Watford 3-2 Cardiff: Hornets survive late scare to return to winning ways
Photo: Getty Images/Richard Heathcote

Watford 3-2 Cardiff: Hornets survive late scare to return to winning ways

Watford appeared to be cruising until two late Cardiff goals set up an entertaining finish. 

Matt Dawson

Watford rediscovered their winning formula at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon but also survived a late scare as they beat Cardiff City 3-2 

Each Watford goal was of pure quality as Gerard Deulofeu found the net in wonderful solo fashion before curling strikes from range by Jose Holebas and Domingos Quina capped off a fluent attacking display by the Hornets. 

Cardiff fought back though and goals from Junior Hoilett and Bobby Reid in the final ten minutes set up a nervy finish. 

But the home side were able to hold on for a first win in seven matches as Cardiff's struggles on the road continued. 

Story of the match

It was the twinkle toes of Deulofeu who gave Watford the lead after 16 minutes at Vicarage Road. The Spaniard showed plenty of flair to weave his way through the Cardiff defence inside the area before slotting past Neil Etheridge.

The Hornets played good football throughout the opening half and Cardiff had had warning signs even before the goal. Deulofeu was allowed space in the box early on but he could only curl wide of the far post on that occasion.

Roberto Pereyra proved lively for the hosts as he so often has this season and had a big opportunity to put his side two goals up on the stroke of half time. He received the ball from Deulofeu over on the left-hand side but Etheridge was in the way to make a vital stop.

Pereyra then had a free-kick saved in injury time at the end of the first half as the Cardiff keeper sprawled to his right to keep him at bay.

Cardiff struggled to find a rhythm in the first 45 and only had half chances through Josh Murphy who had a shot blocked and from Callum Paterson who headed wide.

It didn't take Watford long after the restart to grab a second. Just minutes after Pereyra had been denied by Etheridge once more, Holebas found himself on the scoresheet. Deulofeu was again involved, laying the ball to the left back on the edge of the area before he curled the ball home delightfully into the top corner on 52 minutes.

The Hornets were enjoying themselves despite the atrocious weather conditions and on 68 minutes furthered their advantage. Again it was another superb strike from range as Quina let fly and found the back of the net in wonderful fashion.

It was almost four minutes later as Holebas nearly inadvertently scored after a Cardiff defender played the ball into him but Etheridge was able to beat the ball away from danger.

However, out of nowhere, Cardiff fought back. With ten minutes remaining Hoilett scored a stunning goal from distance for the Bluebirds as he bent the ball past Ben Foster and into the top corner.

Two minutes later Reid found himself Cardiff's second goal to set up a thrilling finale. The ball bounced around inside the penalty box and then he poked the ball home from close range.

Cardiff had two late free-kicks but neither troubled Watford enough as the Hornets managed to hold on for all three points. 

Takeaways from the game

Watford rediscover attacking potency

The Hornets had struggled over the past month and a half to win games but they were back to winning ways on Saturday courtesy of some brilliant attacking football. It was a far from convincing final ten minutes for Watford but they managed to withstand the late storm.

Deulofeu was their main man, as he showed exactly why he was so thought of rising through the ranks of Barcelona's famous La Masia youth academy. He was at the forefront of everything good the hosts did and his goal to open the scoring was mesmeric as he scored for just the second time this term.

Bluebirds continue to struggle away

Cardiff have been hugely inconsistent this season and after beating Southampton last time out were looking for back-to-back top-flight wins for the first time since April 1962. However, they were left staring at another defeat as they were outclassed by Watford until their late period of rejuvenation. Neil Warnock's men have only picked up one point away from home this campaign and that came all the way back in August when they held Huddersfield to a draw. There's still a lot of work to do for Cardiff if they are to beat the drop.

Quina a talent to look out for

Watford's 19-year-old midfielder Quina stepped up in just his second Premier League start as he proved more than able deputy for the suspended Etienne Capoue and injured Will Hughes. Quina arrived on deadline day in the summer from West Ham after failing to make much of an impact but he looks highly thought of at Watford. He was composed in possession and is certainly one to watch.  

Player of the match

Deulofeu - The former Barcelona man caused problems for the Cardiff backline all afternoon. He displayed fantastic trickery and dribbling ability for his goal. It was his second individual solo effort of the season after scoring a tremendous strike in similar fashion against Huddersfield in October.