The 3-0 scoreline will startle those who weren’t at Carrow Road but Norwich City were completely dominant against Watford once Joel Ekstrand was sent off just two minutes into this afternoon’s contest.
The Hornets started brightly but an off-the-ball collision between Ekstrand and Nathan Redmond left the Norwich winger with a bloody nose and the Sweden international in the stands.
Bradley Johnson scored an excellent opener half an hour into the contest and then two goals in 17 seconds in the second half from Lewis Grabban and Alexander Tettey secured the Canaries a deserved victory, as they utilised their extra man in excellently.
The Hornets named an unchanged line-up from last Saturday’s Championship opener with Bolton Wanderers, which meant nine alterations from the midweek win at Stevenage in the League Cup.
Ikechi Anya, Craig Cathcart and Lloyd Doyley missed the contest through injury but the strength of the Hornets’ squad was again evident as Sean Murray, Cristian Battocchio and Mathias Ranegie could not even make the matchday 18.
Norwich made two changes as Javier Garrido replaced the suspended Martin Olsson and Tettey came in for Elliott Bennett.
Like last week, the Golden Boys started very quickly as they won a free-kick after 15 seconds. Lewis McGugan’s effort from the edge of the area was saved low down to John Ruddy’s left.
But then the dynamics of the game changed significant as Ekstrand was sent off for what was deemed to be an elbow on Nathan Redmond midway through the Golden Boys’ half.
This prompted Watford to switch to a 4-3-1-1 formation as Matej Vydra played behind Troy Deeney up top.
It was Redmond who had the next meaningful attempt from a free-kick which went wide of the near post.
Watford’s fans were not left dejected by the sending-off; they were out-signing the home support as they tried to rally their team.
Deeney had a tame shot from a tight angle saved and Almen Abdi was wayward from distance but it was hard for the Hornets to maintain possession. Norwich used their extra man well, especially in the wide areas.
The Golden Boys were able to clear most of the crosses into their box but the Canaries had a few dangerous efforts from distance in quick succession. Tettey’s was saved, Johnson had an effort deflected narrowly wide and Redmond hit the roof of the net with a dipping strike.
Watford enjoyed a brief passage of possession midway through the half but it was swiftly followed by one of pressure from the opposition.
Sannino appeared to switch to a 4-2-2-1 with McGugan wide left and Vydra on the right as they tried to stop the attacking threat from Norwich’s full-backs who were bombing forward.
But the deadlock was broken on 32 minutes when Hoolahan’s run wide left pulled a couple of the Hornets’ players out of position and then Johnson lifted a 20-yard shot over Heurelho Gomes and into the top corner.
Watford kept the ball better after the goal but it was still incredibly hard for the visitors to find a way through the home team’s backline.
Norwich remained the team on top and Johnson struck another shot from distance powerfully wide of the Hornets’ post.
The Canaries almost scored a second when Paredes was caught out of position and Hoolahan picked out the run of Grabban, but Gomes rushed out to make a one-handed save.
Another mistake from Paredes almost cost the Golden Boys when he failed to deal with a routine delivery to the far post and Grabban was able to cut the ball back into the box.
Watford could not be accused of a lack of trying but Norwich were utilising their extra man impressively.
Summer signing Kyle Lafferty in particular was having a superb game and was next to send a shot from distance wide moments before the half-time whistle blew.
Lloyd Dyer was introduced at the break in place of McGugan and Watford started well and enjoyed a minute or so of pressure.
But Norwich responded by almost going two ahead as Steven Whittaker’s low cross was almost reached by the sliding Lafferty.
The Hornets’ half-time substitution had their best chance of the match nine minutes after the restart as he was released following a counter-attack but his left-footed shot from 15 yards was parried away by Ruddy.
Hoolahan and Laffety were real threats for Norwich and the two linked up well prior to the latter clipping the roof of the net following a through ball.
It was end-to-end for a while and Watford had another excellent chance when Dyer laid the ball off to Vydra only for his effort to be blocked.
Moments later Johnson reminded the Golden Boys that he couldn’t be allowed too much time outside the area as he forced Gomes into a good save.
The visitors were under real pressure and another Hoolahan pass released Redmond. Gomes saved his shot from close range but the ball ended up at the feet of Grabban.
Watford did not close down the summer signing from Bournemouth quick enough and when they did, they could only deflect his chip from outside the area over Gomes and into the net.
Then, incredibly, 17 seconds later it was 3-0. Tettey was also allowed time on the ball outside the area and he found the near, bottom corner from outside the area.
Watford made an immediate double substitution as Abdi and Vydra made way for Keith Andrews and Fernando Forestieri.
The barrage continued initially before subsiding. But Norwich still controlled most of the possession and arguably should have had a fourth when Leroy Fer picked out Grabban only for the striker to flick the ball over the bar from 12 yards when totally unmarked.
Daniel Tozser found Angella in the box with a cross and he was unable to direct the ball goalwards and Dyer reached the byline following good play from Forestieri. But, in truth, the Golden Boys rarely troubled the Norwich’s defence as the game came to a close.
Redmond and Whittaker struck wayward shots from outside the area and Johnson had a shot from 25 yards saved in the dying moments but the difference remained three.
Norwich: Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Garrido; Tettey (O'Neil 65), Johnson; Redmond, Hoolahan (Fer 73), Lafferty (Bennett 67); Grabban.
Subs not used: Rudd, Loza, Josh Murphy, R Bennett.
Watford: Gomes; Tamas, Ekstrand, Angella; Paredes, Abdi (Andrews 63), Tozser, McGugan (Dyer 45), Pudil; Deeney, Vydra (Forestieri 63).
Subs not used: Bond, Munari, Ighalo, Hoban.
Referee: Paul Tierney.
Attendance: 26,375 (1,470).