As Sebastien Bassong walked through the interview area in the bowels of the Sir Elton John Stand on Saturday night he pulled Odion Ighalo’s green beanie off his head while he was conducting this interview. It was, you could say, the closest he got to Ighalo all day and made a change from the striker pulling the wool over the eyes of the defender.
Fellow Africans Ighalo and Bassong are good friends from the short time they spent together at Vicarage Road last season yet there was no old pal’s act at Vicarage Road on Saturday as Ighalo gave him the runaround, particularly in the second half.
After giving him the slip for the penalty, which Troy Deeney slammed in, and eluding him to tap in the goal that was incorrectly ruled out, Ighalo gave the former Tottenham Hotspur defender an increasingly torrid time as the second half wore on as Watford, much to the delight of Quique Sanchez Flores, played on the break. Bassong would have been relieved when the final whistle blew.
Ighalo rolled him on several occasions, engineering shooting chances when the odds seemed stacked against him, and belying the difference in size with clever use of his body and an impressive turn of foot. He scored one, could have had two more and will have regretted staying on his feet when Bassong tugged at his arm.
“Bassong is a great guy, is a good defender,” said Ighalo rather magnanimously. “He’s one I definitely admire. He’s very strong so I’m not going to tussle with him, so I just tried to run behind him and to take advantage of every run because if I go and tussle with him, I’m not going to win because he’s stronger.”
Ighalo only scored two goals in Bassong’s 11-game loan spell with the Hornets last season before going on a remarkable spree once the defender had returned to Carrow Road at the turn of the year. His goal on Saturday took him to 25 in the calendar year, one more than Harry Kane and the most in the top four divisions of English football.
He had to wait until the dying moments of Saturday’s game for No 25, though.
“You can imagine how frustrated I was, before the goal came in, because it would have been a perfect day for me if I converted all of the chances,” said Ighalo. “If I convert all the chances it could be like three or four [goals], but it’s football you know. I think the first [disallowed] goal in the first half I think it was not offside because when Allan [Nyom] was nodding the ball around behind Bassong and that was cancelled for offside and then Bassong brought me down in the second half for a penalty, but the referee didn’t give that so, you know. So I’m very happy that the goal finally came.”