There was more cup heartbreak for a Watford youth team this afternoon. On the back of the under-18s exiting the FA Youth Cup on penalties and the under-21s seeing two sent off in a 2-1 defeat to Charlton Athletic in the Under-21 Premier League Cup, Harry Kewell saw an under-23 Watford side lose in extra time in the semi-final of the Nagjee Cup this afternoon.
The Hornets arguably had the better of the chances in normal time against Dnipro at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, India but were sunk by three goals in extra time. Dnipro scored the first after 93 minutes, added a second for good measure in the second period and then Luke Simpson spoiled a fine performance by messing up for a cruel third right at the death.
Captained by George Byers and with Sean Murray in midfield, Watford couldn’t muster a reply against a side who have not conceded a goal in four games of the tournament, including a group game against an Argentina Under-23 side. Dnipro progress to the final of the eight-team tournament where they will meet Atletico Paranaense.
Kewell restored Mahlondo Martin and Byers to the side who drew in such dramatic fashion with FC Volyn in the final group game thanks to a late penalty from Alex Jakubiak. The livewire forward fashioned the first chance of today’s semi, seeing his fifth-minute shot saved by Vartsaba.
Byers marked his return to the team by picking up a caution after 11 minutes and, as the captain, would have been concerned at the two chances Balaniuk fashioned either side of half time, the second saved superbly by Luke Simpson, the former Accrington goalkeeper signed in December.
Byers had an effort around the hour mark blocked and then Dnipro threw on Kiryeyev, the striker who had two goals to his name in the tournament already. But it was Watford’s own sub who came closest to breaking the deadlock, Michael Folivi hitting the post on 66 minutes. Another attacking sub Ola Adeyemo, the Nigerian striker on trial, then teed up Jakubiak at the death but the youth-product couldn’t get his acrobatic effort on target.
Dnipro got stronger and proved more clinical in the additional 30 minutes, breaking the deadlock when Vladyslav Kochergin beat Simpson from outside the box. The game was up when Maksym Lunov scored, after a great run from Kochergin, four minutes into the second period of extra time. And it was a touch cruel when Simpson made a hash of an effort to concede a third.
Watford: Simpson; Lewis, Doherty, Stewart, Johnson, Young, Murray, Byers (c), Jakubiak, Mensah, Martin (Folivi h-t). Subs not used: Haigh (GK), Eleftheriou, Mason, Hall, Adeyemo, Charles, Ovenden
Dnipro: Vartsaba; Svatok (c), Larin, Nagiiev, Lopyronok, Vasyliev, Kohut, Kochergin, Vakulko, Balaniuk (Kiryeyev 63), Lunov. Subs not used: Shelikhov (GK), Paliukh, Kirychuk, Liedniev, Verhun, Kostyshyn, Salamakha
Watford’s results in the Nagjee Cup
Atletico Paranaense 2 Watford 0
Watford 2 Rapid Bucharest 0 (Mensah, Jakubiak)
FC Volyn 1 Watford 1 (Jakubiak pen)
Dnipro 3 Watford 0 (AET)