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Watford v Crystal Palace


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Watford v Crystal Palace

Wilfried Zaha picked up a yellow card in the first half at Vicarage RoadThe Premier League’s lowest-scoring teams Watford and Crystal Palace played out a disappointing goalless draw at Vicarage Road.After an uninspiring first half that produced no shots on target for either side, bottom side Watford improved following the break but Gerard Deulofeu fired…

Watford v Crystal Palace

Wilfired Zaha

Wilfried Zaha picked up a yellow card in the first half at Vicarage Road

The Premier League’s lowest-scoring teams Watford and Crystal Palace played out a disappointing goalless draw at Vicarage Road.

After an uninspiring first half that produced no shots on target for either side, bottom side Watford improved following the break but Gerard Deulofeu fired their best opportunity wide.

The visitors’ Wilfried Zaha endured a difficult and physical afternoon as he picked up a yellow card after tangling with Christian Kabasele in the first half.

Watford, who are without a home win this season, were being watched by new manager Nigel Pearson as Hayden Mullins took charge of his final game as interim boss.

The Hornets are six points from safety, while Palace stay seventh, a point outside the Europa League places.

Work to do for Pearson

Watford took the decision to appoint former Leicester boss Pearson on a deal until the end of the season on Friday, and the new manager was presented to the home supporters before kick-off.

Pearson is the club’s third manager of the season, and this performance gave some indication of why they are struggling.

The Hornets are the lowest scorers in the league with nine goals, and they failed to register a single shot on target in the first half.

They started both halves brightly and showed glimpses of promise through Ismaila Sarr but his final ball often failed to match up to his exciting build-up play.

Deulofeu had their best opportunity soon after the interval when he latched on to Troy Deeney’s flick-on to drive at the Palace defence, but his low shot went wide.

The hosts showed some fight as they poured forward in search of the winner late on, and they were nearly gifted three points when Martin Kelly headed back towards his own goal.

There was a scramble for possession which eventually fell for Sarr, but Vicente Guaita was quick off his line to close down the space and claim the ball off the forward’s toes.

Watford are winless in their past 12 home Premier League games, their longest run without a victory on home soil in the league ever, but Pearson may just believe he can turn Vicarage Road into a fortress with the spirit on display late on from his players.

Compact Palace lack cutting edge

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Roy Hodgson delighted with Palace’s ‘character & determination’

Palace came into the game having risen to seventh on the back of consecutive league victories, following a run of five games without a win before that.

But like Watford, Palace have struggled in front of goal this season, only their hosts on target less often.

Watford paid particular attention to talisman Zaha and managed to rile the Ivorian from the opening stages.

Zaha was incensed after picking up an unfortunate yellow card in a tangle with Kabasele before continuing to tussle with Etienne Capoue throughout the afternoon.

Getting under Zaha’s skin can sometimes backfire for opponents, but Watford’s plan paid off as the visitors failed to register a single shot on target, and only two in total all game.

At the other end, centre-back pairing James Tomkins and the returning Gary Cahill repelled the physical challenge of Deeney.

Experienced defender Cahill made more blocks than any other player on the field (three) as Palace stood firm, and he did just enough to prevent Deeney from making sufficient contact with his close-range header late on.

Palace have kept three consecutive clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time since March 2017, and their steely determination at the back may just keep them out of trouble this season, when the forwards struggle to fire.

Man of the match – Gary Cahill (Crystal Palace)

Gary Cahill was influential on his return from injury at the heart of the Crystal Palace defence

‘It’s been a good week’ – what they said

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson said: “We are pleased with the point, especially after the week we have had. To go to Burnley and then play against Bournemouth with 10 men, it was a very fatigued team. It was a sterling effort from the players. We were running on empty but I’m pleased we earned a point and it’s been a good week.

“Gary Cahill made two fantastic challenges to stop them scoring a goal on the counter-attack, but we should have covered that better. There were a lot of tired minds and bodies, and as a result, I have to be delighted with the players’ character to ensure we came away from here with a point. It was a team effort and Jordan Ayew worked his socks off up front.”

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On Wilfried Zaha: “I thought he did excellently well, and I’m certain I’m not speaking out of turn here, but the yellow card and foul against him was obviously wrong. He is just turning and the defender moves across him and hits the ground. It certainly wasn’t a foul but I thought he did exceptionally well in the second half to play as well as he did and he was a constant threat.”

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Hornets were better side – Mullins

Watford interim manager Hayden Mullins said: “It was a hard-earned point and if there was one team that deserved to win it in the second half, it was probably us. I’m happy with the energy levels and the commitment.

“There are a couple of decisions that could have gone either way but we just didn’t really get anything clear-cut today. They are a good side but we wanted to impose the game on them.

“At times, I think we did that, and it is important to get the fans on side and we did. I have had a fantastic six or seven days to work with the lads every day. I absolutely loved it. Nigel [Pearson] was in today and we are in tomorrow so we will see what happens with training.”

Zaha’s rough treatment – the stats

  • Watford are winless in their past 12 home Premier League games, their longest run without a victory on home soil in the league ever.
  • Crystal Palace have kept three consecutive clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time since March 2017.
  • Watford are the only side in the top four tiers of English football yet to hit double figures for league goals this season (9).
  • Watford have failed to score in nine Premier League games this season, more than any other side.
  • This is only the second Premier League game this season not to see a single shot on target in the first half (also Leicester v Wolves in August).
  • Crystal Palace failed to direct a single shot on target for the first time in a Premier League game this season, last doing so in April against Everton.
  • Since his Premier League debut in December 2013, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 503 times, with only Eden Hazard winning more fouls in that time (521).

What’s next?

Watford travel to league leaders Liverpool for Pearson’s first game in charge on Saturday, 14 December (12:30 GMT), while Crystal Palace host rivals Brighton on Monday, 16 December (19:45 GMT).

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