Watford 0-1 Crystal Palace: Five takeaways

Watford conceded their first goal at home in a rather unexciting match on Sunday thanks to a penalty taken by Yohan Cabaye, launching Crystal Palace into the top half of the table. Quique Sanchez Flores’ men kept themselves in the game with an impressive defensive showing for the most part, but an unwise tackle by Allan Nyom just inside the box sealed Crystal Palace’s victory.

Dull game between equally-matched teams

The afternoon match at Vicarage Road was far from flashy as the two sides chose to play with caution. Watford took time to build up and maintain possession, whereas Crystal Palace played to their strengths focussing on counterattacks through the channels.

Overall, the match was untidy and somewhat predictable: the Hornets, who are currently the joint second-lowest scorers in the Premier League, failed to finish any of their chances, and the Eagles put in many crosses from open play but failed to score on any of them. It was certainly a contrast to the goal-scoring frenzy of Saturday, with 35 goals in eight top-flight games.

The Sunday match was calmer, lacking flair, but there were a few note-worthy shots and plenty of free kicks to go around, and the visitors left the game more confident. As Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew noted after the match, “It was not great entertainment but it helped [the players] grow in confidence, and in the end we found pockets to exploit.”

Familiar patterns for Palace: cross, counter attack, win away

As previously mentioned, there was a certain air of predictability about the match overall as Crystal Palace fell into their usual patterns. Palace were quick on the counter attack, allowing Watford most of the possession until they could work the ball down the flanks. Despite the predictability of their style, Palace did well on the break;their best efforts were results of quickly shifting the ball from the defence to the flanks and crossing it in, as per usual.

Dwight Gayle’s 60th minute shot was the result of a counter attack down the left flank which was beautifully crossed to the striker, who beat his defender but was denied by the woodwork.

Likewise, the foul on Wilfried Zaha came after Brede Hangeland ran the ball from box to box down the left flank, where it was then knocked around at the top of the box until it made its way out to Zaha on the left.

The Eagles have made 120 crosses from open play this season, 19 of which were made against Watford on Sunday, and only one of those crosses has resulted in a goal so far. Gayle’s first shot should have been a goal as he had both Craig Cathcart and goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes beaten, but the striker could not put the ball between the goalposts. For all their crosses from open play, their one goal of the match came not off of a cross, but from the spot.

Cabaye’s goal allowed Palace to continue their impressive record of nine wins out of 12 away games played under Alan Pardew. As long as their opponents continue failing to anticipate their predictable counter attacking style Palace can continue to scrape through wins away from home.

Watford’s defence remains stubborn

Prior to Sunday’s match, Watford had yet to concede at home this term. Other than a few mistakes, the Hornets’ defense looked resilient again yesterday with the only goal being a penalty.

The obvious weak link in the back line this weekend was Nyom, who was beaten several times on the right. The game reached its lowest point for Nyom when an ill-advised challenge on Zaha just inside of the box earned him a booking and Palace their winning goal. However, despite Nyom being somewhat of a chink in Watford’s armour, the home team managed to keep the game scoreless for 70 minutes and guarded the back well after the penalty.

Wilfried Zaha: The 70th minute hero

Sako had a good game, setting up opportunities and making runs down the left, but Zaha proved the difference when he was substituted on for Sako in the 62nd minute. He added pace and directness to the game that his side needed, and he lured Nyom into a reckless challenge that decided the game.

Zaha came off the bench strong despite losing his place in the first team, and Pardew lauded him for his attitude, saying, “he’s reacted in the best possible way,” and adding that, “With Yannick Bolasie and Bakary Sako, competition is fierce and you are under pressure.”

Zaha responded well to that pressure to revive the goalless game and earn the Man of the Match award.

Missed scoring opportunities for Watford

Watford certainly held their own during the first 70 goalless minutes and had a few close attempts on goal, the most notable of which were Jose Manuel Jurado’s free kick, which hit the woodwork, and Troy Deeney’s attempt to put the rebound in the back of the net with his head.Despite a well put together Eagles defense, Watford certainly possessed the ability to beat the back line and score. However, the home team failed to utilize Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney enough.

Watford’s lack of goalscoring prowess against Palace comes as no shock, as the Hornets have only bagged five goals in seven Premier League games so far this season, sharing a spot with Newcastle United as the second-lowest scoring team in their division.