Roberto Pereyra double sees Watford begin new Premier League campaign with a spring in their step

Watford 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion:The winger could have left Vicarage Road in the summer but gave Watford their first ever opening weekend victory in the Premier League

Jon West
Vicarage Road
Saturday 11 August 2018 16:13
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Roberto Pereyra celebrates after giving Watford the lead against Brighton and Hove Albion
Roberto Pereyra celebrates after giving Watford the lead against Brighton and Hove Albion

Roberto Pereyra claimed a pair of goals as Watford won for the first time on the opening day of a Premier League campaign.

The winger, a transfer target for Torino and former Hornets manager Walter Mazzarri, scored in each half to ruin Brighton's hopes of putting points on the board before having to face Manchester United and Liverpool in the next two fixtures.

Both of these clubs limped over the line last term, with each winning just one of their last nine games, although for promoted Brighton survival had always been the one and only target.

The Seagulls responded by spending £60m on 10 new faces, including Iran forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh, top scorer in the Dutch top division last season, for a record fee. Manager Chris Hughton had been able to break Albion's transfer record seven times in the last two summers, with Jahanbakhsh's arrival from PSV Eindhoven raising that bar to £17m.

Of the 10 only Bernardo, the Brazilian left-back recruited from RB Leipzig, started however; Jahanbakhsh initially had to be content with a view from the bench on his 25th birthday.

Roberto Pereyra unleashes a shot to give Watford the lead

Watford's summer outlay had been more modest mainly because top targets could not be landed. The Hornets tried for Southampton's James Ward-Prowse and Jake Livermore of West Bromwich Albion but were left threadbare in central midfield. Ben Foster, who did leave West Brom for Vicarage Road, was the only Watford newcomer to start, with the former England goalkeeper, 35, having previously enjoyed two loan spells with the Hornets, in 2005/06 and 2006/07, when he was at Manchester United.

It was Brighton keeper Mat Ryan who was called into action first however. The Australian saved at his near post after Andre Gray had won a sprint to get on the end of a long ball.

Pereyra's double gave Watford a deserved victory (Getty)

Bernardo and Davy Propper combined to impede Will Hughes just outside the box soon after and Jose Holebas saw his free-kick deflected behind. Good defending by Lewis Dunk then prevented Hughes from reaching Daryl Janmaat's cross as Watford kept Brighton penned in.

The Hornets should have taken the lead but Ryan pulled off a fine reaction stop to deny Troy Deeney after Pereyra's shot was deflected straight to the striker in front of goal, with a defender playing him on.

Brighton, whose away record was the worst in the Premier League last season, were living dangerously but almost took the lead when Dale Stephens met Bruno's cross of the volley and saw it flash narrowly wide of Foster's far post.

Brighton players react to going a goal down against Watford

Brighton appealed in vain for a penalty as Christian Kabasele appeared to haul back Anthony Knockaert as Foster came out to gather; at least they were showing some attacking intent as the game passed the half-hour mark.

Albion's defensive frailties cost them the opening goal however, from a short corner in the 35th minute. Holebas' delivery went straight to Pereyra, who had been allowed to trot in untracked from outside the box. The Argentinian's volley was fierce and Ryan could only divert it into a different part of the net.

Kabasele should have doubled the lead three minutes into the second period. The defender timed his run behind the Albion defence to perfection to meet Holebas' free-kick but headed over.

Pereyra showed him how it was done by netting his second, in the 54th minute. Holabas was again the supplier, allowing the winger to cut in from the left at pace. Were Brighton expecting a cut -back? Shane Duffy was certainly fractionally too slow to get in the way of a curling effort across Ryan.

Brighton failed to register a single shot on target (Getty)

Yves Bissouma replaced Pascal Gross for his Brighton debut for the final half hour, with Etienne Capoue soon booked for impeding him. The £15million new recruit from Lille took the free-kick himself, and blasted it over.

Bissouma was undeterred and fired just wide before Jahanbakhsh came on for the last 18 minutes, with Ben Sema handed a Hornets bow with 10 minutes remaining.

Teams

Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Hughes (Sema 80), Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra (Femenia 85); Deeney, Gray (Success 75). Subs (unused): Gomes, Prodl, Mariappa, Masina.

Brighton (4-4-1-1): Ryan; Bruno (Bong 26), Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo; Knockaert, Propper, Stephens, March (Jahanbakhsh 72); Gross (Bissouma 60); Murray. Subs (not used): Button, Kayal, Locadia, Balogun.

Referee: Jonathan Moss

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