Watford 1-0 Sheffield United: Rob Edwards’ first game with relegated Hornets ends in narrow win thanks to Joao Pedro’s goal against the Blades at Vicarage Road
- Watford proved why they should be considered among the promotion favourites
- The Hornets beat Sheffield United 1-0 in the first game of their new campaign
- Brazilian forward Joao Pedro scored the only goal of the game on the counter
This battle of promotion hopefuls went Watford’s way thanks to the kind of lightning-fast counters they hope will prove too slick for the Championship this season.
Joao Pedro’s 56th-minute winner stemmed from a Sheffield United corner. John Fleck’s shot was blocked after referee Josh Smith almost got in the way and ricocheted out to Hassane Kamara.
With yellow shirts streaming forward, his cross-field pass initially looked inadequate but somehow made it out to Ismaila Sarr on the right via Emmanuel Dennis.
Watford showed why they deserve to be considered among the promotion favourites with a 1-0 win against Sheffield United
The Brazilian scored the game’s only goal on the counter-attack at Vicarage Road on Monday
Watford (3-4-3): Bachmann; Kabasele, Sierralta, Cathcart; Kamara, Cleverley (c), Kayembe, Sema; Sarr (Manaj 81), Pedro (Gosling 87), Dennis
Substitutes not used: Hamer (GK); Ngakia, Troost-Ekong, Asprilla, Bayo
Manager: Rob Edwards
Scorer: Pedro 56
Booked: Sierralta, Cleverley, Pedro, Kamara
Sheffield United (3-5-2): Foderingham; Stevens (Lowe 55), Clark (Khadra 68), Egan (c); Baldock, Berge, Fleck, Norwood (Osborn 68), Norrington-Davies; Ndiaye (Sharp 78), Jebbison (Brewster 68)
Substitutes not used: Amissah (GK); Gordon
Manager: Paul Heckingbottom
Booked: Clark, Fleck, Berge
Referee: Josh Smith
All Sarr had to do was square for Pedro in the middle to sweep home with the United defence left flat-footed as they chased back from their own set-piece in vain.
Watford deserved the three points. Back in the second-tier after another failed campaign in the Premier League, they’d been through an inevitable summer of upheaval.
But even though many established names departed, they retain an attack that looks a step above much of this division.
Whether Sarr and Dennis, on the market for a combined £50million, remain beyond deadline day remains to be seen, but Watford will make full use of them while they’re here.
The summer saw that familiar Watford ritual of a managerial change with Rob Edwards, fresh from guiding Forest Green Rovers into League One, succeeding ex-England manager Roy Hodgson following relegation.
Edwards, 39, was given a warm hand by Vicarage Road before kick-off. He opted to start summer arrivals Rey Manaj and Vakoun Bayo among the substitutes, while more recent signing from Villarreal Mario Gaspar lacked the fitness levels to make the squad.
The Hornets carved out the first opportunity as Dennis and Sarr connected down the left. Dennis side-footed a through pass into Sarr, who fired into the side netting.
Watford superfan Sir Elton John had implored those in yellow to show ‘more f**king passion’ this season when he performed here on Sunday night and a first-half skirmish suggested the players had listened.
A shoving match between Watford captain Tom Cleverley and United’s Iliman Ndiaye escalated and resulted in Francisco Sierralta and Fleck squaring up and both receiving yellows.
New Watford manager Rob Edwards (pictured) won his first match in charge of the London side
Whether Sarr and Dennis (above) remain at Watford beyond deadline day remains to be seen
The Blades, so eager to improve on their fifth-place finish last season, looked dangerous on the break.
Sander Berge tested Watford keeper Daniel Bachmann early on and Ndiaye should have scored when Daniel Jebbison’s flick sent him clear and he outmuscled Kamara.
Jebbison forced Bachmann into a fingertip save on the stroke of half-time with a first-time dink from the edge of the box.
After Pedro’s opener, Watford worked another great shooting position only for the Brazilian to get in the way as Dennis prepared to shoot.
Blades fans frantically tried to alert officials to a medical emergency at the back of the away end
There was a few minutes’ pause as Blades fans frantically tried to alert officials to a medical emergency at the back of the away end.
Two supporters tried to halt proceedings by leaping the barrier and running onto the pitch, only to be escorted out by stewards – rather unfairly. Play soon resumed but a number of hi-vis jackets could be seen attending to the stricken fan.
On the pitch, Egan met a cross but couldn’t steer his header on target as the Blades chased a late leveller but it was Watford debutant Manaj who nearly opened his account with a low drive that was sharply saved.
Two supporters tried to halt proceedings by leaping the barrier and running onto the pitch