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Watford two goals up but suffer extra-time loss to Norwich City in Capital One Cup
Watford came within seconds of knocking Premier League Norwich City out of the Capital One Cup but it’s the Canaries who go into the draw for the fourth round after a 3-2 extra-time victory.
Watford took the lead with their first real effort midway through the first half when Javier Acuna powered a right-footed shot past Mark Bunn to net his first Hornets goal.
However, Norwich almost equalised shortly before the break when Bradley Johnson powerfully headed against the crossbar from close range.
But the Hornets were quickly out of the blocks at the start of the second half but after Mark Bunn had denied Davide Faraoni, Sean Murray, Diego Fabbrini and substitute Troy Deeney, the keeper was helpless when Faraoni scored with a fabulous shot from 25 yards.
Substitute Josh Murphy gave the visitors hope with a fine strike from the edge of the penalty area to half the deficit with 13 minutes remaining.
But it looked like that hope would come to nothing until the fifth minute of injury time when Gary Hooper headed in a dramatic late equaliser.
And it was the former Celtic striker who scored what turned out to be the winner in the second period of extra-time. But it took two outstanding saves from Mark Bunn to prevent the hosts from taking the third round tie to penalties as Deeney and Marco Cassetti both went very close to an equalise.
It was only a coincidence but both sides made eight changes, with Cassetti, Faraoni and Murray the three players to be retained from the Hornets’ starting line-up which thumped Barnsley on Saturday.
Arguably the most significant of the alterations made by Gianfranco Zola was his decision to give a first start to the new loan signing Josh McEachran in the deep lying position in the middle of the central midfield three.
It was the Canaries who had most of the early possession and the first attempt of the night but Alexander Tettey fired harmlessly high and wide from 20 yards in the fourth minute.
The visitors’ next effort two minutes later was closer but Jonathan Bond held a Nathan Redmond shot low to his left well after the Norwich wide man had swiftly exchanged passes coming inside off the left flank.
The Hornets gradually began to see more of the ball but the majority was in their own half and if they did get into a position where they could threaten, the visitors were largely quick to shut down any attacking advances.
Indeed, the Hornets did not help their cause in the opening 20 minutes when they sloppily gave away possession on at least four occasions in potentially dangerous areas near their own 18-yard box but Chris Hughton’s men were unable to capitalise.
It took until the 22nd for Watford to have a goal attempt – and that didn’t get very far – when a Murray free-kick from 30 yards hit the wall. But within two minutes, the hosts were in front – and a striker was celebrating his first goal for the club.
The opportunity arose when Fabbrini tried to push the ball forward to Acuna on the edge of the 18-yard box. Initially it looked like Ryan Bennett would get the better of the contest but he was out-muscled by the Paraguayan who turned before striking a fierce right-footed shot which keeper Mark Bunn could only get a hand to as it flew past him to make it 1-0.
The game settled back down following the goal but there was a worrying moment for the hosts in the 35th minute when McEachran clearly felt a problem in his lower back and after receiving a brief spell of treatment, he headed down the tunnel and for the dressing room. He was replaced by Connor Smith.
Norwich hadn’t offered too great a goal threat after going behind but they went close twice in quick succession shortly after the substitution.
First the impressive Wes Hoolahan let fly with a left-footed shot from 25 yards which Bond tipped over. Then, after the resulting corner had been partially cleared, the ball was swept back in from the left and Johnson arrived in the area to crash a header against the crossbar from around six yards out.
But it was then Watford’s turn to have a promising opportunity on the counter-attack when Acuna led a three-on-three charge downfield, with Fabbrini and Cristian Battocchio breaking to the left and right of him respectively. The goal scorer chose to try his luck with an ambitious strike from 25 yards and after it flew wide, Fabbrini made his thoughts clear as he signalled where he thought the ball should have been played.
Hughton made a change at the start of the second half with Johan Elmander replacing Javier Garrido, which meant Martin Olsson moved to left-back.
It was their opponents who had the first attempt after the restart as Fabbrini sliced a right-footed shot high and wide from just outside the 18-yard box.
Soon after, Faraoni seized on a misplaced pass from Johnson and advanced before striking a low fizzing 25-yard drive which Bunn held. The keeper was extended more moments later though, when he had to dive to his right to palm away a fine angled right-footed strike from Murray.
Watford were forced into their second change as a result of an injury when Acuna, who was clearly limping, was replaced by Troy Deeney after 52 minutes.
The change may have been unwanted but it didn’t halt the home side’s encouraging start to the second half which continued when Fabbrini ran from deep down the left before hitting a low right-footed strike which Bunn couldn’t hold, but the keeper then did well to block Deeney’s close-range follow-up.
