Walter Mazzarri’s Watford kicked off the 2016/17 Premier League season with a hard earned point against Claude Puel’s Southampton at the weekend.
By: Bradley Hayden
The Hornets’ Etienne Capoue put the Golden Boys ahead after nine minutes following a neat team move, before Nathan Redmond equalised for Southampton on the hour mark.
Watford had Ben Watson sent off with 15 minutes to play but managed to hang on for a hard earned point at the St Mary’s Stadium, a ground they haven’t endured too much success at in recent seasons.
In the build up to the opening fixture, Mazzarri faced the media for the first team and spoke via a translator, with his English not quite being up to scratch as of yet. He has spoken in English in brief club videos, but for the time being he will conduct all interviews with the press through a translator.
During his first press conference, he was questioned on reports that he had been smoking in the dressing room at half-time against QPR during a pre-season friendly.
Whilst admitting that he does enjoy lighting up, the 54-year-old laughed off suggestions that he had puffed away on a cigarette during the half-time interval.
He also revealed that he had watched Watford’s FA Cup Semi-Final defeat to Crystal Palace back in April, an indicator that the Italian had already been lined up by Gino Pozzo to succeed Quique Sanchez Flores at the end of the season.
In his first Premier League fixture Mazzarri fielded a rather bold first team line-up. Lining up in his preferred 3-5-2 formation, the Italian opted to play winger Nordin Amrabat at wing-back, a decision which would prove rather fruitful during the game. Valon Behrami and Adlene Guedioura surprisingly started as well, despite the fact that both had been doubts before the game.
After an early scare in the second minute, when Heurelho Gomes had to make a double save to prevent Dusan Tadic and then Miguel Britos from scoring an own goal, the Hornets settled and they took the lead in the ninth minute.
Following a sustained period of possession, the ball was worked out wide to Amrabat who cut inside and dinked a ball into the box. Troy Deeney knocked the Moroccan’s cross down into the path of Capoue, who ghosted pass Oriol Romeu and drilled the ball into the back of the net.
Watford then largely controlled the rest of the first half without creating too many clear cut chances. Nathan Redmond sent a low pile-driver wide from 20 yards, but aside from that, the first half petered out.
The Hornets nearly doubled their advantage against the run of play in the early moments of the second half, as Jose Holebas’ cross went just wide of the post.
Southampton had started the second half brighter and they were back on level terms just before the hour mark. Heurelho Gomes didn’t get sufficient distance on his punch from a Tadic corner and Redmond calmly slotted the ball home.
The Saints then started to dominate and Watford were in for a nervy final 15 minutes when Watson was sent off for pulling down Shane Long, with the striker through on goal. It was the correct decision, with Watson definitely taking one for the team.
However, despite being a man light, Watford resisted a sustained period of Southampton pressure during the final 15 minutes to earn a hard earned point on the opening day.
The Hornets will take on Chelsea next Saturday, in what will be their first home game of the Premier League season.