Selhurst Park was stunned by a Watford comeback, as a battling Hornets side score twice in the second half to snatch a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.

An unfortunate Craig Cathcart own goal had given Palace a first half lead, but the defender equalised for the Hornets after the restart, before Tom Cleverley smashed a volley in to claim the victory.

Neither side really shone during the tepid affair, but Watford plugged away and carved out two chances to earn their first victory of 2019.

There was a frantic start to the game, with the visitors creating opportunities to find the net right from the off.

A Jose Holebas free kick gave Etienne Capoue and Troy Deeney chances to score from the edge of the box, but both their efforts were blocked by the Palace defenders.

Then, in the third minute, both Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra should have had the Hornets in front.

First, the former Barcelona man gave himself a wonderful opportunity when he nipped the ball between the legs of Tomkins to give himself a one on one, but he placed his effort against the foot of the post.

The same up-right denied Pereyra on the follow up, when it seemed easier to score, leaving the Hornets rueing their profligacy.

Palace then created their first attacking moment of the game in the 10th minute, when Cheikhou Kouyate raked a pass across the field to Patrick Van Aanholt, who slipped a pass into the path of Wilfired Zaha on the left wing.

He performed his usual trick of cutting inside on his right, but fired a tame shot straight at Ben Foster for an easy save.

The Hornets were then forced into a change much earlier than they would have liked.

Will Hughes was replaced, after much deliberation between the midfielder and the Watford physio team, with Ken Sema taking his place.

The game then slowed right down and chances were at a premium.

Jordan Ayew perhaps could have done better for the home side, after he was picked out by a deep Luka Milivojevic delivery, but instead he headed wildly over the top, while Kouyate’s strike five minutes later was higher and wilder still.

The home side looked stronger though and more likely to score at this stage, but lacked guile in the final third.

Meanwhile Watford’s threat on the counter-attack was noticeable, but they too seemed to lack decisiveness in attacking areas.

The Hornets then tried to change their fortunes a bit and produced a couple of hairy moments for the Eagles.

On 33 minutes Mamadou Sakho, nearly gifted the Hornets a goal when Pereyra’s cross deflected off Milivojevic.

The defender swung a lazy boot at the ball, almost diverting it into his own net, but his blushes were spared when it went wide of the mark.

Two minutes later a Deeney header after a Holebas overlap put the ball just wide of Guaita’s goal, but had it been on target, the lack of power would have made it a comfortable save for the keeper.

Then the first goal of the game arrived and it was one befitting of the game’s lack of quality.

Foster initially climbed well to tip a Tomkins header over the bar, but the resulting corner created a huge scramble in the penalty area and as Doucoure tried to clear the ball away, his powerful strike of the ball cannoned off Craig Cathcart, diverting it back over the line.

Deulofeu nearly equalised just moments after following a mazy run down the field, but his effort was shanked wide of the goal.

Palace had to change their goalkeeper just before half time, as Guaita seemed to overstretch himself to claim a cross and he was replaced by Wayne Hennessey.

There was still time for Foster to be called into action once more before the break.

Luka Milivojevic charged down a loose Kiko Femenia clearance and his first time strike ricocheted off Adrian Mariappa, forcing Foster to scramble across his goal line to claim the ball and send the Hornets in a goal down at the interval.

Just three minutes after the restart Foster was busy again when Zaha started to play with a bit more freedom.

First the winger was gifted a chance by a Watford tackle that cancelled out his offside position, but Foster was quick off his line to produce a fine save low down.

Then Zaha twisted his way past a couple of Hornets defenders after a neat through ball by Eagles’ skipper Milivojevic, before blazing over the top from a tight angle.

The Hornets struggled to get a grip in the game and though they always looked capable of mounting counter attacks, their surges forward lacked both creativity and were stifled with ease by the Palace defenders.

Meanwhile at the other end, the Eagles' forwards were growing in confidence with every attack, with Zaha and Van Aanholt linking up well on the left flank, urged on by the rhythms and ever-increasing volume of the home fans.

Just after the hour mark Milivojevic had Foster working hard again, as he unleashed a volley from considerable distance at the goal.

The Hornets’ keeper did well to thwart the effort and was fortunate that the Palace attackers following in were in an offside position.

Watford head coach Javi Gracia was starting to cut a frustrated figure on the Watford bench as the travelling supporters were reduced to cheering corners, with the game looking to be getting away from them.

Conversely, the home side looked solid at the back and rarely looked threatened, until the most unlikely of equalisers came with 22 minutes remaining when Cathcart added his name to the score sheet for a second time. 

A Holebas corner, the result of an unthreatening move forward, saw the defender climb unmarked at the back post to nod a training ground routine past Hennessey, setting up an exciting end to the game.

First it was Crystal Palace who ought to have put themselves back in front, after a driving run from Zaha saw James McArther lunge at the back post, with an empty net in front of him.

He failed to make contact and watched as the ball bobbled agonisingly wide of the mark.

Then Deeney thought he had his side ahead, when his effort looked destined for the net.

Unfortunately for the Watford skipper, it was cleared off the line, with Wan-Bissaka the hero for Palace on this occasion.

Watford’s first-half substitute Sema had a difficult time acclimatising to the game after his late introduction and was duly removed by Gracia and replaced by Cleverley.

The former Manchester United man would go on to produce a rare moment of quality in the game to put the Hornets ahead with quarter of an hour left on the clock.

A cross into the box once again caused havoc, before the midfielder connected with a Milivojevic clearance ever-so-sweetly to volley into the top corner, leaving Hennessey completely flat-footed and putting the Hornets in front.

Zaha let Watford know they were still in a contest just a minute later when he drilled a shot across goal, narrowly missing the target.

However, the Hornets were buoyed by their lead and fought doggedly at the back to hold on to the three points, Foster epitomising their battling attitude as he threw himself at the feet of Zaha to smother a late shot and any further hope for the home side.



Foster; Femenia, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue, Hughes (Sema 18, Cleverley 68); Pereyra (Masina 92), Deeney ©, Deulofeu

SUBS: Gomes, Britos, Success, Quina


Guaita (Hennessey 43); Van Aanholt, Tomkins, Sakho, Wan Bissaka (Benteke 78); Milivojevic ©, McArthur, Kouyate; Townsend, Ayew (Schlupp 83), Zaha

SUBS: Ward, Meyer, Wickham, Kelly