Watford 0-3 Norwich City: Premier League – as it happened
Ranieri came out fighting there, and threw the gauntlet down at the feet of his underperforming team. So make of that what you will. Rafa Benitez lost his job last week after losing to Norwich, but Ranieri clearly doesn’t fancy making it two in a row. “At a club with owners not shy of making multiple managerial changes, Ranieri’s future can only be in severe question,” writes John Brewin in his match report. Might be an idea to keep an eye on developments over the next couple of days. Thanks for reading this MBM. Stay safe and warm, everyone. Nighty night.
Claudio Ranieri, less than four months into his reign but under serious pressure already after ten defeats in his 13 games in charge, talks to Sky. “I want to say sorry to our crowd. We wanted to do another kind of match. Yes, OK, the first half was a little good, but after the goal we went down. They deserved to win. It is not possible to lose this kind of match. Psychologically, we have to react. When we are desperate, we react well, so now is the moment to react. I speak every day with the board and we are all together. I am very convinced [we can survive]. Also some players are convinced and fight. Now I have to choose only the players who want to fight. We have to change the mentality, and play as a squad, not as individuals. No player can win alone. Norwich played tonight as a squad. We did not do it.”
Updated at 11.17pm GMT
Now it’s the turn of his manager Dean Smith. “To get the win was the main thing. We wanted to be hard to break down. We always felt with Adam and Teemi we could create something, but it ended up being Sarge who scored the goals! The goal in the second half gave everyone a little lift.” He then goes on to say he initially thought Sargent “sliced” his shot and that the ball didn’t go over the line! “Excellent finish, then!” he admits, upon being shown footage of it for the first time. Tough crowd.
Josh Sargent talks to Sky. “It’s been kind of a blur! To get your first goal, then your second right after is pretty crazy. Obviously a big game for us and a great night overall. It was huge.” As for his outstanding first goal? “I saw Pukki got pushed on and the game was still going, so I made a hard run and it was just a reaction to put my foot up. I knew right away it was in. Not a bad first goal! I’m happy. It’ll boost my confidence a lot. Hopefully we can take that confidence into the next games. Ever since I was young I wanted to play in the Premier League, I knew it was the best league in the world. I kinda fought my way here, and now I’m happy that I’m doing it.”
Updated at 10.18pm GMT
“USA! USA! USA!” The Norwich fans salute Sargent, their all-American hero. Their team have just completed back-to-back victories for only the second time this season, since beating Brentford and Southampton back in November. They’ll be looking to make it a hat-trick at Carrow Road next month against Crystal Palace, and their tails are up. Watford, however, are in the throes of misery, and all of a sudden the visit to Burnley in a fortnight takes on even greater significance. Will Claudio Ranieri still be in situ for that one? With Watford’s trigger-happy owners, nothing is certain.
FULL TIME: Watford 0-3 Norwich City
Josh Sargent, under mostly working floodlights, is Norwich’s two-goal hero! A huge result for Norwich, who are out of the bottom three for the first time this season. Watford drop into it, and are booed off the park by their own fans.
Updated at 10.34pm GMT
90 min +14: On Sky, co-commentator Jamie Carragher names Josh Sargent as his man of the match. It’s impossible to argue. Sargent’s header for the second goal was fine enough, but the opening goal was exquisite. Goal of the season? It could be.
90 min +13: Sema wins a Watford corner. Norwich clear and break, Placheta and Idah launching a two-on-one attack. Placheta has an easy pass to release Idah, but overcooks it. Idah fumes, as well he might. Huge chance to put the tin lid on it.
90 min +11: Hernandez sprays a glorious crossfield ball towards Kucka, racing into the box from the right. Kucka meets the dropping ball first time, hoping to steer a sidefoot into the bottom left. It’s ambitious, and straight at Gunn.
90 min +10: Pedro and Sema combine down the left, but the latter can’t get his cross past Aarons. Norwich appear determined to keep a rare clean sheet. If they manage it, this will have been pretty much a perfect night for Dean Smith’s side.
90 min +8: Watford may as well try anything now, and Hernandez takes a whack from nearly 30 yards. He sends an absurd looping, swerving shot screeching towards the top right. It very nearly drops into the net but twangs off the crossbar instead. What an effort!
90 min +6: King has a dig from 25 yards, dragging a shot wide left. Gunn was behind it all the way.
