Watford will be in the hat for Monday’s FA Cup fourth round draw, and rightly so, after they beat this season’s cup giant-killers Bristol City with something to spare at Vicarage Road.
City have claimed the Premier League scalps of the Hornets, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Manchester United in the Carabao Cup this season but the Golden Boys ensured there was to be no chance of an upset in the main domestic cup competition, clinically winning the third-round tie thanks to Andrè Carrillo’s first half goal, Troy Deeney’s first in open play since April 4 and Étienne Capoue’s first since these two sides last met.
It was just the shot in the arm the team needed after a challenging run of Premier League matches.
Although there wasn’t much cup magic in the air on a freezing afternoon and the Hornets have certainly played better this season, nobody cared one iota as it’s all about getting safely through these early rounds without a hiccup and, more importantly, without any injuries. It was very much a case of job done and you couldn’t have asked much more of the Golden Boys.
The fact Deeney scored on his return was a big bonus while it was good to get through and give Richarlison most of the afternoon off. The clean sheet was also a welcome sight, being the first since Newcastle away.
Yes, City made seven changes, had one eye on the semi-final with Manchester City on Tuesday and were probably there for the taking but they still fielded the guy who got the famous winner against Manchester United and let’s not forget they made plenty of changes for the Carabao Cup game here in August and we all know what happened on that evening.
This was a very professional job by the Hornets and one that should restore some confidence and belief ahead of the crucial game with Southampton. It also showed they are in fact capable of killing a game once in front.
Watford made all the running in the first period and the goal had been coming. The returning Deeney had a header after Daryl Janmaat stood up a cross; Abdoulaye Doucourè looped a header over the bar; there was a long range daisy cutter from Capoue. Luke Steele saved at close-range from Roberto Pereyra and Tom Cleverley and Molla Waguè both had shots blocked. It was a coconut shy at times.
It needed that bit of quality to break the deadlock and Carrillo provided it on 37 minutes. Not long after he had just threaded a lovely weighted ball into the channel for Tom Cleverley, the Peruvian picked up a pass to the left of the penalty spot. He shuffled his feet, shifted the ball onto his left and drove it under Steele.
It was little more than the Hornets deserved and it was a fine reward for Carrillo’s start to the game. He was easily their most likely attacking player and is currently in fine form.
If there was any fear Watford would, like they did against Swansea, rest on their laurels and sit on their slender lead after the break then that was quickly dispelled when Pereyra, following a lovely one-two with that man Carrillo, hit the underside of the bar. Capoue then saw his follow up shot saved by the legs of Steele. It was a sign of Watford’s desire to get that comfort of a second.
They didn’t have to wait too much longer, Deeney intelligently getting in front of his man to nod a near-post cross from Cleverley past Steele on 57 minutes. It was the first time he had scored from open play since the home game with West Brom last season and the relief, following a stop-start last couple of months, was obvious in his celebration.
Matty Taylor should have probably pulled one back with a header from Lloyd Kelly cross soon after but other than that, the Hornets were largely untroubled.
It was mainly about how many the Hornets wanted to get and how hard they wanted to push for more morale-boosting goals. Josè Holebas, on as a sub, went close to a third with a rising effort that Steele spectacularly pushed over but Capoue made sure of things, jinking and slaloming his way to a third that very much put the cherry on the cake. Roll on the next round.
HORNETS | Gomes; Janmaat, Waguè, Kabasele, Zeegalaar, Doucourè (Watson 81), Cleverley, Capoue, Carrillo (Richarlison 69), Pereyra (Holebas 69), Deeney.
Subs not used: Karnezis, Prödl, Gray, Okaka