CARDIFF 1, WATFORD 5
By Omar Moore
February 22, 2019
Watford thrashed Cardiff on Friday night in South Wales in a convincing away performance with a season-high five goals to move up to seventh in the Premier League. Their best-of-the-rest status was solidified after a first-half in which they were lucky to have had a clear penalty shout for Cardiff waved away just before the interval.
Gerard Deulofeu had already scored the first of his hat-trick of goals in the 18th minute to put the Hornets ahead before Watford defender Daryl Janmaat clattered into Josh Murphy just outside the penalty box but continued contact into the box bringing Murphy down. Referee Simon Hooper dismissed Cardiff calls for a penalty as half-time beckoned. The non-penalty decision left Cardiff manager Neil Warnock incensed.
In truth Watford should have been comfortably in front by halftime, with Troy Deeney forcing a solid save from Bluebirds goalkeeper Neil Etheridge. Watford were grateful for the whistle for the interval. The Hornets had played very average football over the last few weeks but tonight they were electrifying, scoring two goals on the counterattack within a three-minute span. Both came from man of the match Deulofeu, who ran some sixty yards starting from inside his half to round Etheridge in the 61st minute, then in a similar move from inside Cardiff’s half chipped the ball over the advancing Etheridge two minutes later. It was a sublime display from Deulofeu, who had been out of form for a number of weeks. For good measure he provided an assist to Deeney for Watford’s fourth. Deulofeu became the first Watford player in over 30 years to score a top-flight hat-trick and the first for the Hornets in the Premier League.
Watford head coach Javi Gracia will be disappointed to have conceded a sloppy goal from a comfortable position in the 82nd minute as Sol Bamba bundled in a ball that had pinballed around in the Watford six-yard-box for a Cardiff consolation goal. Prior to the goal the Hornets had kept five clean sheets in their last six games in all competitions. Undeterred, Deeney re-established a four-goal cushion a minute into injury time with a close-range shot to give Watford a Premier League club-record five goal-scoreline. On an emotional night for Cardiff in their first Premier League match at home since the funeral of Emiliano Sala, the visitors regained their killer instinct, the kind they showed in the earlier part of what has so far been an outstanding Premier League season for Watford.
Cardiff (out of 10): Etheridge 6, Bennett 6, Bamba 7, Morrison 6, Ecuele Manga 6, Ralls 5, Arter 5, Bacuna 7, Murphy 5, Paterson 6, Niasse 6.
Substitutes: Hoilett 7, Mendez-Laing 6, Zohore 7.
WATFORD (out of 10): Foster 8, Masina 7, Mariappa 6, Cathcart 7, Janmaat 6, Pereyra 6, Capoue 8, Doucoure 8, Hughes 8, Deeney 8, Deulofeu 9.
Substitutes: Quina 5, Cleverley 7, Gray 7.
Referee (out of 10): Simon Hooper 5.
(Photo: Troy Deeney points out Gerard Deulofeu to Watford fans at Cardiff after Deulofeu provided Deeney with his first goal and Watford’s fourth during their 5-1 win at Cardiff on Friday night. Photo via: Eurosport.)