90 min +5: Norwich, who had just replaced Pukki with Byron, make another change by swapping Rashica for Placheta.
90 min +4: “You’re getting sacked in the morning,” trill fans of the Canaries, as more Watford fans stream out. Given Watford’s willingness to tell their managers to do one, they might not be too far from the truth.
Updated at 10.24pm GMT
GOAL! Watford 0-3 Norwich City (Kucka og 90+2)
Idah works his way down the right and reaches the byline, crossing hard and low. Kucka sticks out a leg to block, but only manages to steer the ball into the bottom right past a rooted Bachmann.
Updated at 10.13pm GMT
90 min: The big reveal. There will be at least 15 added minutes.
90 min: Watford think they’re back in it. The ball’s swung in from the left by Pedro. Sissoko meets the dropping ball and swivels a fine volley across Gunn and into the left-hand side of the goal. But he had gone far too soon, and up goes the flag.
Updated at 9.50pm GMT
89 min: Kiko is replaced by Kucka.
88 min: Watford ping it around in the midfield to little effect, showing admirable patience if nothing else.
86 min: Pukki nearly scraps his way into the Watford box down the inside-right channel while on all fours , nudging the ball along like an excited puppy. And you wonder why Watford have yet to keep a clean sheet all season. The home team break upfield, Pedro sending a long-distance curler inches over the bar. Had that been on target, Gunn probably wasn’t getting there.
85 min: Sema comes on for Kamara.
83 min: A Watford corner comes to nothing. This is a little better from the hosts, though, who need something quickly if they’re to salvage anything from this carnage. Here’s ‘Greengrocer Grant’ Tennille: “Probably not my place to weigh in here given a diagnosed red-green deficiency, but I think the issue with that early 2000s Holland kit was that it veered ever so slightly into the vegetal realm, whereas the iconic Oranje really needs to be a citrus-based riff. To be fair to the KNVB, that was a fairly diabolical era for Nike kits in general.”
Updated at 9.41pm GMT
81 min: King loops a header into the Norwich mixer. Sargent and Gunn confuse each other, and collide. Pedro steers a header over the stricken pair, but Hanley clears off the line. Watford so close to getting back into this game.
Updated at 10.16pm GMT
80 min: A Norwich corner comes in from the left. Samir and Gibson clash. Gibson goes down. VAR checks. Nope. Small mercy for Watford. Vicarage Road is decanting punters at great speed.
Updated at 10.25pm GMT
RED CARD: Dennis (Watford)
78 min: Dennis high-kicks into a 50-50 challenge with Aarons, and catches his man. A second yellow, and he’s walking. This evening is turning into a complete disaster for Watford, with their star man now facing a suspension.
Updated at 9.36pm GMT
77 min: Watford haven’t responded at all to falling two behind. Plenty of stoppage time coming up, of course.
75 min: VAR checks this one for offside - had Rashica gone too early? Nope! This one stands, too, and Sargent, who waited so long for his first Premier League goal of the season, now has two in the London-bus style!
Updated at 9.38pm GMT
GOAL! Watford 0-2 Norwich City (Sargent 73)
Sargent has lit Vicarage Road up, and how! Rashica spins Kiko with ease down the left. He crosses deep. Sargent rises highest and powers a header across Gunn and into the bottom left!
Updated at 10.44pm GMT
71 min: They can’t fix the floodlights. But both managers agree to continue with what’s left ... and that’s more than enough. After a stoppage of 11 minutes and 32 seconds, the players, unlike a few of the Vicarage Road bulbs, are up and running again.
69 min: Sky pundit Gary Neville is beyond livid. “Someone on the Premier League watching this needs to get a message to Mike Dean to get on with this game now, because this is absolutely a nonsense.”
67 min: Sky report that 50 percent of the mains has tripped. Turns out the back-up generator has tripped twice as well. So now they’re trying to fire up a back-up to the back-up. This is a farce. There’s more than enough light to continue playing under, in any case.
65 min: To pantomime cheers, the lights come on again ... then go off again. This is a fiasco.
64 min: The players mill around the pitch looking a tad miserable ... but then, to huge cheers, the generator kicks in and the full set of floodlights comes back on. Then they fall dark again. The crowd roar with laughter. Dean Smith isn’t smiling, though. He needs these three points!