But there was little the Norwich keeper could do in the 55th minute when the ball broke to Faraoni 25 yards out and he hit a fabulous right-footed strike which flew into the top corner to put the Hornets two goals to the good.
Watford were now purring and they almost opened up their opponents on the counter just before the hour mark when Faraoni hit the afterburners to get to a Battocchio pass down the right and hit a low cross which Deeney struck towards goal first time, only to see it hit a defender.
Murray wasn’t too far away in the 65th minute with a shot which flew past Bunn’s right-hand post before the Canaries made a second change when Murphy replaced Johnson.
Tettey could have no complaints at being booked in the 68th minute when he cynically halted a Fabbrini run with a nasty trip from behind and Battocchio struck the resulting free-kick from 25 yards well enough but it was straight at Bunn.
Like Tettey, Smith had few grounds to moan when he saw yellow for a foul on Murphy but before the free-kick could be taken, Hughton made his third change as Leroy Fer came on for Hoolahan, whose impact on the game had lessened significantly since half-time.
But it was the second of Norwich’s substitutes, Murphy, who gave his side hope with 13 minutes remaining with something of a bolt out of the blue when he struck an excellent left-footed shot from the edge of the area which beat the helpless Bond off the underside of his bar to make it 2-1. It was also the visitors’ first attempt of the second half.
Having been decidedly second best for much of the second half, the Canaries were suddenly rejuvenated.
Daniel Pudil had to make an excellent challenge to thwart Redmond and from the resulting corner, Fer headed over the top. However, the former FC Twente midfielder was to go close with a looping right-footed effort which Bond had to claw away as it threatened to drop in the top corner.
Deeney had a shot deflected through to Bunn as the hosts tried to regain some momentum before making their final change when Fabbrini’s eye-catching night’s work was ended when he was replaced by Fernando Forestieri.
But Norwich were soon back applying the pressure and Smith had to make a crucial headed intervention to clear an Elmander header from just in front of his goalline following a corner.
But just when looked as if the Hornets’ place in the fourth round draw was secure, Norwich equalised with literally the last attack of normal time when a cross from the right was headed in by Hooper.
The visitors had a couple of corners early into extra-time but it was Watford who had the first attempt when a Deeney shot forced Bunn to dive to his right to save after Faraoni’s initial strike had been blocked.
But the majority of the first additional 15 minutes was low key, although Fer did have a header blocked by a crowd of players following a corner in the 104th minute.
The Hornets’ first effort of extra-time came three minutes after the resumption when Deeney’s deep cross from near the right corner flag was headed back towards goal by Pudil but Bunn plucked the ball out of the air beneath his bar.
But Norwich went closer when Murphy danced his way into the box before fizzing a low ball across the six-yard box which only needed a touch and then Redmond’s return from the opposite side was scrambled away by Essaid Belkalem.
With six minutes of extra-time remaining though, Norwich took the lead for the first time when a lovely pass put Hooper through on goal and he kept his composure and slid the ball between Bond’s legs to make it 3-2.
The Hornets’ hopes were not over yet though, as within two minutes Smith had swung over a cross from the right and Denney met it with a lovely flicked header which was destined for the top corner until Bunn made an outstanding save to tip it over. Then, from the resultant corner, Cassetti powered in a header but the Norwich keeper was equal to that as well as he pushed it onto the bar.
Tempers then threatened to boil as Deeney and Elmander got involved in a set two in the area, Pudil pushed Bunn and then Cassetti fell to the floor in dramatic fashion and the upshot was the first four players were all booked.
Murphy might have added a fourth on the counter but he sliced wide as his side made it through to the next round after coming so close to going out.
Watford: Bond; Belkalem, Ekstrand, Cassetti; Faraoni, Murray, McEachran (Smith 39), Battocchio, Pudil; Fabbrini (Forestieri 86), Acuna (Deeney 52). Not used: Woods, Brown, McGugan and Anya.
Norwich City: Bunn; Whittaker, Martin, R Bennett, Garrido (Elmander 46); Redmond, Tettey, Johnson (Murphy 67), Hoolahan (Fer 74), Olsson; Hooper. Not used: Nash, Turner, Howson and Becchio.
Bookings: Tettey for a foul on Fabbrini (68); Smith for a foul on Murphy (74); Deeney for a confrontation with Elmander (119); Elmander for a confrontation with Deeney (119); Pudil for confrontation with Bunn (119); Bunn for confrontation with Pudil (119).
Attendance: 11,178 (1,841 away).
Referee: Stephen Martin.
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