Under the lights at the Vitality Stadium, an exhilarating first-half saw AFC Bournemouth come from behind twice to earn a point against Watford.
A brace from Hornets captain Troy Deeney sent the away side ahead early on, however, four goals in six minutes in the closing stages of the first period evened the game out going into half-time and settled the eventual scoreline at the end of the match.
Story of the match
The opening half an hour suggested that an effervescent Watford side would pile further misery on Bournemouth, who had lost eight of their last 10 encounters in the Premier League.
With 13 minutes on the clock, Swedish winger Ken Sema worked his way down the right flank before chipping the ball to Deeney who powerfully headed home to give the away side the lead.
The Hornets doubled their advantage when Gerard Deulofeu intercepted a stray pass and carried the ball all the way to Asmir Begovic’s box — the Spaniard was dispossessed by Steve Cook but the ball dropped kindly for Deeney who smashed the ball past the Bosnian goalkeeper.
But a two-goal deficit wasn’t enough to keep the Cherries at bay. A duo of set-pieces from Ryan Fraser set up Nathan Ake and Callum Wilson to bring the hosts level.
Watford restored their lead just 85 seconds after Wilson’s leveller. Route-one football gave Deeney the opportunity to knock the ball down for Sema, who slotted home with a deft finish at the near post.
A frenetic first-half of goals had not run its full course just yet — while the travelling supporters were still celebrating, Junior Stanislas’ low cross was dummied by three of Bournemouth’s forwards before finding the feet of Fraser, who coolly rolled the ball home to even the tie going into half-time.
The second half was slightly less entertaining, witnessing no more goals - though each side had their fair share of chances to break the deadlock.
Another pinpoint cross from Fraser picked out Wilson free in the Watford area, though his headed effort was expertly saved by a sprawling Ben Foster.
Minutes later, intricate interplay from the Hornets allowed Roberto Pereyra to latch onto the ball and drive into the Bournemouth box, however, a superb sliding tackle from Cook prevented the Argentine playmaker from taking aim at goal.
Takeaways from the game
Rookie referee comes under scrutiny
David Coote was appointed to serve as man-in-the-middle for the tie on the south coast. 2018/19 is his first season in the top-flight having served years in the EFL and lower reaches of the English game.
The Nottinghamshire-born official took charge of his sixth encounter in the top-flight and was not short of crucial decisions to make in an often robust game of football.
In the first-half, Abdoulaye Doucouré’s high foot met the kicking leg of Fraser — the potentially leg-breaking challenge reprimanded by an arguably lenient yellow card.
There was an equally controversial call in the second-half, as a two-footed lunge from Dan Gosling on Tom Cleverley was also shown a yellow.
Watford had penalty claims in second-half stoppage time when a hand from former Hornet Ake prevented Cleverley’s clip from reaching its intended target; those were waved away by the 35-year old official.
Deeney key to Watford’s attacking potency
Watford’s front line yields flair players such as Pereyra and Deulofeu, though it was talismanic striker Deeney who stole the show at the Vitality Stadium.
The number nine used his physical presence to full effect, scoring the opening two goals and assisting Sema’s third for the Hornets, though his intelligent movement and link-up play were also key to his side’s attacking fortunes.
There have been calls from Watford supporters to invest in a striker during the January transfer window, perhaps because the Hornets have missed the most “big chances” (39) of any side in the Premier League — however the club captain will have effectively staked his claim to remain a constant in the starting 11 even if another name is brought in.
Bournemouth show noticeable grit despite recent slump in form
Eight wins from 10 games made ugly reading for Bournemouth who, like their opponents on the night, had a scintillating start to the season. However their recent nosedive in form was unimaginable as the Cherries overcame deficits on two occasions in a mettlesome home performance.
While their revival was admittedly aided by some suspect Watford defending at set-pieces, Bournemouth never refused to give up their ambitions of earning a result from the match, and their evident display of perseverance helped get the home crowd back onside after a disappointing start to the match.
The third round of the FA Cup sees Bournemouth host south coast neighbours Brighton & Hove Albion, who lost 2-0 at the Vitality just a week and a half ago.
Meanwhile, Watford visit sixth-tier Woking in one of the more intriguing ties of the weekend.