Is it too early to bring out the cliche ‘relegation six-pointer’? This had all the hallmarks of one: a seismic win on the road for Watford which condemned Norwich to a fifth straight loss upon their return to the Premier League.
Star man Ismaila Sarr netted a second-half brace — after Teemu Pukki cancelled out Emmanuel Dennis’S early opener — to help Xisco Munoz’s men climb up to 11th place.
A crucial win to stop the rot for the Hornets, but what dismal reading it made for Daniel Farke’s Norwich. They have nOt won or even drawn in the top flight since February 2020.
Watford secured a huge three points as the Hornets beat Norwich (pictured: Tom Cleverley)
Watford striker Emmanuel Dennis celebrates scoring his second goal of the season
NORWICH (4-3-3): Krul 6; Aarons 6, Hanley 6, Kabak 6, Williams 6.5; Gilmour 6, Normann 6.5 (Cantwell 70, 6), McLean 6; Rashica 6.5 (Idah 88), Pukki 7, Sargent 7.5 (Tzolis 70, 6). Subs not used: Gunn, Gibson, Rupp, Lees-Melou, Giannoulis, Omobamidele.
Manager: Daniel Farke 6.
WATFORD (4-3-3): Foster 6.5; Femenia 6 (Ngakia 59, 6), Cathcart 5, Troost-Ekong 6, Rose 5; Cleverley 7 (Etebo 83), Kucka 6, Sissoko 6.5; Sarr 7.5, King 6.5, Dennis 7 (Sema 73, 6).
Subs not used: Bachmann, Louza, Masina, Fletcher, Kabasele, Cucho.
Manager: Xisco Munoz 6.
Referee: Robert Jones (Merseyside) 6.
After winning the Championship at a canter last season, it Is played five, lost five this season — and 15 defeats on the bounce in Premier League matches.
With games against Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester to start the campaign, this loss will hurt the most. After being promoted together, it was Watford who looked built for survival.
So, another cliche: you fear for Norwich this year. The Canaries are the fifth team to lose their first five fixtures of a Premier League season.
They will take heart knowing two of those stayed up (Southampton, 1998/99, and Crystal Palace, 2017/18). But Farke faces a huge task to guide his troops to safety.
‘We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, we must roll our sleeves up and work on this,’ he said. ‘We have conceded too many goals so far. It’s a really tough day for us.’
But credit must be given to Watford, who were energetic and efficient with the ball. They led after 17 minutes, when Dennis made a clever run to evade two defenders and head home from a searching Tom Cleverley cross.
‘If you produce mistakes at this level, you are punished,’ said Farke on the defending from debutant Ozan Kabak and captain Grant Hanley, both of whom stood like statues as Dennis darted past to score.
Emmanuel Dennis snuck in to head in the opener from Kiko Femenia’s cross in 17th minute
Norwich striker Teemu Pukki equalised in the 35th minute with a coolly-taken strike
Norwich responded well but Ben Foster, starting his first league match of the season, might as well have stayed on the bench. The 38-year-old was a mere spectator as the Canaries failed to threaten despite having more possession. Before this match, they had a league-low eight shots on goal.
It is a good job the man leading their line is one of the division’s most-prolific forwards: Teemu Pukki.
He equalised after 35 minutes with his first chance of the match after a delightful pass by debutant Mathias Normann, the Norwegian midfielder they signed from Russian outfit Rostov.
Ismaila Sarr put Watford ahead for the second time just after the hour mark in East Anglia
Sarr sealed victory when he slotted home the rebound after Tim Krul saved Joshua King’s shot
Watford were the 35th English club he has netted against but that is a meaningless stat when the rest of his team do not deliver.
A more pertinent fact would be that, of Farke’s time at Norwich — 201 matches, Watford have proven to be his most troublesome opponents — he has now lost to them five times in as many matches
For all of Pukki’s goal-scoring acumen, it was Sarr who stole the show. He gave Manchester United loanee Brandon Williams an afternoon to forget on that flank and should really have put Watford ahead with the last kick of the first half.
He found himself facing up to Tim Krul’s goal but hesitated over whether to take it round the Dutchman or to shoot and, before he decided, the chance was gone, the Canaries keeper smothering the ball.
He did not need a second chance, though. Not long into the second half, the Senegalese international reinstated Watford’s lead after being teed up by Joshua King. Again, Hanley was caught on his heels and lost track of Sarr’s run across him.
Norwich forward Josh Sargent climbs above Danny Rose of Watford to head the ball
Danny Rose of Watford battles for possession with Milot Rashica of Norwich City
He added another in the 81st minute, prodding home a rebound after Krul saved King’s shot. The flag immediately went up for offside against King but VAR reviews showed he was onside — marginally — and the goal stood.
‘We are so solid and more offensive going forward,’ said Xisco. ‘Today was a brilliant performance. We controlled the game.’
The Watford fans teased Norwich with a chorus of ‘how bad must you be, we’re winning away’. After eight straight Premier League away defeats, it was a pleasing trip for them.
Or as Xisco put it: ‘It’s perfect, a huge step forward.
Daniel Farke is first boss to lose 15 consecutive matches in the English top flight