Andre Gray backheel seals Watford’s first win and leaves Norwich bottom

By on November 9, 2019

With only eight points on the board after 12 games it is fair to say that Watford’s struggles this season are not yet over. But one can forgive the way their fans celebrated at the end and the exuberant manner of their manager afterwards too. A first win of the season feels sweet whenever it comes.

The margins in this match were fine but the moments that counted came in the second minute, when Gerard Deulofeu seized on an error by Emi Buendia to score, and the 52nd when a crafty backheel from Andre Gray doubled that advantage. Norwich otherwise dominated possession, had a number of chances and played for 25 minutes with a man extra after the dismissal of Christian Kabasele. But none of that mattered in the end and the Canaries have now taken one point in seven games.

“We are really happy for the result‚“ said the Watford coach, Quique Sánchez Flores. “I am happy with the performance of the players, and we have taken positive energy from this match. We knew it was a significant match, it looked like a final and we tried to give our energy, our good spirit and try to put their soul on the pitch. We need to believe and to believe you need to win. If you don’t win in sports, it’s difficult to believe.”

Daniel Farke agreed with the Spaniard’s take on sports psychology but sadly for him a difficulty in believing will linger over his team for the rest of the international break. Some of that time, the German insisted, would be spent having sharp words with his players who, not for the first time this season, were undone by their own style, Buendia in particular.

Andre Gray celebrates his goal with Abdoulaye Doucouré and Gerard Deulofeu, who opened the scoring. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters

With barely seconds on the clock the Argentinian received the ball 25 yards from his goal. He was also immediately pressed by Deulofeu as Watford looked to do what all Norwich’s opponents have done of late and turn the ball over quickly. Confronted with the pressure, Buendia attempted to flick the ball behind himself and round his opponent. Deulofeu read it, robbed it, advanced towards goal at a pace barely above jogging and simply passed the ball beyond Tim Krul.

“It’s pretty annoying and frustrating for us,” Farke said. “It was definitely not necessary to lose this game. We’re playing with an unbelievably young side and they are allowed to have mistakes. But to play like it’s beach football, this is not possible. It was not the first time we have had this type of mistake. I will speak pretty honestly and pretty strictly about this.”

Norwich proceeded to have the better of the first half and had Onel Hernández made a better decision on one of half a dozen occasions the hosts would likely have had an equaliser before half time. Instead, seven minutes into the second half, they fell further behind.

Deulofeu was the architect, sending Alex Tettey to the floor before lofting a cross from the left on to the penalty spot, where Gray was waiting. The striker was marked by Jamal Lewis and, it seemed, tightly enough too. It turned out to be too tight, however, as Gray chose not to take a touch but simply backheel the ball past the full-back and beyond a non-plussed Krul.

It would be tempting to say that this was the sort of decisive action that comes from Premier League experience, except this exquisite goal was only the second Gray had managed all season.

Thirteen minutes later Kabasele received a second yellow card for a pointless tussle with the Norwich substitute Josip Drmic (his first was for a pointless tussle with Hernández). The Hornets replaced Deulofeu with Adrian Mariappa and after a 10-minute period in which both Lewis and Kenny McLean drew saves from Ben Foster with long-range efforts Norwich ran out of ideas, their lack of confidence clear.

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