Under-23 Report | Watford 4-2 Burnley
Mauro Zárate announced his return to near full fitness and form with a stunning goal as Watford’s Under-23 side made it three wins out of four with a 4-2 victory over Burnley.
Playing in the number 10 role behind two strikers, Zárate had plenty of support in the stands in the shape of South American teammates Miguel Britos and Roberto Pereyra, and they were all sat right behind the goal of the game just past the half-hour mark.
Collecting a cross-field pass from Ashley Charles, Zárate cut in from the left onto his favoured right foot and bent a strike from the edge of the box past the full-length dive of Burnley keeper Aiden Stone and into the far corner.
It was a goal of the highest class and would have been duly noted by two members of Marco Silva’s backroom staff who were present to see the Argentine play for 83 minutes, his longest run-out since his knee injury.
The eyes of the coaching staff would also have been on Marvin Zeegelaar, who played for 70 minutes at left wing-back, the Dutch deadline day signing impressing in particular when he came inside with a couple of eye-catching pirouettes.
It was Zárate's strike, however, that caused jaws to drop, an effort that drew Watford level after Khius Metz had scrambled Burnley ahead after 12 minutes. The Hornets then got their noses in front and stayed there with two goals inside a minute just before half-time.
Jerome Sinclair, who played up top alongside Michael Folivi, was brought down for a penalty and got up to dispatch the spot-kick himself. The Burnley keeper guessed right but Sinclair’s effort had too much pace and power.
Sinclair then created the second with the type of high pressing Silva loves from his front-men. His speed and commitment caught keeper Stone on the hop, leading to a chance for Folivi which he rammed in after jinking inside a couple of desperate challenges.
Watford were on the back-foot for most of the second-half and had to absorb plenty of pressure, particularly from corners. They stood firm for the most part until Harry Flowers headed in from a free-kick with 15 to go.
At 3-2, a grandstand finish was on the cards and the Golden Boys had to show plenty of character to withstand everything the Clarets could throw at them, only gaining that vital breathing space with the last kick of the game when Dion Pereira latched on to a through pass from fellow substitute David Sesay to rifle the fourth into the far corner.
The wild celebrations at the game-clinching goal spoke volumes for just how hard the young Watford side had to work for the three Professional Development League points and said a lot about the spirit in the group.
HORNETS | Gartside (GK); Mukena, Rowan, Mason; Eleftheriou (C), Charles, Stewart, Zeegalaar (Sesay, 70); Zárate (Pereira, 83); Sinclair, Folivi (Bradbury, 83).
Subs not used | Lacy (GK), Williams.