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Troy Deeney scores late on to salvage 3-3 draw for Watford against Leeds United in the Championship
Troy Deeney scored two goals, including one four minutes from time, to salvage a valuable point for Watford in an enthralling 3-3 draw at Leeds United.
The Hornets led 2-0 at half-time after a superb counter-attacking display in the first half saw Deeney and Cristian Battocchio find the net.
Leeds though came back brilliantly in the second period and turned the game on its head with goals from Danny Pugh, Matt Smith and Ross McCormack.
Just as all three points looked to be going to the home side however, Deeney stunned Elland Road with a late goal to ensure the spoils were shared.
Gianfranco Zola made two changes to the side which battled its way to a 0-0 draw at Burnley on Tuesday night but kept faith with the same 4-5-1 formation.
Daniel Pudil came in at left-back for Marco Cassetti, while the fit-again and new-look Ikechi Anya – after having his hair shaved off – replaced Sean Murray on the left side of midfield.
Leeds came into the game seeking a fifth win in six matches – and a sixth straight home success – and Brian McDermott made just the one change with Sam Byram replacing Tom Lees, who was not involved.
Jonathan Bond was the first keeper to be pressed into action in the third minute when the ball was worked to McCormack on the left and his cross was met by Matt Smith, who got above Joel Ekstrand, but the Hornets stopper was not unduly troubled.
Moments later, Rodolph Austin chanced his arm with a left-footed strike from 20 or so yards out but dragged it wide of Bond’s left-hand post.
There was no surprise the hosts were trying to force the early running and they had another opening when a free-kick from the left was headed over the top by Marius Zaliukas. Soon after though, Battocchio latched on to a loose ball in midfield and broke down the right before standing up a cross which Hector Bellerin glanced wide of the upright.
But Watford could have found themselves behind in the ninth minute when Nyron Nosworthy gave away possession and Austin broke through on goal but saw his shot blocked by Bond and Murphy fired the rebound over the rebound from the edge of the area.
Having survived that scare, Watford weren’t too far away from taking the lead when excellent work from Davide Faraoni breaking forward from right-back saw him set up Anya, who got goal-side of Zaliuklas but saw his shot well saved by Paddy Kenny.
The opening exchanges were very open but with their next opportunity the Hornets did make the breakthrough to end their three-game barren run in front of goal.
Lewis McGugan initially looked as if he would try and play in Bellerin to his right but after getting a favourable bounce off a defender, he came inside the penalty area before another helpful ricochet saw the ball break loose and Deeney didn’t need a second invitation, hitting a first-time right-footed finish from around 15 yards which surprised Kenny as it beat him at his near post to net his eighth of the season.
A succession of free-kicks then saw the match became rather scrappy but the next reasonable chance fell the visitors’ way in the 24th minute when McGugan put Anya in on the left side of the area and he hit a left-footed strike across goal which beat the dive of Kenny but also the far post.
McCormack saw a 25-yard free-kick blocked behind for a corner before Byram played a superb ball in from the right which Nosworthy just got enough on to take it away from McCormack and behind for another set piece.
Another chance came and went for the hosts in the 30th minute when a through ball rebounded off Ekstrand and fell nicely for Smith on the edge of the area but he pulled his shot narrowly wide of the far post.
Either side of that though, Pudil had needed treatment after Austin had thundered into a challenge to cleanly win the ball and then a visibly angry George Thorne also required the help of the phsyio after being caught in the face by an elbow – an incident missed by referee Trevor Kettle.
A fine reverse pass from McCormack but Smith through on goal in the 38th minute but the assistant’s flag was already raised before his attempted left-footed finish was helped over the target by a fine stop from Bond.
Danny Pugh was the first player to be booked a minute from the end of normal time at the end of the first half for diving in the penalty area but Nosworthy was again fortunate because he chested the ball down, dwelt briefly and hung out a leg.
But that was rapidly forgotten though, as within a minute the Hornets had established clear daylight over their opponents with a brilliant counter-attacking goal.
It originated after Leeds, much to Ekstrand’s annoyance, were awarded a free-kick towards the right side of the penalty area.
