Having won consecutive games for the first time this season, Cardiff’s away trip to Vicarage Road poised their most challenging opponents yet, Watford had won six of their previous seven home games, having remained unbeaten at home since their defeat to Manchester City. The Bluebirds flew the Hornet’s nest victorious, evading a nasty sting, handing the home team a 1-0 defeat.
Harris named an unchanged starting eleven to the two previous victories, which scored 7 goals and kept two consecutive clean sheets. Welsh forward Kieffer Moore came into the game high on goal-scoring confidence, netting four goals in his last four outings.
Watford, under Vladimir Ivić, brought in four changes from their drab goalless draw away at Nottingham Forest. William Troost-Ekong replaced the experienced Craig Cathcart, while Ken Sema and Tom Cleverley came into the midfield. Lining up in an unconventional 4-4-2, former Swansea defender Ben Wilmot rounded off the lineup at fullback, the Bluebirds searching for revenge after the defender scored the winner in the South Wales derby the season prior.
Playing in front of a crowd for the first time since March, there was reason to believe that the home side would be spurred into a vapid start. Even with the home support making themselves heard, the Bluebirds were the ones who began the fastest. The ever-industrious Mark Harris was making a nuisance of himself, pressing the Watford defence high, and forcing errors to win possession. Harry Wilson found himself on the end of a pass from his compatriot, seeing his, and the games, first effort deflected wide.
The Hornets grew into the game, buzzing around the Cardiff box, unable to find that penetrating pass through City’s resolute defence.
The visitors did receive warning of Watford’s dynamism, ￡27 million man Ismaïla Sarr playing a beautiful no-look pass in behind Cardiff’s Joe Bennett, with highly-rated João Pedro slotting an effort inches wide of the post. A welcome let-off for the visitors, with the Brazilian having scored five prior to this game already.
However, the Bluebirds spurred on, their continued pressure accumulating in a Kieffer Moore header being nodded over the bar.
The game became very stretched, both teams stringing together attacking potent. City’s defensive woes of old had seemingly been resolved, with excellent work from Curtis Nelson and Alex Smithies in the box, the latter showing bravery in clearing the ball, taking out City captain Sean Morrison in the process.
Unfazed, the skipper was involved in City’s next opportunity, rifling a perfect Joe Ralls corner wide of the post.
Able to nullify the attacking threat of the Hornets, Cardiff found themselves troubling the newly-relegated Premier League outfit more frequently. And, just minutes before the interval, City deservedly lead.
From another dangerous Ralls corner, Morrison showed his physicality in another aerial duel, with the subsequent ball falling perfectly to the feet of Moore. The striker, being in excellent goal-scoring form, made no mistake, swiveling on his left, powering his effort into the far right of Ben Foster’s net. The 6″5 danger man had now scored his eighth goal of the season, proving to be worth every penny of his two million pound price tag.
Halftime: Watford 0-1 Cardiff City
3 minutes after the break, City surely would’ve found themselves with a two-goal cushion, Bennett finding space up the left flank, whipping a delightful cross to the back post where Wilson was poised to nod it in, however a last-ditch clearance from Sema taking it from under the Welshman’s nose.
Imperious, the Bluebirds flew forward on the counter-attack, their attacking formation taking advantage of the stretched Watford defence. Leandro Bacuna, who was growing in confidence every game, found Moore in space, who’s first time effort was blocked well, although suspicions of any handball were turned away by referee Steve Martin.
The second half gave the hosts plenty more territory, often finding themselves camped in the City final third. Though having plenty of set-piece opportunities, Ivić’s side were unable to capitalise.
However, Watford were knocking on the door, and be-it not for a captain’s block from Morrison, they would’ve found themselves with an equalizer through Domingos Quina, drifting into space, with the skipper denying him with a perfect sliding challenge.
Half-efforts from Pedro, Sarr and Hughes looked to trouble Cardiff’s clean sheet, the Bluebirds uncharacteristically switching off from the opposition set-piece, however the most dangerous of the three being smothered well by Smithies.
The Hornets swarmed incessantly, compiling more pressure on the away side’s defence. Stipe Perica’s header from six yards out appeared more difficult to miss, putting his effort over the bar, spurning Watford’s final opportunity to keep their unbeaten home record intact.
As a result, Cardiff successfully held on to their victory, making it three in a row for Neil Harris’ men, proving to be some turnaround in form for the Welsh outfit. They will take this momentous away victory onto Tuesday evening in Stoke, looking to build confidence before the small task of a South Wales derby next weekend.
Watford, having slumped to their first home defeat of the season, will look for a response against strugglers Rotherham.
Fulltime: Watford 0-1 Cardiff City
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