First Team 29/08/2018

Gracia: “Tonight We Have Good News”

Javi Gracia is excited about seeing Domingos Quina fulfill his undoubted potential at Watford after seeing the midfielder mark his debut with a goal of the very highest quality against Reading.

The club were extremely pleased to fend off stiff competition for the signature of the Portuguese youth international on deadline day and he showed what all the hype was about when he rattled in an unstoppable shot from 25 yards past Sam Walker. The shot was full of such power that Walker barely moved and could only sink to his knees and watch it nestle into the top corner.

Reading boss Paul Clement, who has seen a thing or two at Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, called it "a fantastic goal" while Hornets' legend Nigel Gibbs made a point of shaking Quina's hand at full-time and applauded him on his goal. Gracia also gave the 18-year-old a big pat on the back when he replaced him with nine minutes to go.

"Domingos is a young player who has a lot of quality and everybody knows he has a brilliant future, but we want to enjoy him in the present," said the Hornets' Head Coach.

Quina's goal killed the game at 2-0 and provided the icing on the cake on what was a near-perfect night for the club. The team made it through to the third round of the League Cup for the first time in five years, Nathaniel Chalobah and Stefano Okaka made their comebacks from injury, Ben Wilmot looked very composed on his debut, there was a clean sheet which always does wonders for confidence and Isaac Success got his first goal for the club in nearly two years.

"Tonight we have good news – not only with a good result and to continue in this competition," Gracia said. "Having injured players back like Chalobah, like Okaka, is good news and we also have players playing who don't usually play in the Premier League. Today they had the chance to enjoy minutes and I am very happy for all of them."

Success started a Watford game for the first time since 2016 and he showed why he is now a genuine alternative off the bench. He will be pushing Troy Deeney and Andre Gray hard if he continues to play with the hunger he did here.

"Today he has scored a good goal for the team," said Gracia. "I spoke with every player before the game and tried to explain that they don't have to show anything different than they usually do in training, in pre-season. They are good professionals – the only thing that changed is the opportunity to play. It is very good for the group that they enjoy more minutes."

Chalobah played 87 minutes before being withdrawn with cramp in his first action of any sort since the defeat against Manchester United on the last day of the season, while Okaka charged off the bench in the second half in his first outing since the goalless draw with Palace in April.

"Chalobah deserved this game, Stefano as well," said Gracia. "After long periods injured, it is good for them, good for the team, good for the club and good for the supporters. Today we have good news."

It is hard to see Gracia making any changes to the Premier League matchday squad for the game against Tottenham on Sunday, but this lot have definitely given him food for thought.

"It is a difficult situation for me," he said. "I try to choose the best options for the next game and I know my decisions are not fair with some players, but I can only take 18. I would take more players if I could, but it is not possible."

The Golden Boys reached the semi-final of this competition in 2005, but this represented the first time they have been beyond the second round in five years. Gracia was asked if he had set his sights on a run to the final.

"I don't like to think of a final as an objective," he said. "I am just focused on the next game, which is a difficult game against Tottenham. We will try to win every game and have a good mentality. That is the best target."

First Team 29/08/2018

Match Report: Reading 0-2 Watford

By Kevin Affleck

Not content with making a club-record start to a Premier League season, the Hornets showcased the depth of their resources by reaching the third round of the Carabao Cup for the first time in five years. There was also, just for good measure, yet another contender for Goal of the Season, this time from Domingos Quina. Starts to a season really don't get much better than this.

In beating Reading with goals from Isaac Success and Quina, Javi Gracia could not have wished for things to go much better. His first-choice XI largely got the night off ahead of the game against Tottenham; the team kept alive the hopes of a cup run; there was a clean sheet; Nathaniel Chalobah got 87 minutes under his belt; Quina served notice of his huge potential; Stefano Okaka made his comeback from injury, and everybody else picked up some vital match practise to ensure they will be game ready should the Head Coach need to call on them. Mission accomplished, job done.

Just ahead of the bright debut of Quina and a very composed showing from Ben Wilmot, the biggest plus was the sight of a focused and firing Success. The one-time club record signing had not been seen from the start in a Watford shirt in nearly two years, but we may look back at this game in time to come as the rebirth of his Watford career.

He led the line well, looked hungry, put a shift in and got his first goal since the one against Bournemouth on October 1. The way he frenziedly celebrated, just like he did at the final whistle on Sunday, said a lot about how this meant much more to him than just scoring his first goal in nearly two years. He is now fully on-board with what Gracia is trying to do and clearly feels part of things.

Quina is a bit further behind in the pecking order than Success but, blimey, he showed what all the fuss was about when the Hornets signed him on deadline day with a strike out of the very top drawer. Sam Walker, in the Reading goal, just about saw the Portuguese youth international's left-footed strike from 25 yards but could do nothing except follow its path as it flew passed him like a bullet into the top corner. The keeper barely moved. The season is only four games old yet we already have goals from Roberto Pereyra, Will Hughes and now Quina in the Goal of the Season category. All the best choosing the pick of that lot.

While the grounded Gracia will not be getting carried away with a win over a much-changed Reading side who have only won one of their first six, he will be pleased with the surprising level of cohesion that a side boasting five full club debuts and 11 seasonal debuts played with. They were the sharper and more productive of the two sides and even coped with an early switch from 4-5-1 to 3-5-2 after Gracia clearly saw something he did not like. 

There was a lovely pirouette from Quina to illuminate the early exchanges while Marc Navarro was clearly keen to make his mark after not even making the bench for the first three league games. The summer signing from Espanyol chanced his arm with a speculative 35-yard free-kick that failed to even make it as far as the Reading keeper and then, undeterred, he tried his luck from even further out 10 minutes later with similar success.

With 52 per cent of the possession, Chalobah slammed a free-kick with the instep of his right foot just wide, Success almost capitalised on a sloppy back-pass from Liam Moore and then a lovely-worked corner involving Adam Masina, Chalobah and Femenía led to blocked efforts from Adrian Mariappa and Wilmot.

You felt a goal was coming, and not long after Success couldn't sort his feet out after Femenía flashed one across goal the face of goal, the Nigerian came up with the breakthrough on 36 minutes. Chalobah picked out the overlapping Masina with a slide-rule pass which the Italian then fed centrally into the path of Success. He nipped in front of his marker, rounded Walker, and slotted into an empty net. It was the least Watford deserved for a very bright opening.

The only time Reading really threatened was when Marc McNulty fired over and Nigel Gibbs - the Watford legend and Reading No. 2 - will have had his work cut out at half-time to figure a way back into this one.

Watford needed the comfort blanket of a second goal to just make their passage into round three that little bit smoother, and they got it when Quina pulled a rabbit out of the hat just past the hour. Even the Reading fans applauded the quality of it. From then on it was a question of how many Watford would get and damage-limitation for Reading.

In the end, it was just two, and Quina fully deserved the big pat on the back Gracia gave him when he was withdrawn nine minutes from time. He is not 19 until November and we can expect to see more of him when the Hornets play their third round match next month. The mouth waters.


HORNETS | Gomes (GK); Prödl, Wilmot, Mariappa (C); Navarro, Chalobah (Hughes 87), Quina (Doucouré 82), Masina; Femenía, Sema (Okaka 66); Success.

Subs not used | Dahlberg (GK), Gray, Janmaat, Cathcart.