62 min: Play is temporarily suspended. There’s been a loss of mains power to the floodlight, and the back-up generator hasn’t kicked in yet. Is there a sparky in the house?
60 min: One of the floodlights at Vicarage Road flickers, then falls dark. The wits in the Norwich end crack out the cigarette lighters and phone torches. Play is halted for a minute ... or maybe more?
Updated at 9.28pm GMT
58 min: Time for Watford to make an attacking change. Hernandez comes on for Cleverley.
56 min: Norwich are now, as things stand, out of the bottom three for the first time this season.
54 min: Thankfully it stands! What a goal!
53 min: VAR takes a long look, Pukki having put a light hand on Samir’s back. But the defender was going over anyway, looking for a foul, and in any case, if that work of genius and grace was chalked off, we might as well stop watching football for good and take up reading Excel spreadsheets for our weekend entertainment.
Updated at 9.19pm GMT
ASTONISHING GOAL! Watford 0-1 Norwich City (Sargent 51)
From small acorns to a mighty oak! Kabasele’s poor clearance is snatched by McLean, who tries to release Pukki into the box down the inside-right channel. Pukki is pushed too far wide. It looks as though Samir will shepherd the ball out for a goal kick, but Pukki wins a battle on the byline and chips low towards Sargent at the near post. The ball’s behind Sargent, but he improvises, hanging out his right heel and scorpion-kicking an absurdly good effort towards the top right, onto the underside of the bar, and in!
Updated at 10.41pm GMT
49 min: McLean jinks into the Watford box down the right. He can’t get a shot away, but the ball breaks to Pukki on the right-hand corner of the box. Unfortunately for Norwich he’s got no space to work in either, and shanks the ball out for a goal kick. Still, small acorns.
47 min: Kayembe launches long down the middle towards Pedro, but there’s a little too much juice on the ball. Never mind, Watford come again, Sissoko leaving a flailing Lees-Melou in the dust down the left then teeing up the dangerous Pedro, who flashes a rising 25-yard drive inches over the bar. Gunn probably had it covered, though he’d have still had to make a spectacular stop. Good start to the half by Watford.
Watford get the second half underway. No changes.
Half-time postbag. “I’ve been spending the best part of 20 minutes trying to figure out the colour of the Norwich kit,” begins Espen B. “You described it as their third-choice red but as a Liverpool fan I think I know red and I’m not sure that fluorescent Norwich thing qualifies. And yes, I should have better things to do than ponder kit colours but when you are not emotionally invested and the game is somewhat lacking in entertainment value, that’s what happens.” No, fair’s fair, it’s been driving me up the wall as well. I initially described it as orange, then changed it to red, before hunting down the official literature which describes it as “fluorescent coral”. If they say so. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the kit Holland wore in the early 2000s that for some hard-to-define reason didn’t look right at all. I have no answers.
Updated at 9.03pm GMT
HALF TIME: Watford 0-0 Norwich City
Watford have let in 37 goals so far this season, Norwich a mammoth 45. So it’s goalless at half-time. Of course it is.
45 min +2: King crosses low from the right. Sissoko stretches and swings from six yards. The ball flies off his boot, miles left. Big chance.
Updated at 9.05pm GMT
45 min +1: Pedro sashays into the Norwich box down the right, gliding past a couple of half-hearted Norwich challenges. He pokes for the bottom right. Gunn claims. Kiko suggests he was better placed in the middle and should have received a pass, and gets a mouthful of abuse in return. An unambiguous EFF OFF is delivered with great feeling.
45 min: There will be two added minutes of this fairly forgettable first half.
44 min: Idah tries to bustle clear down the right and is barged to the ground. He should be awarded a free kick, which would allow Norwich to load the box and put some rare pressure on Watford, but he doesn’t get one. He batters the turf in understandable frustration.
42 min: There have been plenty of hearty challenges so far, without the match being particularly dirty or ill-tempered. The tension of the relegation battle, right here.
40 min: Norwich could do with hearing the half-time whistle. Watford have had 84 percent of possession in the last five minutes.
39 min: Dennis cuts into the Norwich box from the left and goes over in the environs of Lees-Melou. The crowd scream for a penalty, and VAR has a look, but the correct decision appears to have been made. We play on.
