OPINION: Five thoughts following Watford's 4-2 win over West Ham
(The London Stadium before yesteday's game)
Watford became the first away Premier League team to win at the London Stadium, as they came back from 2-0 down to defeat West Ham 4-2 in what was a pulsating affair.
The match was played at a relentless pace throughout and the Hammers came flying out of the blocks, with Michail Antonio nodding Slaven Bilic's men ahead in the 5th minute.
Daryl Janmaat then came inches away from scoring an own goal moments later as his attempted back pass crashed against the post.
The Hornets countered straight after though and had a great chance to score themselves, but Odion Ighalo's shot was blocked by a last ditch tackle by Arthur Masuaku.
However, the Hammers' dominance continued and they doubled their advantage on the half hour mark, with Dimitri Payet's sublime 'rabona' cross being nodded home by the unmarked Antonio.
That looked to be that and for Watford it was surely a question of damage limitation.
However, the Hornets rallied and got back on level terms before half time, thanks to Odion Ighalo's deflected strike and Troy Deeney's sublime finish.
That kick started the Golden Boys and they never looked back from there. Inside 20 minutes of the second half, Walter Mazzarri's men had made it four, thanks to a superb volley from Etienne Capoue and a powerful strike from Jose Holebas which was too hot for West Ham goalkeeper Adrian to handle.
In truth Watford could have score more than four, with Roberto Pereyra and Isaac Success seeing shots saved by Adrian. Stefano Okaka thought he had scored on his debut but his strike was ruled out for offside.
Having attended yesterday's frantic match, here are five of my thoughts:
1 - What. A. Game!!
Wow! That is all I could say at the end of the match. I'm still buzzing as I'm writing this blog post right now. What a game this proved to be. It had everything and Watford fans went from despair to pure elation inside half-an-hour. Games like these one only come about now and again. They are ones which you can say 'I was there.' It was a privilege to be at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday and I and many other Watford fans were full of pride at the end of the game. West Ham pulverised the Hornets inside the first half-an-hour and they were 2-0 ahead thanks to a double from Michail Antonio. The Hornets had looked threatening attacking wise, but defensively they were a mess. They were exposed by the width Payet and Antonio provided and were made to pay for some rather poor defending.
However, it seemed like the second goal woke Watford up. Mazzarri changed the formation and the players responded by producing one of the most memorable fight-backs Watford fans have ever seen. The players dug in and rewarded the fans in the away end with a superb performance, which saw the Golden Boys produce some fantastic football. With five minutes to go before half-time, Odion Ighalo pulled one back for the Hornets, as his deflected strike found the back of the net. As referee Martin Atkinson was just about to blow the half-time whistle, the Golden Boys were level in some style. Troy Deeney looked like he was chasing down a lost cause but a defensive mix-up gifted him the ball. With Adrian away from his goal, Deeney audaciously lobbed the goalkeeper and the ball dropped into the top corner. It was a sublime finish and it arguably hasn't received the coverage it deserves.
After half-time, Walter Mazzarri's men stepped it up another level and they scored 2 more goals in 18 minutes through Etienne Capoue and Jose Holebas. Watford fans were in dreamland and the margin of victory could have been more, as Pereyra and Success both had chances to add the cherry on top of the Watford cake. In truth, the Hornets were deserved winners and Heurelho Gomes didn't have a save to make in the second half. That shows how well the Hornets defended during the second 45. The Golden Boys deserve a lot of praise, as they dug in when they could have easily rolled over. What a win and what a day!
2 - Pereyra is a Watford star in the making.
(Picture - Zimbio)
His cameo performance against Arsenal was promising, but on Saturday Roberto Pereyra excited Watford fans even more. He is a Watford star in the making; mark my words. The Argentine made everything look so effortless and his performance was deserving of a goal. He came so close to scoring as well, when Stefano Okaka released him and he waltzed passed three West Ham defenders, before shooting straight at Adrian. The Argentine played a fantastic cross into the path of Capoue who smacked home our third and he nearly had another assist to his name in the first half, when he ran through and slid the ball across to Ighalo, who would have scored had it not been for a last ditch tackle from Masuaku. He produced some great moments of skill, the highlight of which being when he nutmegged Payet before setting up another Ighalo chance. Pereyra was so energetic throughout the game, getting forward at every opportunity, while also tracking back to help out defensively. It's hard not to get excited by his two performances in a Watford shirt so far and at £13m, he looks a real coup. He's been so important during his first two games and I think he could be our version of Dimitri Payet. We have got a class player on our hands.
3 - Deeney was superb
Now some, rightly or wrongly, have criticised the performances of Troy Deeney in recent weeks. They've said he's overweight and has looked sluggish in recent matches. Now I wasn't buying the idea that Troy was overweight; he looked no different to what he has done in recent seasons. Yes, Troy had not looked like his usual self in the opening few games, but he wasn't THAT bad. However, he was immense on Saturday and there was no better way to answer his critics than with his performance against West Ham. The Hornets' captain was fantastic all game, as he constantly battled and hassled the Hammers' defence. He never gave their back-line a moments peace and he scored an exquisite goal which brought Watford back on level terms. He had no right to get to the ball, but he forced James Collins to make a calamitous mistake and with Adrian off his line, Deeney seized his opportunity. He still had a lot to do but he took a touch and curled the ball magnificently into the top corner, sending myself and the rest of the away end into raptures. In the second half, our captain won everything in the air and linked up well with Ighalo, Capoue and Pereyra amongst others. Deeney gave 110% as always and was magnificent throughout. He's probably secured the Watford goal-of-the-season award already and his performance yesterday deserves a lot of praise.
4 - Behrami outstanding
I love Valon Behrami; I think he plays such an important part in the team and was underused by Quique Sanchez Flores last season. There's no better sight than seeing the Swiss enforcer crunch into tackles and the midfielder was at his superb best at the Olympic Stadium. Behrami broke up play superbly well on Saturday and he pulled off some magnificent tackles before giving it to the likes of Capoue, Pereyra and Janmaat to venture forward. There's no doubt in my mind that Behrami played a crucial part in our victory as he was everywhere. He plays such an important role in the side which can often go unnoticed. Behrami does all of the dirty work and cleans up where others have made mistakes. When he's fired up, there's no stopping him and there's not too many players who would want to face a snarling Behrami. The Swiss international is a leader on the pitch and plays an important role in the midfield three. What a man he is!
5 - Promising debut from Stefano Okaka
(Picture - Zimbio)
First observations are that Stefano Okaka is HUGE! The gigantic Italian came on for his debut with just under 20 minutes to play and the striker looked very promising. He won everything in the air after he came on and the West Ham defenders could not handle him, so much so that they grappled and tried to pull him to the floor at every opportunity. For a guy of his size, Okaka was also good with the ball at his fleet, playing some good passes and he also used his strength to hold the ball up while waiting for support from his team mates. The Italian put himself about well during his cameo appearance and thought he had scored on his debut, when he prodded home Younes Kaboul's knock down from a corner. However, he was adjudged to be just offside by the linesman. His debut was ended just before the 90-minute mark when he pulled his hamstring and he hobbled off the pitch, leaving Watford to see out the final few minutes with ten men. All in all, it was a promising debut from Okaka and he looks like he will be a useful addition to this Watford squad. Hopefully his injury isn't too serious.