Byram whipped in the ball at pace, Bond did well to get through a crowd of players and punch it clear to the edge of the area where Bellerin picked up the ball and accelerated downfield on the left.
Before Watford knew it, they were four-on-one and the Arsenal loanee deserved credit for having the awareness to lay the ball inside to Battocchio.
Initially it looked as if he might the spurn the chance as he checked inside and then out again but in the end he managed to slide the ball into the net via Kenny’s left-hand post to make it 2-0 at the break.
There was no surprise that Leeds were quickly out of the blocks after the restart and within 30 seconds a back-tracking Bond was having to tip a looping Smith header over his own bar. The Hornets keeper was then blocked off as he tried to reach the resultant corner from the left and Smith got up highest to head over the top.
With their next chance though, Leeds did score.
The visitors made a mess of attempting to clear a low ball in from the right from McCormack as Thorne’s attempted clearance rebounded off a teammate and across to the other side of the area to Pugh, who got around Nosworthy and with Bond committed and going to ground, the left-sided midfielder lifted the ball across goal and into the far corner to reduce the deficit to 2-1.
Within six minutes, the game was all-square.
The Hornets were appealing for a free-kick after losing the ball in midfield and were opened up as Peltier played a fine cross-field ball out to the right where McCormack advanced before standing up a cross to Smith, who rose highest at the back post to head down and past Bond.
Having been pegged back, Watford desperately needed to regain their composure but how they got through the next five minutes without conceding at least one more is anyone’s guess.
Initially at least it was thanks to Bond’s heroics, as he produced a magnificent reaction stop to deny Austin as the ball was played in from the right and then somehow deflect the United midfielder’s follow-up behind for a corner.
Then from the resultant corner, the Hornets stopper produced another magnificent save to push over McCormack’s header. Still the onslaught continued as from the next corner, an Alex Mowatt shot was deflected up and onto the bar from an outstretched Watford leg.
But having got through that spell, the Hornets almost defied the way the game had gone since the goal as McGugan cut in from the left and his bending effort from 25 yards forced Kenny into a diving save.
With the home fans on their feet, Leeds continued to pile the pressure on the Watford goal but the Hornets survived a raucous ten-minute spell without conceding again.
Zola replaced the impressive but tiring McGugan with Sean Murray just before the hour and Leeds’ assault on the visitors’ goal began to subside slightly. Faraoni was brought off for Marco Cassetti as the Hornets looked to gain a foothold in the match.
On 75 minutes the stadium erupted again though when Smith thought he had given his team a 3-2 lead as he headed home at the back post but Leeds’ celebrations were curtailed by the linesman’s offside flag.
Four minutes later however, the hosts did take the lead. Austin’s straight ball over the top caught out Nosworthy as McCormack peeled off the defender’s shoulder before poking the ball past Bond and into the net.
With the game turned on its head, Leeds suddenly started to sit back. Battocchio tested Kenny with a tame shot from the edge of the area but the veteran stopper held on.
Watford started to enjoy possession for the first time in the half and with just four minutes left on the clock, the visitors drew level.
Thorne hit a rasping shot from long range and while Kenny was equal to it, he could only parry the ball into the path of Deeney who slammed home for 3-3.
Both teams went in search of a late winner but it was Watford who could have stolen all three points at the death as Deeney broke down the right and picked out Joel Ekstrand at the back post but the centre half was unable to finish.
Watford remain 12th in the Championship. The Hornets' next game is at home to Sheffield Wednesday.
Leeds United: Kenny; Peltier, Zaliukas, Pearce; Byram, Murphy, Mowatt, Pugh; Austin; Smith, McCormack. Not used: Cairns, Drury, Varney, Warnock, Brown, Tonge, Poleon.
Watford: Bond; Faraoni (Cassetti 73), Nosworthy, Ekstrand, Pudil; Bellerin, Battocchio, (Hall 90) Thorne, McGugan (Murray 67), Anya; Deeney. Not used: Woods, Forestieri, Fabbrini, Iriney.
Bookings: Pugh for simulation (44); Ekstrand for a foul (90).
Referee: Trevor Kettle.
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