Wilfried Zaha’s second-half brace helped to hand Roy Hodgson an unhappy reunion with his former side Crystal Palace, who eased to a 4-1 win over Watford at Vicarage Road.
Hodgson was facing the Eagles for the first time since ending his near-four-year stay at Selhurst Park last summer, but was handed no favors by his former charges as they left his Hornets side entrenched in the relegation zone, four points adrift of 17th -placed Newcastle.
The 4-1 scoreline was perhaps a little harsh on Watford, but it puts a halt to any momentum gained by their first win under Hodgson at Aston Villa on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the win was Palace’s first in the Premier League in 2022 and sees them jump to 11th, above Leicester and Villa, while they are now nine points clear of the drop zone.
Palace opened the scoring through Jean-Philippe Mateta (15), who was handed a stroke of good fortune when his left-footed shot on the turn struck the back of Kiko Femenia and flew past the wrong-footed Ben Foster.
But instead of getting mad, Watford got even, leveling the scores when Femenia’s wicked inswinging corner was powered home by Moussa Sissoko (17). It was the Frenchman’s maiden goal for the Hornets, and his first in the Premier League since playing for Tottenham against Burnley in December 2019.
- Watford named an unchanged XI, with Samir retaining his place in defense despite suffering a head injury at the weekend
- Crystal Palace made four changes, including replacing the injured Vicente Guaita with Jack Butland
- Conor Gallagher returned in place of Jeffrey Schlupp, while Will Hughes and Jean-Philippe Mateta replaced James McArthur and Jordan Ayew
Watford were unable to build on their leveller, though, and Palace began to assert their control over proceedings, with Mitchell raiding down the left wing and Michael Olise forcing Foster into a smart save with his legs.
Hodgson’s side were unable to hold out until half time and fell behind after Mitchell – who was finding it far too easy to escape the attentions of Ismaila Sarr – picked out Conor Gallagher in the area.
The on-loan Chelsea midfielder – restored to the starting line-up after missing the defeat to his parent club on Saturday – controlled the cross brilliantly before planting a shot into the top corner (42).
The pattern of the game remained the same in the second period, with Palace looking comfortable and restricting Watford’s threat to the occasional set piece.
Patrick Vieira’s side then made sure of victory thanks to two late goals from Zaha. His first of him was a powerful shot inside Foster’s near post after he was afforded too much time in Watford’s area (85), while his second was a brilliant effort curled inside the far post after Palace broke from a Hornets corner (90).
Zaha has last laugh at Vicarage Road
Zaha had been booked on his previous five visits to Vicarage Road and had even had a run in with Harry the Hornet after Watford’s mascot mocked him for diving in 2016, but this time the Palace forward ensured he had the last laugh.
The 29-year-old was kept relatively quiet in the first half, and regularly swapped positions with fellow winger Olise as the duo searched for space in the Watford half.
He was also the subject of jeers from Hornets fans on a few occasions, as well as some tough tackling from the likes of Femenia, but he kept his composure before striking twice late on to secure the points for Palace.
Zaha’s second was particularly impressive and was similar in creation to his wonderful strike at Norwich earlier this month, with both goals seeing him cut in from the left before rifling a shot past a helpless goalkeeper and inside the far post.
The Ivory Coast international’s goals came from his only two shots in the game, but his other statistics demonstrated how impressive his performance was.
No Palace player had more touches in the Watford box, while he also created three times as many chances as any of his team-mates.
Zaha’s work off the ball was also crucial – he won nine duels during the game (the next highest by a Palace player was four) – while the 11 occasions on which he regained possession was also a team high.
Watford travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on Saturday – kick-off 3pm – while Crystal Palace host Burnley, also at 3pm.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism