Aston Villa 0-1 Watford: Emmanuel Dennis nods home a late winner to hand the Hornets their first win since November and condemn Steven Gerrard to back-to-back defeats
- Watford picked up a shock 1-0 win away at Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon
- Emmanuel Dennis headed home a late winner for the visitors at Villa Park
- Steven Gerrard has now suffered back-to-back defeats as Villa manager
A first goal, a first win and, who knows, the first signs of life in Roy Hodgson’s attempt to drag Watford back to shore.
At long, long last, that sailor – summoned by a mermaid to Vicarage Road – has some wind in his sails.
If it feels like an age since Hodgson offered that bizarre explanation for taking this job, spare a thought for Watford’s supporters. They had sat through nearly five matches – four under Hodgson – without seeing the right net bulge. A barren run that stretched over 441 minutes.
Emmanuel Dennis’ late header handed Watford a 1-0 win away at Aston Villa on Saturday
No wonder, then, that the pocket of travelling yellow at Villa Park abandoned all dignity after Emmanuel Dennis snuck in front of Ashley Young to head home with 12 minutes to play.
Until then, Watford seemed destined to fire yet more blanks. Instead, their 12-game winless run is over. Instead Hodgson heaped more misery at the foot of his former England captain.
With this defeat, the worst run of Steven Gerrard’s coaching career goes on.
He will wonder how, given Aston Villa side dominated the ball and the shot count. They spent most of the afternoon in Watford’s half and Danny Ings hit the post having earlier been denied a penalty.
Dennis struck with 12 minutes to go at Villa Park to deliver Watford’s first win since November
The Hornets had not claimed victory since their 4-1 win over Man United three months ago
There is sign of life in Roy Hodgson’s relegation-threatened side after Saturday’s display
But only one of their 19 efforts on goal tested Ben Foster and come the final whistle Tyrone Mings had to sate furious supporters, some of whom booed Gerrard’s side off.
Watford had two of the game’s clearest chances even before Dennis scored. They could have netted a second thereafter too. In the end, they didn’t need it.
To think the visitors had flirted with danger from the off as, twice inside two minutes, Ings burrowed into dangerous territory.
His first foray ended with a blocked shot. The second sparked chaos around Villa Park.
Having raced in behind, Ings went tumbling near the byline. It was a clumsy challenge by Samir but referee Robert Jones said no penalty.
Ings and the home crowd were incensed. Their mood hardly improved when a replay of the incident appeared on the big screen behind Foster’s goal.
Cue more wailing appeals from the stands. Cue Jones’ comedic attempts to divert his eyes as Villa players pointed him towards the footage. Eventually VAR intervened and jeers turned to cheers. Soon, though, cheers gave way to howls of disbelief after Paul Tierney agreed with Jones.
Villa have now suffered back-to-back defeats in the Premier League under Steven Gerrard
And so began an afternoon for Villa. And Ings in particular.
Twice the forward raced to meet through balls, only to be thwarted by last-gasp interceptions.
On the half hour Emi Buendia’s pass did find its target but Ings’ shot clipped the outside of Foster’s left-hand post.
Around him, Buendia, Philippe Coutinho and Jacob Ramsey produced flashes of brilliance.
But it was Watford who, despite carrying next to no threat for long periods, mustered the first-half’s only effort on target. What a goal it would have been, too.
It started from their own box after another wave of Villa pressure. It owed much to the ingenuity of Ismaila Sarr. On his first start for three months, the winger scooped the ball over one Villa player, turned past another and then fed Dennis into space.
Gerrard now has a big job on his hands to turn Villa’s recent poor fortunes around
Watford’s top scorer turned inside two challenges before shooting powerfully. Fortunately for Villa, Emiliano Martinez reacted quickly to save. That proved a rare glimpse of ambition from Hodgson’s side – over the first 50 minutes only Martinez had fewer touches of the ball than Josh King’s 13.
But soon the game grew bitty – shorn of quality and rhythm. That suited Watford. And Hodgson’s side really should have taken the lead shortly before the hour mark. From a quick counter, King slid Moussa Sissoko in behind. With Dennis waiting at the back post, Sissoko instead fired into the side-netting. It was a dreadful waste.
But Dennis was not deterred. At the end of another break, he took up the same position soon after and this time Sarr found his man.
Villa can’t say they weren’t warned. They needed another sharp save from Martinez to keep out King and stop this miserable afternoon getting even worse.