By Kevin Affleck
Well, who saw that coming?
After such a thrilling start to the campaign, both in terms of results and performances, the Hornets had their pants well and truly pulled down at Vicarage Road this afternoon and were thumped by Bournemouth. The way the Golden Boys had been boldly playing you expected them to give someone a hiding but instead they were on the receiving end of one.
You could argue the Golden Boys have deserved something – perhaps even a victory – from every game they have played this season, but they got exactly what they deserved here. It was a miserable afternoon where nothing went right for Javi Gracia's men and the only saving grace is that the defeat was not heavier, as it could easily have been. It was not the way to mark the 100th Premier League game at Vicarage Road and after winning their first four, the Hornets have now lost three of the last four, leaving Gracia with a bit of thinking and tinkering to do ahead of the awkward-looking trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers next time out.
Yes, Watford had to play for just under an hour with 10 men after Christian Kabasele was sent off for the second time in three matches, but they were already on the back foot by that stage and the signs were not looking great. David Brooks put the visitors ahead on 14 minutes, Joshua King made it two from the spot after he had been tripped in the box by Kabasele, and then promptly nodded in the third on the stroke of half-time.
The Cherries were causing problems every time they raided forward on the counter-attack and they got another at the start of the second half through Callum Wilson. They did the sort of counter-punching job that the Hornets did at Burnley, Fulham (for the first half), and at Arsenal – only Eddie Howe's side took their chances. That's how it works at this level.
You got the feeling it might be one of those days when Ben Foster was called into action twice early on, the goalkeeper haring off his line to thwart counter-attacks. You don't expect your No. 1 to be that busy so early on. The fact both Watford centre-backs were shown yellow cards inside 22 minutes was also not a good omen, although the decision to book Kabasele for a foul on Asmir Begović seemed harsh and left Kabasele walking a tightrope, one that he fell off.
Watford were being opened up down the flanks and from one surge down the left by King, Brooks rammed in the opener on the rebound at the far post. The goal was harsh on Foster, who had brilliantly clawed out the initial effort from Wilson. The Hornets could count themselves lucky it was not two soon after when Wilson, standing unmarked, steered a header just wide from a Brooks cross. Foster could only stand and watch, hoping it landed the other side of the post, which it thankfully did.
There was no lucky escape just after the half-hour, though, when Bournemouth made it two from the spot. Kabasele got the wrong side of King, was outmuscled and then compounded his errors by tripping the forward in the box. King then sent Foster the wrong way from the resulting penalty.
Kabasele was probably still in the shower when King made it three on the stroke of half-time, converting a cross from Wilson. It was game over and everybody knew it.
It was damage limitation thereafter yet things threatened to get messy when Wilson made it four just two minutes after the restart, poking the ball past Foster after a cross from Ryan Fraser found him in a surprising amount of space. It could have been five not long after, but the outstanding Nathan Aké saw a close-range header saved. Foster also kept out King's effort late on with his right foot. Foster had a fine game for someone who conceded four goals.
The Golden Boys never threw the towel in, but it just wasn't their afternoon. The passes never stuck, the ball never broke for them, and there was not that same dynamism about their play. The crowd tried to do their bit and got in an early rendition of 'Elton John's Taylor Made Army' but nothing was working. They only had a shot from Will Hughes and a header from Cathcart – both in the the first half – to really shout about.
Gracia tried to inject a bit of life into his side by bringing on Isaac Success and Adrian Mariappa, who will need the minutes ahead of the Wolves game. Then Gerard Deulofeu scampered off the bench for the last 16 minutes for his first appearance of the season. But the game had long gone, the damage had already been done and it was probably best to just put this one down as a bad day at the office.
HORNETS | Foster (GK); Femenía, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Hughes (Mariappa 55), Capoue, Doucouré, Pereyra (Deulofeu 74); Deeney (C), Gray (Success 55).
Subs not used | Gomes (GK), Masina, Sema, Chalobah.