Juninho exposes sluggish Watford

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The Independent Online

Graham Taylor's keen but green Watford are learning lessons on a weekly basis in their first season in the Premiership and they picked up another one here in the rain at Vicarage Road yesterday - namely, not to give their opponents a two-goal start, especially when goal-scoring is not your forte.

Graham Taylor's keen but green Watford are learning lessons on a weekly basis in their first season in the Premiership and they picked up another one here in the rain at Vicarage Road yesterday - namely, not to give their opponents a two-goal start, especially when goal-scoring is not your forte.

By the time they showed Middlesbrough they were their equal in work-rate if not skill, they had already condemned themselves to their seventh defeat in their last eight league matches. Watford started off so sluggishly that they were one goal down after just two minutes while Middlesbrough appeared to relish their second appearance in front of the TV cameras in a week, having beaten West Ham last Sunday.

The breakthrough came when Juninho, who was a bundle of energy throughout, found space inside the penalty box and his delicate chip was met by the forehead of the Watford defender Mark Williams, who was under pressure from Brian Deane. In attempting to clear, all Williams could do was direct the ball past Alec Chamberlain into the Watford goal.

With the Hornets still reeling, the visitors swiftly doubled their lead with 19 minutes gone as Christian Ziege dispossessed a dozy Micah Hyde, and after tempting Chamberlain from his goalline, he crossed for Juninho to tap in from close range. At that point it seemed as if the Brazilian international and his team-mates were set to run riot.

However, that second goal was the cue for Watford, who were without seven first-team players through injury, to double their efforts and slowly, through the promptings of Nordin Wooter and Charlie Miller, they began to disturb the calm of the Middlesbrough back line, with Wooter seeing a shot squirm wide with 38 minutes gone.

Watford posted a further warning a minute before the break when Hyde attempted to atone for his earlier error by drilling a 25-yard shot that Mark Schwarzer diverted to safety. Yet Graham Taylor's side finally gave themselves hope nine minutes after the interval, as Miller slipped the ball into Tommy Smith and he jinked his way through the heart of the Middlesbrough defence and clinically hit the ball past Schwarzer. Three minutes later Wooter had a yard of space only for his shot to hit the side-netting and shortly after the Dutchman was only fractions away from diverting Richard Johnson's pass into the net, as Middlesbrough found themselves entrenched in their own half.

But Watford were vulnerable to the counter-attack and with six minutes remaining Ziege broke out with Deane, leaving the dence floundering, before Paul Ince joined the fray to tap the ball in and compound Taylor's misery.

Goals: Williams og (2) 0-1; Juninho (18) 0-2; Smith (53) 1-2; Ince (83) 1-3.

Watford (4-3-1-2): Chamberlain; Page, Robinson, Gibbs (Easton, 76), Williams; Palmer, Hyde, Johnson; Miller; Wooter, Smith. Substitutes not used: Ngongé, Gudmundsson, Bonnot, Day (gk).

Middlesbrough: (3-5-2): Schwarzer; Pallister, Cooper, Vickers; Fleming, Ince, Ziege, Juninho (Stamp, 77), O'Neill; Deane, Ricard (Armstrong, h-t). Substitutes not used: Campbell, Gavin, Beresford (gk).

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booking: Watford Williams.

Attendance: 16,081.

Man of the match: Juninho.

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