Emmanuel Dennis fires Watford to a first win since November.

Watford manager Roy Hodgson made two changes from the team that featured against Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend, with Sarr and Imrân Louza returning to the starting line-up after time away at AFCON 2021.

Steven Gerrard however kept the same team from Villa’s defeat to Newcastle bar one change, bringing in Danny Ings who scored in the reverse fixture in for Ollie Watkins.

Watford enjoyed less of the spoils in the first half, with an early penalty shout on Ings to no avail. They soaked up most of the home sides pressure before showing their threat on the counter. As a Villa attack broke down, Sarr picked the ball up on the right and sliced the hosts’ backline open with a crossfield through ball to Dennis, who cut inside and saw his shot well saved by Emi Martínez.

Ings then had another chance to fire Villa ahead, as a Buendia through ball sent him one on one with Ben Foster, who hit the post but was called offside. Shots from Jacob Ramsay & Phillipe Coutinho failed to break the deadlock before the end of the half.

Ings hitting the post after being played through by Buendia

After the interval, Watford continued to soak up Villa’s attacks while pressing for the opener. That golden chance eventually came as, on the counterattack, Josh King played in Moussa Sissoko and one-on-one with Martínez, the Frenchman hit the near side-netting and wasted a big chance for the Hornets with Emmanuel Dennis following in across the box.

Gerrard brought on Ollie Watkins, Ashley Young and Leon Bailey to seek some creativity for Villa, Coutinho however providing the only decent threat as he had a shot from the edge of the box dipping onto the roof of the net.

The Hornets remained persistent and produced their first goal under Hodgson courtesy of Dennis. The strike originated from Sarr’s intelligent attacking play just inside the box, remaining patient before delivering an inviting ball to Dennis, who beat Ashley Young and headed past the Aston Villa goalkeeper.

Dennis heading the Hornets ahead

The Hornets almost doubled their lead twice as Tom Cleverley’s low driven effort was beaten away by Martínez in net, also keeping out a close range strike from Josh King after a low driven cross from Sarr. Watford eventually held out despite late Villa pressure to claim their first win since November, and first under Hodgson.

“I’m very happy, I thought the base the back four and midfield three gave us was very important,” Hodgson said, satisfied with his first win under the Hornets.

“I think there’s still a lot more to come from the three attackers. The key to our victory was the three midfield players, they did very well with the ball and without the ball and that gave the back four the protection to keep Aston Villa at bay.”

Hodgson facing the media

“I thought it was a good performance, and I think in the previous three games there have been episodes where there has been good play as well. The players showed a desire to make life difficult for their opponents, that’s been evident since the first game up in Burnley. I was pleased today, I thought our composure on the ball was better, we showed a lot more confidence to get on the ball, pass the ball and look to create chances.”

Steven Gerrard however had much to say after his sides loss:

“We’ve had 60% of the ball and got into the right areas a lot today, but we’ve only had one shot on target. Ben Foster hasn’t been troubled anywhere near enough.” He said, letting out his disappointment to the media.

“We’re at home, we need to be more exciting than that, we need to create more and score more.

Gerrard walking out for the Second Half

“We knew that they’d carry a threat on the counter-attack, so we’re not surprised by what Watford brought to the game.”

“This is very much on me and us. We need to improve fast.”

Defeat for Aston Villa leaves them 12th with only one point from their last 3 including games against Leeds and Newcastle. They face Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium next weekend.

A win for Watford however sees them climb up to 18th, 4 points off Newcastle in 17th. The Hornets face a test against Viera’s Crystal Palace at home on Wednesday before heading up to Old Trafford next Saturday.

Written by: WFCHenry

Twitter: @WFCHenry

More articles at medium.com/wfchenry

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