I scored some goals last year with Genk. 

“I will also try to improve all my weak points to be a complete player and to help the team have a good season.”