Heurelho Gomes 8.5
Followed up man-of-the-match performances against Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur with another impressive display here. His command of his box was excellent and his decision making, about whether to catch or punch crosses, was exemplary. Got down well to his right to tip a Yohan Cabaye volley round his post, dived to his left to prevent Jordan Mutch from finding the top corner, punched one off the head of Emmanuel Adebayor and made a fantastic block with his legs to deny the same striker to complete the full house of saves.
Allan Nyom 5
He will be glad he doesn’t have to play against the winger again this season as he has not been at his best since conceding a penalty for recklessly fouling Wilfried Zaha at Vicarage Road in September. It didn’t help that he had the less defence-minded Etienne Capoue helping him out in the first. Things improved, marginally, when Valon Behrami was moved over to the right to help double up on Zaha. He allowed the ball to roll out for the throw that led to the equaliser and, in the second half, horribly mis-controlled a cross-field pass from right to left straight into the path of Zaha who needed no invitation to have another raid down the left. Nyom did well to dispossess and outmuscle Adebayor in what was his best moment but another ill-timed raid upfield late on left Behrami minding the shop at right-back and forced the Swiss to make an impeccably-timed tackle on the raiding Zaha. A right-back will be top of the shopping list this summer.
Craig Cathcart 7.5
Only Troy Deeney and Etienne Capoue of the outfield players have played more minutes this season. And Cathcart showed why he is such a mainstay of this Watford side with another redoubtable performance. The central pin of an organised defence and played the offside trap to perfection, springing Adebayor offside a number of times. He was outjumped by the striker for Palace’s equaliser but was in the right place at the right time twice in quick succession in the second period, preventing Wickham from slotting into an empty net and then doing enough to put off Adebayor when six yards out. He was not happy at the way Joel Ward was afforded space to get in a header at the death, a sign of just how passionate he is about the art of defending.
Sebastian Prodl 7
Looking more mobile and less leaden-footed than in recent weeks, constantly checking his surroundings and the space between him and Cathcart as well as the defence and midfield. Dropped deep to head clear one long ball and jumped in front of Mutch to cut out another incisive pass. Won a header from Watson’s corner but closed his eyes and headed it backwards. He will be thankful that the referee pulled it back for a foul on Deeney. Was lucky to not concede a foul on Adebayor on the edge of the area late on as his impatience to nick possession got the better of him but, by and large, he kept the Togo striker on a tight leash. Feel like he could be a bit tougher and forceful sometimes, a bit more like, say, Miguel Britos.
Nathan Ake 7
Kept Zaha quiet in the first half, meaning Alan Pardew was forced to mix things up at the break. Bombed forward at every opportunity and one rampaging run forward in the first half saw him beat Ward by expertly controlling a cross-field pass from Capoue with his chest. His cross was blocked by Dann, bringing about the corner which led to Watford’s penalty. Should have scored in the second half after neat interplay by Odion Ighalo but at least he went across the goal and forced Wayne Hennessey to make a save. Lost Dann from a cross but was fortunate that the defender failed to connect and, later on, was grateful that Behrami tracked one run by Adebayor down the left channel after he was caught upfield and infield.
Etienne Capoue 7
Much more disciplined. Showed his commitment by getting in the way of a fierce Pape N’Diaye Souare shot early on and got up and down the field like a genuine box-to-box midfielder. He pulled off another neat nutmeg on the edge of the Palace area in the first half but we all know now how outrageously talented the Frenchman is – it’s about using his skill for the benefit of the team and delivering something tangible. Produced one dreadful pass from right-back straight into the middle of midfield in the first half. Replaced by Mario Suarez on 71 minutes as the head coach sought to tighten things up.
Ben Watson 7
Returning to the club where he climbed through the youth system and began his career, Watson showed the Palace faithful just why he’s done so well since leaving the club in 2009. Received a nice reception from the unforgiving home fans when he took his first corner, which was a nice touch. His passing was neat and precise and he recycled possession well. Sanchez Flores loves him dropping in between Nyom and Cathcart when the opposition get the ball wide and he followed the instruction to the letter. His set-piece delivery was hit and miss but it was his perfectly flighted and weighted cross that Deeney converted for the winner.
Valon Behrami 8
Watford missed this sort of bite in the first half last week. He covered both full-backs with relish and is an expert in putting out fires. You thought, ‘He we go again’ after it was him who was spoken to by the referee after grappling with Zaha at a corner just minutes after Watford had been awarded a generous spot-kick at the other end. But the Swiss played with controlled aggression and it was he who was sinned against, rather than the sinner, when Souare clattered him at the death. You expected Behrami to take one for the team when Zaha picked up the ball in a dangerous position second half but he resisted the urge. He then showed immaculate timing, concentration and judgement to stay on his feet when Zaha charged into the box late and got a brilliant toe on the ball to deflect it for a corner. Perhaps you can teach an old dog new tricks, after all.
Nordin Amrabat 6
His first two contributions were to handle the ball and then needlessly foul Mutch in a dangerous position. Appeared to pull out of a 50-50 with Ward but flashed one teasing cross across goal and forced Hennessey to save with his legs from point-blank range in the first half. Was the beneficiary of Watford’s move of the match, involving slick passing between Capoue, Watson, Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, but was cynically obstructed. The hour’s action, in a high-octane game, will do him the world of good. More to come from him, we’re sure.
Odion Ighalo 6
Defences are slowly wising up to the threat he poses and he is finding it more difficult. Had a tough job holding up the ball in the first half and it didn’t get much better as the match went on. Needs to continue to work on his game awareness but then it’s his selfishness and directness that has largely resulted in 15 goals this season. He should really have squared the ball to Amrabat after doing all the hard work in scooping the ball past Delaney. And he didn’t realise quite how much time he had when a Deeney flick-on fell into his path. He could have brought it down, turned and then shot but he instinctively went for an improvised acrobatic effort which went well over.
Troy Deeney 9
Note to Quique: Don’t leave Deeney out again. Scored two goals, one in each half, but did so much more than find the back of the net. Blocked an effort from Scott Dann on the edge of his own box, showed his deftness of touch by pinging an inch-perfect cross-field pass to Capoue, teed up Ighalo at least twice and demonstrated why no attacker has won more headed challenges than him in the Premier League this season by out-jumping Dann and Delaney all afternoon. Most of what he brings to this team is intangible. Mightily impressive.
Almen Abdi 6.5
The only player in today’s squad to have played in Watford’s last visit to Selhurst Park, Abdi showed glimpses of being back to his best in this half-an-hour cameo, dribbling through the Palace midfield with the class of a Premier League player. He did have some very un Abdi-like moments, heading a ball straight up in the air and doing the same with his foot in virtually the same move. Spooned a dropping ball out for a throw-in near the end and completely messed up an attempt to chip the ball into the corner to kill time.
Mario Suarez 6.5
Only had 20 minutes to make an impact but demonstrated signs of the talent Sanchez Flores knows he has. Won the ball back with tenacity and carried it forward with purpose. Bailed Ake out of one defensive lapse but his penchant for a yellow card appears to have followed him from Spain, to Italy and now to England. Complained the offence, in body checking Ward, was his first and he was probably right but he looks like he needs a bit longer to get to grips with the more muscular midfield play in England. Slammed one shot, with his weaker left foot, straight at Dann. The defender would have felt it.