Marco Silva arrived at Watford without a Premier League away win yet now has two in as many games as Head Coach of the Hornets after the magnificent Golden Boys plundered all three points at St Mary’s this afternoon.
Abdoulaye Doucouré and Daryl Janmaat garnished a textbook away performance with high-class goals either side of half-time to give the Hornets another win on the south coast. Such is their form in this sun-kissed part of the country that they will be hoping to draw Portsmouth away in the FA Cup.
The strikes by Doucouré and Janmaat, both from long range and past giant England keeper Fraser Forster, will grab all the headlines but just as pleasing, if not more so, for Silva will be the tactical discipline his side showed and the way they defended like lions.
To keep a clean sheet, with so many centre-halves on the treatment table or out suspended, and remain resolute amid a double defensive change on the hour mark was some achievement.
From the mountainous display by Christian Kabasele at the heart of the defence, to the dynamism in midfield from the exceptional Nathaniel Chalobah to the willingness of Richarlison, there was so much to admire about this Watford performance and so much to savour for the ecstatic travelling support of more than 3,000.
Watford did the hard yards in the first half and succeeded in silencing the home crowd by deploying their high pressing game and stopping the supply line to Manolo Gabbiadini. Chalobah and Doucouré were comprehensive winners of the congested midfield battle and their telepathy was a real feature of a near perfect first-half performance by the Golden Boys. Whatever the gameplan, Silva must have been delighted at the way his charges executed it.
There was only one real moment of alarm for the visitors in the first 45 minutes when Nathan Redmond sought to pick out the arcing run of Gabbiadini but Kiko Feminía, who deservedly kept his place ahead of the fit-again Janmaat made a timely interception. Apart from that, Watford were always in control of the game and looked menacing on the counter-attack, particularly down the left flank through Richarlison.
The lively Richarlison was the main strike weapon and he tied the Southampton defence in knots midway through the first half, cutting in on his right, checking back on his left before shifting the ball yet again, this time to his right, and seeing a goal-bound effort blocked. It served as a warning shot, and the quick-witted Saints defence made sure they double up on the Brazilian thereafter and paid close attention to him.
Soon after, Josè Holebas sought to mark his 50th Watford appearance with a goal from a free-kick but his effort curled wide of Forster’s left-hand post.
Growing in confidence, Watford were now on the front foot and the goal their more inventive play probably merited arrived on 38 minutes. A long throw from Holebas found its way to Doucoure on the edge of the box. The Frenchman took one touch to steady himself before unleashing a dipping half-volley that beat Forster all ends up. It was Doucoure’s third goal for the club and easily his best.
Now with the bit firmly between their teeth, Watford did not rest on their laurels and play for half-time. Not a bit of it. Richarlison hit the side-netting and almost connected with an outswinging Holebas corner but Doucouré, on the crest of a wave, tried his luck from even further out.
Whatever was said at half-time, it clearly wasn’t to sit back and protect the lead as, within minutes, Chalobah was trying his luck from long range.
Watford were not without alarm at the other end and it took blocks from Younès Kaboul and an even better one by the outstanding Kabasele to thwart Southampton in quick succession.
You feared, though, that the momentum might be swinging the home side’s way when Kaboul and Kiko Femenía both limped off within seconds of each other but the double change only served to galvanise the pumped-up visitors, increasing their defensive resolve.
Janmaat must have thought he was coming on to shore things up but, just five minutes after coming on, he found himself in acres of space deep into Saints’ territory when the ball fell to him. Like Doucouré, he steadied himself with a cushioned first touch, took aim and fired a low right-footed effort into the bottom corner. It was a goal that knocked the stuffing out of the home side and sent the away fans delirious.
Southampton huffed and puffed in search of a route back into the match but the visitors stood tall and firm, with Troy Deeney, Adrian Mariappa and Andrè Carrillo all putting their bodies on the line, to repeat the 2-0 win at Bournemouth.
This felt an even bigger win that that – and it could have been in terms of the scoreline had the tireless Carrillo found the top corner after cutting in on his left foot. That would really have put the icing on the cake.
HORNETS: Gomes (c); Femenía (Janmaat 61), Kaboul (Mariappa 61), Kabasele, Holebas; Doucouré, Chalobah; Carrillo, Cleverley, Richarlison; Gray (Deeney 84).
Subs not used: Karnezis (GK), Watson, Capoue, Success