Writer: Tom Bodell
Date:Tuesday September 24 2013
A BRACE from Gary Hooper on his full Norwich City debut helped the Canaries knock Watford out of the League Cup in extra-time as the Hornets blew a two goal lead.
Gianfranco Zola`s side were superb from the start of the second-half until fellow debutant Josh Murphy`s fine 77th minute strike, playing some truly breathtaking football and totally outclassing the Premier League outfit.
As is so often the case, though, the side with the momentum make the most of the pendulum swinging in their favour and when Hooper nodded home in injury time with the last touch of regulation time, there was an inevitability about the former Celtic striker`s winner, five minutes from the end of extra time.
The Hornets had gone ahead through Javi Acuna`s fierce wallop, before the imperious Davide Faraoni doubled the Golden Boys` advantage with a stunning strike from distance.
Zola made X changes, bringing Jonathan Bond, Essaid Belkalem, Joel Ekstrand, Josh McEachran, Daniel Pudil, Cristian Battocchio, Diego Fabbrini and Acuna into the side in place of Manuel Almunia, Lloyd Doyley, Gabriele Angella, Iriney, Ikechi Anya, Lewis McGugan, Troy Deeney and Fernando Forestieri.
Chris Hughton named a strong XI for Norwich, bringing deputy 'keeper Mark Bunn in for England`s John Ruddy and handing Hooper his first start following injury.
The visitors started the brighter of the two sides but Watford were resolute at the back and even the pace of England Under-21 prospect Nathan Redmond could not trouble Pudil.
Redmond had the game`s first effort, cutting in from the right before testing Bond with a rasping low drive which the Hornets` number 30 grasped at the second attempt.
In the 22nd minute, Watford went ahead with their first chance of the game, Fabbrini laying the ball off to Acuna who darted round the last Norwich defender and blasting high into the roof of Bunn`s net.
Eight minutes later, new loan signing McEachran was withdrawn having gone down clasping his lower back.
A few minutes later Wes Hoolahan tested Bond with a swerving left-footed effort which the Hornets` stopper had to push over the crossbar. From the resulting corner, skipper for the night, Marco Cassetti, blocked on the line.
Just a minute before the break, the Hornets could have doubled their lead, Acuna latching onto a booming Belkalem header before digging out a low effort which skipped narrowly wide of Bunn`s right-hand post.
Four minutes after the break, Faraoni gave a glimpse of what was the come, driving forward before striking a firm effort which Bunn held low. Murray followed up, but Bunn was agile enough to claw the midfielder`s shot to safety.
Bunn was the Canaries` hero again shortly after, first denying Fabbrini after the Italian had evaded a challenge and gallivanted forward, springing up to block substitute Deeney`s point-blank range attempt immediately after.
Norwich immediately gave the ball away and 10 minutes after the re-start Watford did add a second, Faraoni skipping forward a few paces before taking aim and firing past Bunn and into the top right-hand corner from 25 yards to add an emphatic and stylish second.
Zola`s side were in complete control now and Deeney saw another opportunity blocked when he connected with Faraoni`s right-wing centre, before Murray dragged a shot of his own narrowly wide from 20 yards.
With 13 minutes remaining, substitute Murphy pulled one back, crashing a speculative 20 yard strike in off the apex of crossbar and post; a third excellent strike of the evening.
Inevitably, Watford surrendered their supremacy from then on out and although the hosts looked to have safely navigated a passage into the next round in the dying seconds of added time, Hooper was on hand to dash those hopes with a textbook looping header over Bond from Redmond`s inswinging cross.
Both sides huffed-and-puffed in extra-time, but in reality there was very little on offer from either until Deeney twice tested Bunn towards the end of the second period, first with a low strike and more keenly with a header.
From the resulting corner there was a melee involving Pudil and City substitute Johan Elmander, sparked by Bunn kicking the ball away to waste a few precious seconds.
Incensed, Watford conceded almost immediately, Norwich breaking effectively and Hooper striking the decisive blow with a right-footed effort to send Hughton`s men into round four.
Full-time AET: 2-3
Despite the disappointment of throwing away two-goal lead, this was about as encouraging a defeat as one could hope to watch.
You cannot overestimate quite how excellent Watford were from minutes 45 to 77 (the time of Murphy`s goal) and frankly, Zola`s men schooled Norwich in the art of fine, passing football and good movement on and off the ball.
Faraoni, Fabbrini, Murray, Acuna and Battocchio looked as good as they have done all season and Faraoni in particular showed precisely why Udinese paid some €6m to secure the other 50 per cent of his co-ownership from Internazionale earlier in the summer. If Faraoni shows the kind of pace, drive and delivery he did tonight on a regular basis, we`ve got one heck of a player on our hands.
The link-up play between the front seven was superb at times and Norwich simply could not cope.
Watford: Bond; Belkalem, Ekstrand, Cassetti (capt); Faraoni, Battocchio, McEachran (Smith), Murray, Pudil; Acuna (Deeney) & Fabbrini (Forestieri).
Subs not used: Woods (GK), Brown, McGugan & Anya.
Norwich City: Bunn; Martin, Whittaker, R.Bennett, Garrido (Elmander); Redmond, Johnson (Murphy), Tettey, Olsson; Hoolahan (Fer); Hooper.
Subs not used: Nash (GK), Turner, Howson & Becchio.
Attendance: 11 178
Referee: Mr S Martin
Date:Tuesday September 24 2013
Pozzo Round-up: November (Sunday December 8 2013)
Zola bemoans crucial refereeing decisions at Leeds (Sunday December 8 2013)
Watford handed away tie in FA Cup (Sunday December 8 2013)
FA Cup: Watford ball No.40 in 3rd round draw (Sunday December 8 2013)
Stats: Leeds v Watford (Saturday December 7 2013)
Hornets snatch late point at Elland Road (Saturday December 7 2013)
Starting XIs: Leeds United v Watford (Saturday December 7 2013)
Opposing View: Leeds United (Friday December 6 2013)
Preview: Leeds United (A) - December 7 (Thursday December 5 2013)
Opinion: Time to get behind the players (Thursday December 5 2013)
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