WATFORD 2, NORWICH 1
By Omar Moore
July 7, 2020
Danny Welbeck’s phenomenal acrobatic wonder strike in the 55th minute deservedly decided a lively encounter in favour of Watford in a tense match against bottom club Norwich at a rainy Vicarage Road. The win eased Watford’s relegation fears, giving them a four-point cushion ahead of 18th-placed Aston Villa, who host Manchester United on Thursday.
The game began inauspiciously for the home side after just four minutes when Norwich’s Emiliano Buendia curled home from eight yards past Hornets goalkeeper Ben Foster. The goal was part of a fluid Norwich start they could not capitalize on as Craig Dawson, one of Watford’s two best players (Will Hughes) in Project Restart, headed home only six minutes later from an Etienne Capoue cross which reached the far post. A towering Dawson outmuscled the shorter Alex Tettey to nod the ball across the goal line. Dawson’s goal was a test of character for the Hornets, who entered the night’s action in a must-win situation.
Watford continued to excel and were especially energetic in the latter half of the first half, moving the ball quicker around the pitch than they had since their three-month layoff. The Hornets performance had purpose, fearless endeavour and team commitment defensively, despite a rather poor first half from Kiko Femenia, adjudged responsible for the goal that gave Norwich early hope.
Abdoulaye Doucoure should have put Watford 2-1 ahead in the first half from a Will Hughes corner but his header sailed a yard over the bar. Watford peppered Tim Krul’s goal on a number of occasions but could not get the crucial second goal before the interval.
Watford won their first game of the 2019-20 Premier League season on November 8, 2019 by winning at Norwich. After their win at the end of February against now-champions Liverpool the Hornets were looking this home match against Norwich for their first win since sensationally dominating the Merseyside Reds.
Playing with nothing to lose with their fate almost sealed, Norwich, who would later miss a sitter in the dying minutes of the match, began the restart more brightly than Watford. The away side looked likelier to score against a Watford team that inexplicably regressed into stagnancy.
Indeed, the Canaries should have taken the lead but a great kick save by Foster and a critical block by defender Christian Kabasele kept the match level at 1-1. Within minutes Watford were sparked into action by that Norwich scare, as Ismaila Sarr’s ball in from the right side bounded off a Norwich defender up into the air, giving time and space for Welbeck to set himself and launch into an acrobatic overhead kick of the ball, looping in just under Krul’s crossbar into the back of the net.
Welbeck’s timing, and Watford’s, was perfect.
WATFORD (out of 10): Foster 7, Masina 8, Femenia 6, Dawson 9, Kabasele 7, Doucoure 8, Capoue 7, Hughes 7, Sarr 7, Welbeck 8, Deeney 6.
Substitutes: Cleverley 7, Chalobah 6.
Norwich City (out of 10): Krul 7, Aarons 6, Godfrey 6, Klose 6, Tettey 6, Vrancic 6, Buendia 7, Stiepermann 6, Hernandez 7, Pukki 6.
Substitutions: McLean 6, Drmic 6, Lewis 6, Idah 7.
Referee (out of 10): Anthony Taylor 8.
Photo: Watford striker Danny Welbeck flexes his muscle after his acrobatic effort won Watford a priceless three points against relegation-bound Norwich at Vicarage Road. (Credit: Premier League)