Watford’s remarkable revival under Nigel Pearson continued as they hung on with 10 men to beat Wolves and move a point from Premier League safety.
The hosts looked to be cruising to a third win in four matches after they took a first-half lead through Gerard Deulofeu, who curled low into the bottom corner. The lead was then doubled by Abdoulaye Doucoure, who fired in on his 27th birthday.
But the game turned when Pedro Neto reduced the deficit with a deflected shot after an hour.
Eleven minutes later, Watford defender Christian Kabasele was sent off via the video assistant referee after pulling down substitute Diogo Jota.
Wolves, who had only lost twice in their previous 15 league games, pressed for an equaliser as Ben Foster saved Matt Doherty’s header and Ruben Neves fired over in stoppage time.
However, Pearson’s team showed grit and determination to move level on points with West Ham and sit one point behind 17th-placed Bournemouth.
Pearson leading Watford in right direction
When Pearson took over at Watford, his team looked doomed with nine points from 16 games and a six-point gap to safety.
Now with three wins and a draw from their past five matches, it looks as though the Watford boss might be able to recreate a second great escape after he led Leicester City to survival at the end of the 2014-15 season.
The Hornets are now far more positive in their play, helped by returning striker Troy Deeney, who has scored three goals in his past four games.
And they look more solid in defence, shown in the latter stages of this game where they had to deal with Kabasele’s dismissal, which was deemed a yellow-card offence by referee Andrew Madley before it was upgraded to a red.
Against Wolves, who remain seventh in the table, Deulofeu and Ismaila Sarr were outstanding as they continually caused the visitors problems.
Deulofeu did not score his first goal this season until 2 November against Chelsea, but he is now Watford’s joint top scorer, finding the bottom corner with a composed finish for his fourth of the campaign.
The Spanish winger also set up Doucoure, whose shot took a deflection off Conor Coady and sailed into the top corner.
There was a collective desire and will to earn the win after the second half unravelled somewhat, which will give Watford hope that they can remain in the top flight for a sixth season.
Tired Wolves struggle to take advantage
No Premier League team has played more than the 35 games Wolves have competed in this season, and at times during this encounter it showed.
Even though Nuno Espirito Santo brought in four players who were rested from Sunday’s trip to Anfield, including Adama Traore and top scorer Raul Jimenez, they did not overly trouble the hosts until the hour mark.
Perhaps they were not worried by going behind given that they had previously conceded the first goal in 13 league games this season but had only lost four of those.
However, they paid for missing a good early chance with Doherty thwarted by the impressive Ben Foster after he latched onto Coady’s astute pass.
Once Doucoure made it 2-0, their task seemed insurmountable, yet the strike by Neto, who was a continuous outlet for them down the left, and the red card gave the visitors an unexpected fillip.
Given Wolves’ success this season, an equaliser looked likely as they piled on the pressure.
But this is a new Watford side whose only defeat since Pearson took over was at Anfield.
And the Hornets showed their jubilant fans the type of resilience that had become lost under previous managers Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores earlier on in the season.
Man of the match – Gerard Deulofeu
Pearson’s home run – the best stats
- Watford have won back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since February 2019.
- Gerard Deulofeu has scored three goals in all competitions against Wolves for Watford – he’s only scored more against Cardiff City for the Hornets (four).
- Watford manager Nigel Pearson has won his past six home Premier League games, winning three with Leicester in May 2015 and his first three with Watford so far.
- Wolves have lost three of their past five Premier League games (W2), as many as they’d lost in their previous 21 games combined.
- Wolves winger Adama Traore completed 15 dribbles in this match, the most by a player in a league match in the top five European leagues since Karim Bellarabi completed 17 in a Bundesliga fixture for Bayer Leverkusen against Werder Bremen in February 2015.
- Wolves’ Pedro Neto became the first teenager to score for the club in the Premier League (19y 298d).
- Joao Moutinho registered his 14th Premier League assist for Wolves, overtaking Matt Jarvis as the record assist holder for the club in the competition.
Watford host League One Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup third round on Saturday (kick-off 15:01 GMT), Wolves host Manchester United in the same competition (kick-off 17:31 GMT), having beaten them in the quarter-finals last season.
More to follow