Two wins in their first two games to start the campaign for Watford, looking to keep a perfect start the Premier League, something they had not achieved since the 1998/99 season in the Football League First Division. This week Roy Hodgson brought Crystal Palace to Vicarage Road, more worried about the antics of Harry the Hornet.
For the third game, Javi Gracia sent out an unchanged 4-4-2 formation, as Crystal Palace has traditionally played very well when visiting. This home fixture was the first real defensive test for the Hornets, who have faced the Brighton and Burnley offenses, not known for their prowess on the attacking end of the pitch.
Under a swirling wind and rain, the game got of to a chippy start as Etienne Capoue raked the back of Wilfried Zaha’s ankles, in what appeared to be a two footed challenge. Anthony Taylor was right on top of the play and showed Capoue yellow. Just three minutes later, it was Zaha’s turn as he went over the top of Jose Holebas with his studs.
While the game did settle down, it was Palace on the front foot early with repeated chances in front of Ben Foster. Christian Benteke had two excellent opportunities as a glancing header from Andros Townsend went wide. Moments later, it was Benteke again, unmarked with a shot from six yards out. Foster would make another strong save on Jame McArthur to keep Palace off the board.
Teams went to the break scoreless, with Palace creating the best chances down the right flank with Townsend, but the Watford defense stood their ground, giving their attack a chance to come good in the second 45 minutes.
In a counter attack, Capoue picked up the ball in his own half and drove the length of the pitch, uncontested to find Ricardo Pereyra on the left flank, as he cut back and fired a curling shot past Wayne Hennessey inside the back post to give Watford the 1-0 lead in the 52′.
After a big chance went begging, as Benteke spun and shot wide, Watford was on the attack again with Holebas down the left flank. Cutting back, be put the ball on his right foot, lifting a cross to the back post that found the top corner of the goal, doubling the Hornets lead, 2-0.
It was these sort of games that concerned supporters last year, as defensive lapses caused Watford to drop points. This season has been a bit differently with Foster minding the goal and the same defenders being run out in the first three fixtures.
Max Meyer keyed the Crystal Palace comeback, as he exchanged passes with Zaha of the left, inside the 18-yard box, firing a lower, hard shot past Foster to give the Eagles a lifeline with less than 15 minutes remaining.
Watford slowed play, attempting to keep the ball from Palace. Ken Sema and Issac Success were brought on late to provide some fresh legs and a bit more coverage in the midfield.
A late corner saw an unmarked, Joel Ward connect sending the headed ball just inches wide of Foster’s post in a last ditch effort to draw even.
As Anthony Taylor blew the whistle, Watford had secured their third win in as many games to find themselves top of the Premier League table, on 9-points, next to Liverpool.