Watford earned their first Premier League win of the season as they moved off the bottom of the table at the expense of opponents Norwich.
The Hornets’ victory, their first in the top flight since April, means they leapfrog Southampton and the hosts, whose own winless run has now stretched to a seventh game.
Gerard Deulofeu’s goal after 76 seconds after some lax defending from Emiliano Buendia set Watford on their way and Andre Gray’s close-range flick from a Deulofeu cross secured the points.
But they had to survive for 25 minutes with 10 men after Christian Kabasele was dismissed for his second yellow card.
That provided the hosts with some impetus in the closing stages but Quique Sanchez Flores’ side held firm to earn a first league victory since his return to the club.
The Hornets, who have struggled for goals this term, displayed a clinical streak that had until now been absent, scoring with their only two efforts on target.
Norwich have now gone 10 Premier League home games without keeping a clean sheet – a run stretching back to their previous campaign in the top flight – and hold the worst defensive record in the division.
Deulofeu stars on positive night for Watford
Watford’s season has so far followed a familiar pattern of failing to convert chances in front of goal before being punished at the other end.
So this was a welcome reversal of fortune for Sanchez Flores, who had overseen four draws and three defeats in his seven matches in charge since replacing compatriot Javi Gracia in September.
The Spanish boss will also have been encouraged by being able to name Troy Deeney in a Hornets squad for the first time since August.
And while the physical presence and bustling firepower that the 31-year-old can provide may yet prove pivotal if Watford are to turn their season around, Deulofeu’s pace was crucial in East Anglia.
Dispossessing Buendia, Deulofeu drifted into the Norwich penalty area from the right unopposed and drilled a low left-foot shot past Canaries goalkeeper Tim Krul into the bottom left corner from 15 yards.
While Deulofeu clearly has the capacity to frustrate his team-mates at times, by failing to track back or make runs in behind opposition defences, the former Barcelona and Everton forward also created Watford’s second.
Latching on to a ball down the left channel, the 25-year-old teased Max Aarons before picking out Gray, whose attempted backheel deflected off Jamal Lewis into the bottom left corner.
“We need positive energy and scoring early is how you feed the energy of the players,” said Sanchez Flores.
“The players were really strong. They kept their shape and everything was really good. The fans were for a long time waiting, waiting, waiting. This was for the fans, they deserve it.”
Norwich lacking firepower and paying for a ‘nursery’ mistake
While Norwich appeared to regain control of the game in the first half, there was a certain inevitability about the outcome once they had fallen behind to Deulofeu’s early goal.
“It [Norwich’s start] was a disaster,” said Canaries head coach Daniel Farke.
“They switched to five at the back and it was difficult to create chances against them so to invite them with such a nursery mistake was a confidence boost for them. It was a game-defining moment.”Farke’s side may have dominated possession but their struggles were underscored by a lack of creativity and thrust in front of goal.
Norwich are also yet to earn a point this season after conceding the first goal, with Teemu Pukki’s form indicative of their problems.
The Finland international started the campaign prolifically with six goals in his first five games but has now failed to score in his past seven outings for the club.
And while he worked away industriously all evening, producing more sprints than any other player (19), he barely got into the positions to test Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster.
Cuban winger Onel Hernandez offered some threat down the left, repeatedly beating Kabasele before he was dismissed but he was underused thereafter, with the lively Todd Cantwell also introduced too late.
It ensured the hosts ended the evening with their joint-lowest tally at this stage of a top-flight season.
Man of the Match – Gerard Deulofeu (Watford)
Super-sub Gray – the stats
- Watford registered their first Premier League win at the 12th attempt in 2019-20 and ended a run of 15 league games without a victory, stretching back to April.
- Norwich are the sixth newly promoted side to lose as many as nine of their opening 12 Premier League games to a season – four of the previous five went on to be relegated (the exception being Crystal Palace in 2013-14).
- This was the first away Premier League win by a team starting the day bottom of the table since last November, when Huddersfield Town won 2-0 at Wolves.
- Watford striker Andre Gray has more Premier League goals as a substitute in 2019 than any other player (3).
- In just two Premier League appearances on a Friday, Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu has been involved in six goals, scoring four times and assisting two.
- Deulofeu’s goal after 76 seconds for Watford was the second-quickest away goal scored in the Premier League this season, behind only Harry Kane’s effort after 47 seconds for Spurs at Liverpool.
- Norwich are still without a home Premier League clean sheet this season, one of only three teams without one, along with Liverpool and Southampton.
- Since returning to the Premier League in 2015-16, Watford have received more red cards than any other top-flight team (17).
- Watford have kept three clean sheets in their last five Premier League games, having kept none in their 19 games prior to this.
Norwich travel to Everton on Saturday, 23 November (15:00 GMT) for their next Premier League fixture, while Watford host Burnley on the same day (also 15:00).