Express & Star

Watford 2 Wolves 1 - Report and pictures

Gerard Deulofeu broke Wolves' hearts in the FA Cup last term and fuelled another Watford victory over Nuno Espirito Santo's side.

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Deulofeu netted twice off the bench in the cup semi-final last year to thwart Wolves' final dreams and opened the scoring in the 30th minute before teeing Abdoulaye Doucoure up in the 49th minute.

Pedro Neto gave Nuno Espirito Santo's side hope in the 60th minute but despite VAR weighing in to convert Watford man Christian Kabasele's yellow card into a red, Wolves could not find a way past a determined Ben Foster.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo made four changes from the side that lost 1-0 at Liverpool for this clash.

Top scorer Raul Jimenez, forward Adama Traore, defender Romain Saiss and wing-back Matt Doherty all returned to the starting line-up after they were rested at Anfield.

Ryan Bennett kept his shirt on the right of the back three as Leander Dendoncker remained in his midfield role.

Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota, Max Kilman and Ruben Vinagre all moved to the bench as Nuno switched from 3-5-2 back to his favoured 3-4-3.

Watford had won two of the four games since Nigel Pearson took over at Vicarage Road and they made a solid start to proceedings.

But it was Nuno's side that looked more likely to open the scoring with Neto the bright spark as he looked to build on his performance at Liverpool.

It was two of Wolves' long-serving players that nearly undid the team that ended their FA Cup dreams.

Watford cleared a set-piece to Conor Coady and the Wolves skipper released wing-back Doherty.

He found himself one-on-one with Ben Foster as Wolves exploited the gaps between the Hornets' defence and midfield.

But Doherty could only fire straight at Foster.

Wolves used the long-ball method again with Jimenez wasting a golden opportunity, firing wide after Dendoncker had found him in the box.

Neto continued to be a thorn in the Hornets side as he won a set-piece after he was taken out by Craig Dawson.

But the Wolves forward would be booked moments later as he went down under pressure from Dawson in the box.

Referee Andrew Madeley ruled it was simulation, and VAR agreed as they checked the decision.

Jimenez blasted the ball wide and Neto stung Foster's palms as the half progressed.

But Wolves would pay for not scoring while in control.

It was Troy Deeney who looked the danger-man before kick-off due to his recent form.

But it was Ismaila Sarr, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Deulofeu who found the gaps at the back with Bennett too static.

Wolves were thankful Sarr could only fire at Patricio with their defence at sea.

But the Hornets stung seconds later as Wolves failed to clear their lines and Sarr found himself with the unmarked Deulofeu on his left.

The man who ended Wolves' hopes of an FA Cup final last term was back to haunt them as he fired past a helpless Patricio in the 30th minute.

It was all Watford as the half drew to a close with Saiss needing treatment for a head knock after a collision with Deeney.

Bennett was the weak link again as Watford surged forward but fortunately, Sarr could only ripple the side netting after steaming past Saiss.

Wolves needed the break to re-group and re-focus and Neto came out all guns blazing.

He single-handedly breezed past Watford but he could not put the icing on the cake as he blasted the ball wide of Foster's net.

And Watford would increase their lead up the other end.

Jimenez lost possession in Wolves' half which led to Deulofeu sprinting towards goal.

He managed to get the ball into the path of Doucoure and his strike deflected in off Coady in the 49th minute.

After that goal Nuno shuffled his pack, throwing on Ruben Neves and Ruben Vinagre for Bennett and Jonny.

That saw Dendoncker move back into the right-sided defensive role and the tactical shift and changes would spark Wolves' fight-back.

Traore – wearing a shirt without a sponsor because of a kit error – battled on that right flank and teed Moutinho up in the middle.

His strike fizzed into the palms of Foster but Moutinho would play a crucial role moments laters, as Wolves got back into the game.

The Portuguese midfielder pressed Watford in their own half, won the ball back and released Neto on his left.

The youngster pulled the trigger and his strike flew home after taking a deflection off Christian Kabasele on the hour mark.

He'd been denied his first Premier League goal at Liverpool by VAR on Sunday but started the New Year as he meant to go on by making his mark.

The game opened up after that goal with Traore and Vinagre gaining more ground on the wings.

Jota entered the fray for Neto moments later and he would take over the role of being a thorn in Watford's side.

The forward chased onto a Jimenez knock-down to sprint towards goal but Christian Kabasele pulled his arm back to stop him running one-on-one with Ben Foster.

Referee Andrew Madley initially deemed the foul a cautionable offence but VAR would weigh in.

The video officials overruled Madley and decided that Kabasele should have been sent off for denying a goal-scoring opportunity, with the Watford man trudging off the pitch in the 70th minute.

That gave Wolves 20 minutes to take on the 10-men of Watford and they pushed for a leveller.Doherty's header was stopped by Foster.

Vinagre, Jota and Neves had the chances but Wolves could not stop Nigel Pearson picking up his third win in five games as Watford's revival continues.

Key Moments

26 - Wolves want a penalty - but Neto's booked for diving instead. He did get clipped by Dawson. After a VAR review, though, it is deemed he went down too theatrically.

30 - Goal. Watford take the lead. Dendoncker gives the ball away cheaply, and Deulofeu takes advantage. The Spaniard finds the far corner with no fuss after being slipped in by Sarr. A sloppy goal to concede.

49 - Goal. The Hornets double their advantage. Wolves are guilty of being careless with the ball again - Jimenez this time. Doucoure gets to Deulofeu's reverse pass ahead of Dendoncker and scores via a Coady deflection.

60 - GOOOALLLLLLL! With a bit of luck, Wolves are back in it! Neto - after cruelly being denied his first top-flight goal at Anfield - sees his left-footed strike from 20 yards deflect over Foster after being fed by Moutinho. He will be delighted.

70 - RED CARD! Kabasele is off for Watford! The defender takes down substitute Jota as he looks to get in on goal. The referee initially shows Kabasele a yellow card, but VAR intervenes, and it is changed. Hornets down to 10 men.

81 - It has been all Wolves since Kabasele's dismissal, but they cannot find an equaliser. Vinagre's close-range attempt flies over the crossbar.


Watford (4-2-3-1): Foster; Dawson, Kabasele, Cathcart, Femenia (Holebas, 59); Chalobah, Capoue; Sarr (Pereyra, 90), Doucoure, Deulofeu (Masina, 72); Deeney (c)

Subs not used: Gomes (gk), Quina, Success, Gray

Goals: Deulofeu (30), Doucoure (49)

Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio; Bennett (Neves, 54), Coady (c), Saiss; Doherty, Dendoncker, Moutinho, Otto (Vinagre, 54); Traore, Jimenez, Neto (Jota, 66)

Subs not used: Ruddy (gk), Kilman, Otasowie, Cutrone

Goal: Neto (60)

Referee: Andrew Madley (Huddersfield)

Attendance: 20,584