Writing in the match-day programme ahead of Watford’s clash with Leicester City, captain Troy Deeney insisted his side needed to come out fighting on Saturday following the humiliation of their 6-1 defeat at Anfield two weekends ago.
“We’ve got to show the desire, the hunger, the readiness for the challenge ahead of us,” he said. “Even more important than that is coming out of the break with a bang.” But even he can't quite have expected Watford to hit the ground running in the way they did.
It took the home side all of 30 seconds to open the scoring with Etienne Capoue putting the Hornets ahead against a Leicester side that looked like rabbits caught in the headlights. Defensively vulnerable and without a genuine striking threat - despite Claudio Ranieri's belief that Jamie Vardy would return from international duty revitalised - Foxes looked out of sorts for much of the match.
Eventually succumbing to a 2-1 defeat at Vicarage Road, regardless of their refusal to role over, the champions of England remain without a win on the road this season.
While their Champions League success has kept fans appeased, a creeping sense of anxiety must surely be starting to set in among the supporters who have seen their side slump to a total of six league defeats so far.
And it was Watford's blistering start to the game on Saturday that suggested Leicester were in store for yet more disappointment.
After gifting West Brom their winning goal two weekends ago, yet another Danny Drinkwater mistake cost Ranieri’s men dearly.
Pouncing on the midfielder's sloppy pass in the centre circle, Watford’s Roberto Pereyra flew down the left flank from where he picked out his captain on the edge of the visitors’ box. Not fancying his own chances, Deeney nodded the ball along to the waiting Capoue who caught the bouncing ball on the volley to make it 1-0.
With the bit between their teeth, the Hornets pressed on and it didn’t take long before they had doubled their lead. Following another well-worked passage of play down the left, Pereyra once again drifted inwards, sending Drinkwater the wrong way in the process, before curling the ball into the top-right corner of the net.
But Claudio’s Foxes have never been one to roll over and three minutes after Watford’s second, the visitors were back in it. Set up by Shinji Okazaki on the left, Jamie Vardy burst into the Hornets’ box only to be brought down by Miguel Britos’ reckless challenge. The penalty was awarded and up stepped Riyad Mahrez to hand the Foxes hope.
With momentum in their favour, Leicester began to fight back. From a free-kick outside of the Watford box, Mahrez fired in an excellent delivery between Heurelho Gomes and the home side's defending line. Any form of contact and the Foxes would have been level, but the ball zipped in and out of the penalty area without so much as a look in from the visitors.
The game heated up as both sides created their fair share of chances. With seven minutes to go before the break, it was Watford who came close. Miscommunication between Robert Huth and Wes Morgan under a high ball afforded Deeney the opportunity to surge into the visitors’ box. Under pressure from Christian Fuchs, the captain squared his ball to an incoming Pereyra but his timing was off and the chance was squandered.
The second half proceeded in a similar vain. With Leicester just one goal from levelling the score, the game remained a fast-paced, if somewhat scrappy, affair with the visitors desperate for an equaliser.
A lax pass back from the Watford defence caught Gomes off guard shortly after the restart and the 'keeper was forced to rush from his line to ward off Vardy who had caught sniff of a goal-scoring opportunity.
Still Leicester pressed on and after snatching back possession from a Watford corner 20 minutes into the second half, Mahrez led a trademark Foxes counter-attack down the centre of the park. He dazzled with his pace and trickery as he drove towards the opposition box.
Mark Albrighton was eventually set up to the Algerian's right but after dwelling on the ball, he struggled to get any form of shot off and the Leicester attack was cut dead.
But instead of holding out for the win, Watford remained equally dangerous on the front foot as they chased down a third goal to seal the deal.
Going shoulder-to-shoulder with Christian Fuchs near the right-hand side base line, Camilo Zuniga eventually escaped the Austrian’s clutches to drag the ball back to a box-based Nordin Amrabat.
With his first touch, the Dutchman lifted the ball to the far post to gift Pereyra the simplest of chances from five yards out. It wasn’t to be though as the Argentine headed the ball straight into Robert Ron-Zieler, forcing the 'keeper into a snap reaction to push the effort away.
The final 10 minutes of the game became increasingly one-sided as Leicester battled hard for a precious point. Mahrez remained defiant to the end as the winger repeatedly threatened from the wing, creating a series of chances for his side while coming close himself.
Even Morgan registered an attempted shot on goal following a chaotic Leicester corner that handed the captain space on the edge of the Watford box to try his luck.
But despite Leicester’s best efforts, there was to be no great escape on hand for the champions. The home side held out for a deserved three points to heighten the Foxes’ misery and raise further questions of their stuttering season.
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