Ismaila Sarr got new Watford head coach Xisco Munoz off to the perfect start with a winning goal that ended Championship leaders Norwich City’s five-game winning run.
Spaniard Munoz, who was appointed last Sunday after Vladimir Ivic’s sacking, was in the Hornets dugout for the first time and watched on as his team produced one of their best displays of the season so far.
Sarr scored the game’s only goal six minutes before the break, converting Ken Sema’s low cross at the far post.
The Canaries, who are still four points clear at the top, had plenty of possession but lacked any real cutting edge – although Teemu Pukki very nearly found himself clean through late on only to be denied by a magnificent last-ditch tackle by Adam Masina.
By contrast, although Watford saw much less of the ball, Andre Gray and Troy Deeney were a constant handful up front and it was the Hornets who created by far the best chances of the contest.
Gray twice blazed over the bar when he should have scored from inside the six-yard box, the second chance coming after captain Deeney himself had completely miscued with the goal at his mercy.
Tom Cleverley also had a goal-bound shot well blocked, while better decision-making on the break would likely have led to further clear opportunities.
Not until the final 10 minutes did Norwich really pile on any sustained pressure, but Pukki’s nearly moment was as close as they went on what proved a frustrating Boxing Day evening for Daniel Farke’s men.
Victory for Watford lifts them up to fifth in the table, two points off the automatic promotion places.
Watford head coach Xisco Munoz told BBC Three Counties Radio:
“I am very happy. It’s a good moment for us. I want to say congratulations to the players because they gave everything. We played with passion.
“I think our fans will be happy because the players gave their maximum.
“I feel perfect and the guys feel perfect. I have very good players in this team – and very good people.
“All the games are difficult. We need to fight together and play together but enjoy every situation.”
Norwich head coach Daniel Farke told BBC Radio Norfolk:
“Of course it was a difficult game – Watford are a really difficult side – they were fifth and not happy because they want to finish in the top two – it says a lot about the ambition they have.
“Overall you have to say a game with 65% possession as the away team, and 16 to 7 shots, it’s not a game you should lose but we did and I think the reason was we lacked a bit of intensity and sharpness up front.
“If you’re not sharp and intense enough in the offence you also lack a bit of awareness and sharpness in terms of defending.”
- 21FemeníaSubstituted forNavarroat 85′minutes
- 3NgakiaSubstituted forMasinaat 69′minutes
- 23SarrBooked at 78mins
- 8CleverleyBooked at 63minsSubstituted forHughesat 74′minutesBooked at 87mins
- 29CapoueBooked at 18minsSubstituted forChalobahat 85′minutes
- 18GraySubstituted forPericaat 74′minutes
- 6ZimmermannSubstituted forMartinat 87′minutes
- 19Lungi SørensenSubstituted forGibsonat 67′minutes
- 23McLeanSubstituted forRuppat 87′minutes
- 10DowellSubstituted forVrancicat 67′minutes
- 14CantwellSubstituted forHugillat 67′minutes
Match ends, Watford 1, Norwich City 0.
Second Half ends, Watford 1, Norwich City 0.
Foul by Grant Hanley (Norwich City).
Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Emiliano Buendía (Norwich City) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Teemu Pukki.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Max Aarons.
Attempt blocked. Mario Vrancic (Norwich City) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Emiliano Buendía.
Foul by Josh Martin (Norwich City).
Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Norwich City. Josh Martin replaces Christoph Zimmermann.
Substitution, Norwich City. Lukas Rupp replaces Kenny McLean.
Will Hughes (Watford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Emiliano Buendía (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Will Hughes (Watford).
Substitution, Watford. Marc Navarro replaces Kiko Femenía.
Substitution, Watford. Nathaniel Chalobah replaces Etienne Capoue.
Attempt missed. Emiliano Buendía (Norwich City) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Teemu Pukki.
Attempt blocked. Emiliano Buendía (Norwich City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Oliver Skipp (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ismaila Sarr (Watford).