Match Report: Watford 2-3 Everton
By Kevin Affleck
Well, this result will take some explaining in years to come.
Seemingly heading towards a fourth home win in five matches when they forged a two-goal lead inside 42 minutes with goals from Adam Masina and Roberto Pereyra, the course of this corkscrewing season decisively changed again when Yerry Mina, who had scored one goal in 41 previous appearances for the Toffees, scored two in first-half injury time. Not done there, the visitors completed the comeback by this time scoring at the end of normal time through Theo Walcott to land a painful, painful blow on the crestfallen Golden Boys. The defeat at Villa Park was bad but this was absolutely gut-wrenching. It was difficult to work out how Everton drew level in the blink of an eye let alone how they won it at the death.
You feared it might be one of those days, those ones where it is difficult to establish any fluency on such a blustery day. Christian Kabasele, in for the injured Craig Dawson, was charged down straight from kick-off by Dominic Calvert-Lewin and then Craig Cathcart skewed one into the stand. You thought, 'Oh, here we go'.
Things got better, though, much better. Less than two minutes after Kabasele was a whisker away from connecting with a Masina corner came the opening goal after nine minutes – and what a goal it was. It was the sort of team goal Pearson would have loved, a length-of-the-field effort that spoke of the collective rather than the individual. There was a tackle from Kabasele to kick it off, a neat piece of skill from Pereyra to carry it on, a cross-field pass from Étienne Capoue to give it momentum, a neat lay-off from Gerard Deulofeu and then a cracking finish from Masina into the bottom corner. The left-back won the Player of the Month vote earlier this week. Now he has a mighty strong contender for goal of the season award, too.
Everything was going right for the Hornets. They won a free-kick for a handball by Gylfi Sigurdsson when Troy Deeney seemed to have fouled the Icelander; Masina got a big cheer just for ducking and letting a cross go over his head; Deulofeu was seen furiously chasing down a back pass and pressurising Jordan Pickford while Pereyra was involved in a bit of running battle with Lucas Digne.
Pereyra is not in the side for his muscle, more for his finesse and he caressed one in three minutes before half-time to seemingly give the Hornets a vice-like grip on proceedings. It was difficult, at this stage, to see how this would not end up as a convincing home win.
Think again. Mina scored in the first minute of first-half stoppage time and if that felt like it took the wind out the team's sails just before the break, then his second three minutes later knocked the stuffing out of the hosts. The game had turned on its head in the space of 270 madcap seconds.
It could have been worse at the start of the second period as Everton, now firmly with the momentum, carried on where they left off. A defensive header bounced off Cathcart and crept just over the bar, and then Kabasele was forced to be at full stretch to intercept another dangerous cross into the box. Even Ben Foster's kicking went awry momentarily. The Hornets needed to steady things and sharpish.
Nigel Pearson sort to alter the dynamic of this one by making a significant tactical tweak, replacing Nathaniel Chalobah with Danny Welbeck and switching to a classic 4-4-2. It was a bold move by the Head Coach and spoke volumes of his desire to run the risk of losing this one trying to win it. Welbeck added real energy and looked sharp, producing a nice bit of skill in front of The Graham Taylor Stand and then a crowd-pleasing charge-down on the opposite side.
The chances of grabbing a last-minute winner increased when Fabian Delph was sent off with 19 minutes remaining for a second yellow card. It did not feel as clear a case as the second yellow Tyrone Mings probably deserved at Villa Park, but it was a decision gratefully received nonetheless, particularly after recent red cards at home for Adrian Mariappa and Kabasele. This was the Hornets' moment to seize the initiative.
Pearson absolutely went for broke, chucking on Isaac Success and then Ignacio Pussetto in search of a winner. That left one or two gaps at the other end and Everton exploited them, and a bit of a lack of game management by the home side, to score one on the break at the death. The Everton fans went absolutely wild. They couldn't believe it as their team was dead and buried just before half-time. To say the goal was a disappointment was an understatement. How on earth did the team lose this one? Now we'll really see what they are made of.
HORNETS: Foster; Mariappa, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina; Capoue. Chalobah (Welbeck 57), Doucouré; Deulofeu (Pussetto 82), Deeney, Pereyra (Success 75).
Subs not used: Gomes, Holebas and Hughes.