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Chelsea loanee Nathaniel Chalobah scores first club goal as Watford beat ten-man Wolverhampton Wanderers
Watford’s impressive November continued as they made it ten points from 12 with a 2-1 win over ten-man Wolverhampton Wanderers to continue their upward momentum.
Little of note happened in the game until midway through the first half when Christophe Berra, incredibly, became the seventh player to be sent off in Watford’s last nine matches when he pulled back Troy Deeney and was adjudged to have denied a clear goalscoring opportunity.
The Hornets capitalised on their numerical advantage before half-time when Fernando Forestieri set up Nathaniel Chalobah to score his first senior goal at club level, only for the ten men to equalise eight minutes after the restart when Manuel Almunia misjudged a Bakary Sako free-kick from distance.
Gianfranco Zola’s men were creating the bulk of the chances though, and they scored what proved to be the winner on 68 minutes when Deeney glanced home a Forestieri cross.
Having surprised many by making five changes for last weeekend’s 6-1 victory at Leeds United, Zola made the same number of alterations again, although one was always going to have to be made following Almen Abdi’s dislocated shoulder.
Perhaps the most unexpected change was Matej Vydra dropping to the bench after his two-goal showing at Elland Road, while Ikechi Anya and Connor Smith were also back among the substitutes. Back came Chalobah, Jonathan Hogg, Forestieri, Deeney and Daniel Pudil following his one-match ban. Alex Geijo was not involved but Steve Beleck was back on the bench for the first time since mid-September.
The match also marked a landmark day for Lloyd Doyley, who became just the 12th player in the club’s history to make 350 starts in all competitions.
Sako offered the first indication of the threat he can carry in the opening minute when he attacked Marco Cassetti and drove in a low cross from the left but Almunia was able to safely gather.
It took the Hornets a little time to get their attacking game going but they almost served up an opening in the seventh minute when some neat one-touch passing in midfield ended with Mark Yeates trying to set Deeney away but Roger Johnson read the pass and was able to cut it out.
The hosts set up the game’s first chance three minutes later when, after Deeney had cut the ball back from the right side of the area and a tame shot had been blocked, those in yellow managed to keep the ball alive to lay it back to Pudil, but he fired over from the edge of the penalty area.
In the main though, the game was cagey and little of note happened until the 26th minute when there was yet another red card in a game involving the Hornets.
This time it was Wolves centre-half Berra who was given his marching orders after clearly tugging back Deeney as he tried to break into the area and Graham Scott adjudged that he had denied a clear goalscoring opportunity. The referee, to his credit, let the Hornets striker get his shot away but when it did not result in a goal he made his decision.
Yeates took the resulting free-kick from the edge of the area but it was relatively tame effort and Carl Ikeme was not duly troubled.
There then followed the predictable reshuffling of his ranks by Wolves boss Stale Solbakken, with former Vicarage Road loanee Jermaine Pennant the man sacrificed in place of Danny Baath.
The Hornets had another opening in the 32nd minute when Forestieri and Deeney set up Hogg, who showed good control to bring the ball down on his left foot but then shot wide of Ikeme’s right-hand post.
But with their next attempt four minutes later, the Hornets made the breakthrough.
Forestieri was the creator, breaking into the left side of the area before teeing up the unmarked Chalobah inside. The on-loan Chelsea youngster’s first effort was straight at Ikeme but the ball squirmed loose under the keeper’s body and Chalobah followed in to net his first senior goal and make it 1-0.
Pudil had a shot deflected over soon after and then, following the resultant corner, Forestieri also cleared the bar from the edge of the area.
The Hornets finished the half strongly, with Chalobah going close to scoring his second from the edge of the area, before Pudil hit a shot across goal and narrowly wide of Ikeme’s left-hand post.
With his team in front and having the opportunity to stretch ten-man Wolves, Zola made a change at the start of the second half, with Vydra replacing Cassetti and switching to a 4-3-3 formation.
The Hornets were quickly out of the traps at the start of the second half and almost scored a second in bizarre fashion when Ikeme dropped a high cross from Yeates and just managed to get to it before the ball bounced over his own line.
Hogg also wasted a good chance when he opened up a shooting opportunity on his left foot, only to slice the effort over the bar.
The Hornets midfielder was booked soon after for a foul on Johnson, only for the visitors to net an unlikely equaliser after 53 minutes.
There was no apparent danger when Wolves were awarded a free-kick some 40 yards out but Almunia badly misjudged the flight of Sako’s set piece and could only help the ball into his own net to make it 1-1.
However, the hosts could have been back in front soon after when Pudil worked a neat give-and-go Vydra that released the left-sided player in the area but he shot straight at Ikeme and was also injured in the process, although he was able to continue after treatment.
But Watford did make their numerical advantage count in the 68th minute when Yeates played in a fine ball from the right following a quickly-taken Forestieri corner and Deeney guided a glancing header wide of Ikeme to make it 2-1.
Yeates made way for Smith before Doyley’s landmark day was ended by injury and he limped off to be replaced by Adam Thompson.
Wolves were by no means a spent force though, and Sako had a shot blocked down before substitute David Davis curled an effort into Almunia’s arms.
But Chalobah could have made the points safe with 11 minutes remaining when he was allowed to advance unchallenged to the area but pulled his shot wide of Ikeme’s right-hand post.
Almunia then had to go to ground to keep out another Davis effort from distance but the hosts safely saw out the remaining minutes to record back-to-back league victories for the first time this season.
Indeed, the Hornets might have added a third with the very last attack of the game when Forestieri picked out Vydra, who had sprinted at full tilt to get up in support, but the Czech international’s first touch let him down as he closed into the area.
Watford: Almunia; Doyley (Thompson 73), Ekstrand, Hoban; Cassetti (Vydra 46), Chalobah, Hogg, Yeates (Smith 71), Pudil; Forestieri, Deeney. Not used: Beleck, Murray, Anya and Bond.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Ikeme; Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward; Pennant (Baath 28), Edwards, Doumbia (Davis 71), Sako; Doyle (Ebanks-Blake 86), Sigurdarson. Not used: Nouble, Forde, De Vries and Foley.
Bookings: Berra sent off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity (26); Hogg for a foul on Johnson (52); Edwards for simulation (78); Pudil for a foul on Stearman (90).
Referee: Graham Scott.