Heurelho Gomes 9
Watford advertised their gala awards’ night on the big screen during half time of this match. Gomes ensured he is sure to feature on the end-of-season highlights montage by single-handedly securing the Hornets a point. Branislav Ivanovic and Diego Costa will still be wondering how Gomes managed to claw out their late efforts, one at the near post as he stood up and stayed big and the second high to his right. He also prevented Oscar from making it four in five games, watched a bobbling, dipping long-range effort from Nemanja Matic all the way and backpedalled sharply to make sure a shot, deflected off Ben Watson, looped on the roof of the net. Guus Hiddink knew Gomes was capable of this as he saw it when he coached him at PSV.
Juan Carlos Paredes 5
Watford need to buy a high-class right back in the summer. Allan Nyom is not the answer and neither is Paredes. Both need to be coached through the game by Sanchez Flores, a right back himself during his playing days, and both cause your heart to skip a beat. Paredes fell over Valon Behrami and sold Etienne Capoue the sort of hospital pass that could have seen the Frenchman end up in Watford General. Jose Manuel Jurado sent Paredes charging free on one counter-attack from a Chelsea corner but his decision making quickly left Watford defending again. Troy Deeney said he’d have a word with him about his antics in the incident with Diego Costa.
Sebastian Prödl 6
The lack of faith around the Austrian was palpable when news filtered through that Miguel Britos was out ill yesterday. This was not the game you wanted Britos to miss. The portents were ominous when Prödl spooned a clearance straight out of play, picked up a yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Oscar and then, somehow, managed to skew one clearance from the right-hand edge of his own box to the left-hand edge. Yet he finished the match with a clean sheet and came as close to anyone in a yellow shirt to scoring, sending a towering header towards the top corner before it was plucked out by Thibault Courtois. Sanchez Flores will have been pleased with the way he nipped in front of Costa to win a header right in front of the dugout.
Craig Cathcart 8
Back his very best and the game out of the side, against Southampton, appears to have done him the world of good. The sliding block on Costa as he pulled the trigger in the first half was world class and reminiscent of the sort of challenges the coveted John Stones is executing. Made another equally important block on Oscar in the second half and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, a sure sign of a good defender. Undisputedly Britos’ regular partner and the way the head coach depends on him was shown by the way it was him, and not Prödl, who played left centre-back.
Jose Holebas 8
He was a major contender for our man of the match until Gomes’ late heroics. He was assured in possession, showed a real willingness to bomb forward and never shirked his defensive duties. The only mistake we can recall him making was a sloppy pass early in the second half bound for Capoue. A sign of his growing confidence was evident when he assumed responsibility for an early free-kick from shooting distance. He slung over the first-half cross which Odion Ighalo failed to connect sufficiently with and was so full of attacking intent that he charged past Willian and Branislav Ivanovic in first-half raid. Deserves to keep his place on Saturday.
Ben Watson 8
Mario Suarez would never have heard of Watson before this week but he knows all about him now. The high-profile signing from Fiorentina has a fight on his hands to oust him from this team, and you can see why Abdoulaye Doucoure was sent out on loan. Watson made so many key interceptions last night but two stand out: one to pickpocket Cesc Fabregas to spark Watford’s best piece of interplay all night and another to cut out a key pass from Oscar to Costa. His pass completion rate was as good as anyone on the pitch. Mopped up brilliantly in front of the back four.
Etienne Capoue 7.5
Has more ability than anyone in the midfield, perhaps in the entire team, as he showed with a clip over the head of Fabregas and Oscar to pick out Valon Behrami in the centre of the park during the first half. Few players would have been able to pick that pass. He should be running games, bossing them from the heart of midfield but he, frustratingly, plays in fits and starts. He has scored one Premier League goal in two and a half seasons, a poor return for a player of his quality. He probably struck the one Jurado teed up with him too well and too straight at Courtois.
Valon Behrami 8
Classic Behrami. Charged around with controlled intent, snapping into tackles, closing people down and being a general nuisance. He never came close to being booked and, in fact, helped Willian to his feet on one occasion. He is more than just a kicker and a spoiler. He recycled possession well here and regularly imposed a degree of calm when his teammates were on the ball. Provides a nice insurance policy in front of Watford’s left-back.
Jose Manuel Jurado 7.5
There was a half-hour spell in the first half when he played as well, if not better, than anyone has done in a Watford shirt this season. That cameo should have, for those bandwagon jumpers and watching the game through one eye, put to bed any remaining doubt that this lad is a high-class footballer. Had Oscar, Fabregas or even Eden Hazard glided over the ground and produced some of the deft touches and perceptive passing as he did in the first half, pundits and connoisseurs would have been purring. Very few players can leave Fabregas for dead the way he did with a drop of the shoulder and change of direction. Watford never looked the same creative force once he, reluctantly, went off. Should have pulled the trigger once early on in the second half but tried to beat one too many.
Troy Deeney 7
Spent a bit too much time moaning and complaining for our liking, either at the referee or Odion Ighalo for not spotting a better placed teammate. We think he’d benefit, now and then, from being played at No9 again, with Jurado off him, especially when Ighalo is out of sorts or tiring. Much of his best work was again the spade work he did going the other way. The boxing training he does on a Wednesday paid dividends when he impressively held off the strapping Kurt Zouma and then Fabregas in the second half in front of the Graham Taylor Stand and there was no chance of him pulling out of a full-blooded, meaty 50-50 challenge with Matic in the first. Given his high standards, he would have liked to have hit the target with a half volley early in the second half. Zouma and John Terry will not be given as much trouble in the air all season.
Odion Ighalo 6.5
As Trevor Francis said on commentary: “He makes the difficult things look easy and the easy things look difficult.” Managed to escape the attention of Fabregas, Willian and Mikel in the middle of the pitch with an extended game of ungainly keepie uppies and did what he did to the heart of the Tottenham defence for his goal to Terry and Matic on the right-hand edge of the penalty area in the first half, muscling his way through in a manner only he knows how. However his decision making was lousy and Zouma showed in the first half how defenders are becoming wise to his scoop. We’d have taken him off, played Deeney at No9 and Nordin Amrabat just off him, but it takes a brave man to withdraw someone who has 14 league goals to his name.
Almen Abdi 6.5
Replaced Jurado but was not given as much freedom by his head coach. Produced a nice backheeled flick to Watson with his first touch and belied the difference in size and strength to dispossess Mikel in the centre of the park, but delayed a pass to Nyom from left to right and then overhit it, leaving the right-back an impossible job to keep it in play.
Allan Nyom 6
Slid into the TV camera after wrestling with Oscar and was lucky not to be penalised for handball when he went down deep in the right-hand corner from the slightest of touches from the Brazilian. He linked well with Watson and Capoue to help win a corner and crucially intercepted a sliderule pass from Fabregas on the edge of the box, but it was the Cameroonian who Costa outjumped for what would have been, had it not been for Gomes, the winning goal.
Didn’t really touch the ball but you could see, given the way he organised things, how he’s going to be the head coach’s onfield lieutenant.