38 min: You could make a case for a red for Dennis, but it was clumsy and the contact wasn’t particularly egregious, so yellow is probably about right. McLean is rather more unlucky to see yellow here, after a garden variety coming together with Cleverley in the midfield.
36 min: Kayembe sprays a pass wide left for Dennis, who draws Aarons and slips Kamara into space on the overlap. Kamara’s cross is half cleared to Dennis, who miscontrols, then lunges after the ball. He connects with Lees-Melou, scraping his shin with a stud or three. Lees-Melou crashes to the floor and rolls across the turf in spectacular fashion. Norwich want a red, but it’s just a yellow.
34 min: Cleverley floats a dismal effort into the hands of Gunn. Not a banner 60 seconds for the Watford midfielder.
33 min: King jinks down the right and threads a brilliant pass between a couple of converging orange shirts to find Cleverley on the edge of the box. Instead of shooting, Cleverley shuttles it wide left for Dennis, who wasn’t ready to receive a pass. Dennis turns tail, then draws a free kick from Lees-Melou, 30 yards out. Cleverley to take.
32 min: Kiko crosses from the right and forces Gibson to head behind for a corner. From the set piece, Samir wins an header on the penalty spot, unmarked, but he can’t get any power behind his header, which floats harmlessly into the welcoming arms of Gunn.
Updated at 8.45pm GMT
30 min: ... then Dennis cuts inside from the left and tries to find a team-mate with a cheeky dink into the box, but it’s difficult to see who he was looking for, and Norwich clear easily enough. This is Watford’s best period of pressure, though.
29 min: Dennis strips Williams and drives down the right. He rolls inside for Sissoko, whose low bash is blocked by Hanley.
27 min: Kiko fires an absurdly strong backpass towards his keeper Bachmann, who does well under severe pressure from Pukki to find Kamara to his left. Kamara draws a foul from Sargent, and the danger has been dealt with. Watford, may we remind you, have yet to keep a clean sheet this season.
25 min: Kamara plays a dangerous high pass across the face of his own penalty area. Kiko gets his team-mate out of bother by rising to head clear, and drawing a clumsy foul from Rashica.
23 min: Kiko forces a pass down the right for Pedro, who despite slipping wins a corner off Williams. This one’s kosher. Pedro meets the set piece himself but can’t steer a header on target.
21 min: That sore leg does for Sorensen, who can’t continue. McLean comes on in his place. “Does anyone else in the geriatric wing of your readership remember Graham Taylor’s wonderful coaching pages in a 70s football magazine called Kick-Off?” asks Justin Kavanagh. “Did I like that, as the great man might have said. I remember him brilliantly dissecting Italy’s winning goal against Argentina in the 78 World Cup. A 1-0 scoreline which tonight’s Italian on the sidelines would happily accept.”
19 min: Cleverley’s speculative long-range shot is deflected wide right off a Norwich leg. Gunn gathers on the byline, but despite a portion of the ball staying on the whitewash, a corner is awarded. Fortunately nothing comes of it, or we’d never hear the end of it.
18 min: Williams slides into Dennis, who was hoping to make off down the right at pace. He’s very fortunate not to go into the book, though he does receive a mighty bollocking from Mike Dean. One more and he’s in.
Updated at 8.37pm GMT
16 min: Watford finally show in attack. Kamara makes ground down the left and swings a deep cross towards the far post. Dennis gets up high, in the hope of heading goalwards. The ball skims off the top of his head, and it turns out he’d been clambering all over Williams anyway.
14 min: The sore leg gets a rub and a spray and a slap, and Sorensen’s back up and running.
13 min: Sorensen is down with a sore leg.
12 min: Sargent and Rashica combine again, the former pouncing on a poor Sissoko clearance and teeing up the latter, who attempts to send a power curler into the top right. It’s always heading high and wide.
11 min: Sargent slips the ball wide left for Rashica, who tries to return it with a sliderule pass down the channel. Nearly, but not quite, Kabasele intercepting.
9 min: Pukki somehow manages to fire a low cross in from a tight spot near the right-hand corner flag. Idah clearly didn’t expect the ball to get through, and he’s late to the party, allowing Gunn to snaffle near the right-hand post.
7 min: See 5 min. This match hasn’t quite taken shape yet, but if anyone’s having the better of it, it’s Norwich.
5 min: This match is being played at 101 miles per hour, with a following wind to boot. Plenty of crisp tackles flying in, too.
