First Team 12/05/2019

Gracia: “It Wasn't A Foul”

Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below for his thoughts from his press conference.

Javi Gracia was animated as he had been in any press conference this season when asked for his opinion on the gut-wrenching red card shown to José Holebas.

The left-back was sent off in the 48th minute by referee Chris Kavanagh on the say-so of assistant referee Dan Cook after a hand on the shoulder of Michail Antonio sent the West Ham United forward crashing to the ground.

Holebas couldn't believe he had been shown a straight red and he knew straight away it would rule him out of the cup final, the biggest game of his career. The Head Coach initially refused to be drawn into criticising the official but he then launched into a passionate defence of his Greek defender.

“I kept the same attitude I've had all season,” he said. “I don't want to change with the last one. I prefer to be respectful. I think in this moment I don't want to say what I am thinking about that, but I only say I can't believe a player will miss the final for that play. For that contact, I can't believe it. Maybe it was a light foul, maybe a soft foul but I can't agree with that [decision].”

Gracia was so sure about what he saw, so clear it was the wrong call that he refused to even discuss that Holebas will miss the final. An appeal will be lodged. 

“It wasn't a foul,” he said. “It wasn't a foul. There was a lot of fouls in the game. It was same with the action with Torreira [against Arsenal]. In the next games there were similar actions and it wasn't even a yellow card. It wasn't a yellow card and for sure it wasn't a red. After two days, they say it is possible it [other sendings off] were a mistake, but I don't want that.”

As well as the loss of Holebas, Gracia had to stomach slipping from 11th to tenth and finishing in the bottom half of the table, which doesn't really reflect how well his side have played for most of the season.

“In my opinion, it not so important to finish 11th, 10th or ninth,” he said. “Obviously we prefer to finish as high as possible, but we have to know how we can improve our play to compete better in the next game, the final. In the last games we didn't keep the same level as before. I would like to see the best face of my team. I am sure my players know how important that game is. I have no doubt they will give their best. We are angry and sad but tomorrow we'll start to recover. I'm sure all of them will be ready.”

First Team 12/05/2019

Deulofeu: “We Will Fight With All Our Heart”

Gerard Deulofeu says Watford will “fight with all our heart” to end the season with the FA Cup trophy.

The Hornets brought the curtain down on their Premier League campaign with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of West Ham at Vicarage Road but all eyes are now on next Saturday’s trip to Wembley.

There, Watford will face the newly-crowned league champions, after Manchester City secured the title with victory at Brighton.

The Golden Boys, meanwhile, had to settle for 11th place in the table, a frustrating result given they were in the hunt for seventh for much of the season.

But Deulofeu is optimistic the Hornets can still end the campaign on the highest of highs with success at the national stadium on Saturday.

“It is one game against City and anything can happen,” he said. “We know our characteristics – we will fight with all our heart and as hard as we can for the trophy.

“We will fight all the way through what will be an amazing battle.

“It is a final and we have the opportunity to reach Europe and make history. We will go full power in this final game of the season.”

It was Deulofeu’s goal seconds into the second half that brought renewed hope to Watford after goals from Hammers duo Maerk Noble and Manuel Lanzini had given the visitors a 2-0 advantage.

The Spaniard latched onto Pablo Zabaleta’s loose pass to round Lukasz Fabianski and roll the ball into an empty net.

But, after Jose Holebas was sent off for a foul on Michail Antonio, West Ham extended their lead via Noble and Marko Arnautovic to condemn Watford to defeat.

“We started really badly, conceding the two goals,” added Deulofeu. “We have to be stronger. We have to be more aggressive, more angry.

“We got one goal back but after Jose was sent off, the game was done.”