Gracia: “I Am Proud Of The Work We Have Done”
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia rued the fact that his side failed to put the game to bed in the first half, but conceded that Fulham's late second half rally meant that a draw was just about the right result.
The Hornets came flying out of the blocks and took the lead through Andre Gray after just 85 seconds. It was the sort of start Gracia would have dreamed off when he went to bed last night.
The Golden Boys continued to cause Fulham all sorts of problems in the first half, both aerially, in behind and down the flanks, and a half-time scoreline of 3-0 would not have flattered them in the slightest.
Their failure to go for the jugular ended up costing them, though, as Aleksandr Mitrović poked in an equaliser 12 minutes from time and then the Serbian came within a whisker of netting a winner in a thrilling finale. Defeat would have been particularly rough on the Hornets as a point was the least they deserved.
"We have played really well in the first half," said Gracia. "We could have scored more goals and killed the game, but in the second they changed their shape, they played with two midfielders and we didn't adjust the same way with our high press. They felt more comfortable and they created some chances. We deserved a better result but they played well, they created chances, scored one goal and I think it is fair."
The Hornets got so much right in the first half that they forced Slavisa Jokanovic to make two half-time substitutions and another by the hour mark.
"The first half we played much better," said Gracia. "It was our chance to win today. We tried to keep our press high, we tried to keep creating chances but we made a defensive mistake in that minute and they scored that goal. I am only disappointed with the result. I am very proud of the work we have done. It is a pity we only get a point from a good game, but we are keeping the same level as other games."
Gracia is always one to accentuate the collective and not focus on one individual, so it says something about the performance of Ètienne Capoue this afternoon that the Head Coach hailed him "as an amazing player".
"Capoue is playing a very high level," said Gracia. "He is an amazing player and he is showing it in all the games."
Gracia is also very diplomatic when it comes to commenting on decisions by referees. He could easily have called for Timothy Fosu-Mensah to be shown a red card for a first half challenge on Troy Deeney, but he kept his power dry.
"In that situation I prefer to respect the referee's decision because they know better than me," he said. "I didn't see it really well. I try to support the referees because I know it is not easy."
Gracia also acknowledged his job in picking the team is not a straight-forward one. He picked the same XI for the sixth match running and has a such a wealth of options at his disposal that Sebastian Prödl, Stefano Okaka, Ben Wilmot and Marc Navarro cannot even get a shirt.
"When I prepare the next game I always try to choose the players I think will be best for the next game. I like to start the week, see all the training sessions and I try to be fair. All of them deserve to play, but if I choose the same XI it is because it is the best option for that moment."
See more post-match reaction from Gracia in the video above.