3 min: Rashica blasts a witless free kick straight into the wall. Watford clear their lines easily enough. Pedro then cops a whack in the mush from Sargent’s shoulder, but it’s totally accidental, and he’s up again soon enough.
Updated at 8.19pm GMT
2 min: It’s a fast start by Norwich, and now Idah storms down the inside-left channel. Sissoko hangs out a leg and brings his man down, just to the left of the D. Big chance coming up for the visitors.
Eight seconds: Sargent bustles down the right and enters the box. He’s dispossessed by Kayembe, then falls over, chancing his arm with a penalty claim. Nope, but full marks for chutzpah. What a start that would have been, though.
Norwich get the party started ... but only after everyone takes the knee. Warm applause greets the gesture. There’s no room for racism.
Z-Cars blasts from the PA system, and out come the teams! Watford are in first-choice yellow and black, which means Norwich sport third-choice “fluorescent coral”. Anticipation crackles around Vicarage Road, as does a firework display. The fans meanwhile raise their scarves in annual tribute to their much-loved and much-missed former manager Graham Taylor. This will be the 100th league meeting between Watford (32 wins) and Norwich (38 wins). A 30th draw in the series would be no good to either of them, so hopefully we’re about to witness a high-tension cracker. We’ll be off in a minute!
Updated at 8.15pm GMT
Pre-match optimism/pessimism (depending on how you hold it up to the light): “It’s a miserable, wet morning here in Queensland, appropriate weather to match my mood,” begins Phil Withall. “For the first time this season I am nervous before a Norwich match. Up to now I’ve been shrouded in the warm embrace of resigned acceptance that we aren’t going to stay up but now, against all logic, we could be out of the relegation spots and it scares me. Fortunately I’m about to start work and won’t be able to watch the game, yet the nerves will still be as tight as a watch spring.”
Dean Smith’s turn. “We’ve only won back to back games once this season, and we want to do that again, and follow the positive performance against Everton. It’s given everyone a spring in their step. Angus Gunn is ready. He’s played a couple of games already this season but didn’t have the protection in front of him. He wasn’t well protected against Arsenal and Palace but will be today. We have a gameplan that we think will get us the three points.”
Claudio Ranieri talks to Sky Sports. “It’s a crucial match, of course. We are in a relegation battle and we have to fight from the first until the end of the match. The last match was good. We conceded a stupid goal, but created a lot of chances, and it was very important. Tonight will be a very good match because Norwich play well, and we play well. It’s an important match. I get crazy, because we have very good strikers. I am an Italian, I do not want to concede goals. But if we have to win 3-2, it is OK!” A ringing endorsement of his defenders, there, though to be fair Watford are the only team in England’s top four divisions yet to earn a clean sheet.
Updated at 8.09pm GMT
Watford make four changes to their starting XI. Daniel Bachmann replaces Ben Foster in goal, Kiko Femenia and Christian Kabasele replace Jeremy Ngakia and the ill Craig Cathcart in defence, and Tom Cleverly is preferred to Juraj Kucka in midfield.
Norwich make just one change from the side that beat Everton, and it’s an enforced one. Angus Gunn replaces Tim Krul, who has injured his shoulder, in goal. It’ll be Gunn’s fifth appearance for Norwich in all competitions this season, and he’ll hope it goes better than the last three, a 0-3 League Cup defeat to Liverpool and Premier League losses to Arsenal (0-5) and Crystal Palace (0-3). He kept a clean sheet in the other game, though, Norwich beating Bournemouth 6-0 in the League Cup.
Watford: Bachmann, Femenia, Kabasele, Samir, Kamara, Sissoko, Kayembe, Cleverley, Dennis, King, Joao Pedro.
Subs: Ngakia, Sema, Fletcher, Tufan, Hernandez, Sierralta, Kucka, Elliot, Morris.
Norwich City: Gunn, Aarons, Hanley, Gibson, Williams, Sargent, Sorensen, Lees-Melou, Rashica, Idah, Pukki.
Subs: Byram, Dowell, Placheta, Kabak, Tzolis, McLean, Giannoulis, McGovern, Rowe.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).
In which Watford, coming off the back of a deserved point at Newcastle, and Norwich, fresh from beating Everton, try to put a little distance between themselves and the bottom three. Kick off is at 8pm GMT. It’s on!