Watford fell to a 3-0 Premier League defeat at home to Leeds United on Saturday afternoon, deepening the relegation woes of the hosts while easing those of the labouring visitors.
A rigid 4-1-4-1 off the ball from Watford clogged midfield, producing a bitty opening 20 minutes between two of the division’s bottom five in the Yorkshire sunshine.
Leeds‘ top scorer Raphinha lit up the match with a rare glimmer of genuine quality in the 21st minute. Although, the Brazilian’s wickedly whipped finish from the edge of the box was teed up by Watford’s repeated inability to clear the ball.
To offer a vague gauge of the pinball first half these sides subjected Vicarage Road to; the Premier League average pass accuracy this season is 79%, the passes from Watford and Leeds found their intended target 63% and 67% of the time respectively.
While the overall quality of the contest barely budged, the team in the ascendency swapped following the interval. With their survival hopes dampened by Everton’s earlier win, Watford wrestled possession and territory off the visitors who seemed content to strike on the counter.
Moussa Sissoko couldn’t get on the end of a devilishly delivered corner and Ismaila Sarr ballooned an impressively wayward effort almost out of the ground on the hour.
However, it was a horrible error – utterly befitting of the match – that handed Leeds their second goal on a silver platter in the 73rd minute. Samir stumbled over Hassane Kamara’s square pass just as the danger from a hopeful through ball seemed to have subsided, presenting Rodrigo with an open goal he gleefully gobbled up.
Jack Harrison sparked a mass exodus of Vicarage Road with a crisply struck third as the game crawled into its final five minutes. Watford’s ninth consecutive home defeat in the Premier League sent Leeds nine points clear of Burnley in 18th but left their hosts six points behind Everton above that dreaded dotted line.
Ben Foster (GK) – 4/10 – Completely caught out by Raphinha’s body shape, he was still moving the other way while watching the opening goal whistle past him.
Kiko Femenia (RB) – 6/10 – Bright when he crept forward and not overly tested going the other way.
Christian Kabasele (CB) – 4/10 – Rushed and hurried on the ball.
Samir (CB) – 2/10 – Produced a limp waft at the ball in a failed attempt to clear his lines in the lead up to Leeds’ opener before topping that calamity for the game’s second goal.
Hassane Kamara (LB) – 5/10 – Eagerly bounded towards Raphinha every time the Brazilian had the ball, enduring a mixed success rate in their duels down the flanks.
Moussa Sissoko (CM) – 6/10 – Drove up and down the pitch in a very literal interpretation of a “box-to-box” midfield role.
Imran Louza (CM) – 5/10 – Sent a direct free kick within a whisker of the angle-bar but nowhere near as effective in open play.
Juraj Kucka (CM) – 5/10 – Haring all over the pitch, Kucka was at his canny best to pepper the match with free kicks he earned that provided Watford with their most threatening moments.
Ismaila Sarr (RW) – 4/10 – Frustratingly marginalised despite clearly establishing a considerably swifter turn of pace than the Leeds left-back Stuart Dallas.
Joao Pedro (ST) – 4/10 – Silky when running forward with the ball tied to his languid stride but offered more style than substance.
Cucho Hernandez (LW) – N/A – Forced off in the first half after offering some sporadic threat.
Emmanuel Dennis (LW) – 5/10 – Provided some added thrust but no accuracy following his enforced introduction.
Edo Kayembe (CM) – 5/10
Joshua King (ST) – N/A
Illan Meslier (GK) – 7/10 – Made a great save to deny Sarr before the flag was raised while taking a commanding approach to Watford’s set-pieces even when crowded.
Luke Ayling (RB) – 6/10 – Sparked some nice combinations down Leeds’ right flank.
Diego Llorente (CB) – 4/10 – Wayward with most of his ambitious passes in an attempt to pick the stubborn lock of Watford‘s block and fortunate to not be punished for rash error in his own half.
Liam Cooper (CB) – 7/10 – Dealt comfortably with Watford’s straightforward (quite literally) approach.
Stuart Dallas (LB) – 5/10 – Uneasy when forced into a one-on-one duel with Sarr but did his best to limit these scenarios.
Robin Koch (CM) – 5/10 – Mopped up the avalanche of loose balls in the middle third well but frequently gave the ball straight back with his next pass.
Mateusz Klich (CM) – 5/10 – Failed to exert any real influence going forward but was another lavender body to recover possession in midfield.
Rodrigo (AM) – 6/10 – In the right place at the right time to double his side’s lead after spending much of the game wherever the ball wasn’t.
Raphinha (RW) – 7/10 – Celebrated his opener with a shimmy of the hips, a similar movement that deceived Foster so effectively.
Dan James (ST) – 6/10 – Showed impressive strength with his back to goal but was rarely given the ball when facing the opposition posts.
Jack Harrison (LW) – 6/10 – Skirted around the fringes of the contest before fizzing a superb strike into the side netting that strikingly contrasted with the quality of the game.
Kalvin Phillips (CM) – 6/10 – Fired off Leeds’ first shot of the second half more than 20 minutes after the restart.
Sam Greenwood (ST) – 5/10
Crysencio Summerville (RW) – N/A