Watford ran-out narrow winners this evening against Champions League hopefuls Viktoria Plzeň in Austria, in the first of two friendlies for Marco Silva’s side this week.
Stefano Okaka notched the decisive goal 10 minutes from the end from close-range to give the Hornets their first pre-season win ahead of the Premier League’s resumption next month.
Thunder & lightning rolled in before kick-off and the first-half was wet and windy for the most part.
Abdoulaye Doucouré wound up a fierce shot early on to test Plzen keeper Petr Bolek, who sprung over the top corner to tip over the bar.
It was well contested for what was only the second friendly of Silva’s pre-season campaign with the Golden Boys. That was in part due to the match being Plzen’s last run-out before a Champions League third-round qualifier against Steaua Bucharest next week.
Jose Holebas and Isaac Success linked well down the left and Watford’s two best chances came on that side.
First Holebas drove into the box and squared for Okaka, the front-man’s deft flick deflecting across the goal two-yards out and wide.
Ben Watson was furthest forward a few minutes later, taking Success’ cross first-time but firing high into the hands of Bolek.
The Czech side almost stole a half-time lead via a well-worked move, bypassing the Hornets’ offside trap, the ball ending up at the feet of Michal Krmenčík who struck the outside of the post.
Changes on the flanks came at the interval - Holebas and Steven Berghuis came off, with Brice Dja Djédjé and Nordin Amrabat freshening things up.
The second period struggled to maintain the pace of the first and there was little to report aside from scheduled Watford substitutions, notably Will Hughes and Jerome Sinclair who both got match minutes.
Nordin Amrabat was a threat from the moment his boots touched the grass, and looked to be clean through before being hauled down. The decision went the other way, much to the bemusement of most in the stadium.
When the winning goal came 10 minutes from time, it wasn’t the prettiest, but it was deserved on the balance of play.
Hughes took a falling ball first time and drummed it into the ground, the ball bouncing up perfectly for Okaka to divert in for a hard-earned pre-season win.
HORNETS: Gomes (GK) (Pantilimon, 60); Janmaat, Prödl, Kabasele, Holebas (Dja Djédjé, HT) Watson, Doucouré; Berghuis (Amrabat, HT), Capoue (Hughes, 68), Success (Sinclair, 68); Okaka.
Sub not used: Rowan.