Heurelho Gomes 6
Probably had his quietest match of the season, despite conceding two goals. May feel as though Ciaran Clark’s opener went through him but cannot be blamed for failing to stop Jordan Ayew’s effort for Aston Villa’s second goal. Was beaten for Ayew’s header off the post from an Aly Cissokho cross but rarely had to come and command his box and made only one punched clearance all game. Distributed well.
Juan Carlos Paredes 3.5
So poor that Watford were actually more defensively sound when he was replaced and Almen Abdi played in a position hugely unfamiliar to him. Paredes gave the ball away three times in the first half, earning loud groans from the home fans who eventually cheered when he was replaced just before the hour mark. His crosses never beat the first man, his long balls forward always spun straight out for goal-kicks and his one-on-one defending was so unconventional and painfully hopeless that Jordan Ayew may have wondered if the defender was even trying to tackle him. His mark was not boosted by the fact he went straight down the tunnel after being replaced.
Craig Cathcart 4.5
A rare poor performance which will have lost the Ulsterman a few votes in the runner-up spot for player of the season. Completely lost Clark for the opening goal and should have cut out the Cissokho cross from which Ayew hit the post with a header. Went missing again when Kevin Toner got in between him and Miguel Britos in the second half but the defender headed wide. Did make one brave block with his face to stop a Rudy Gestede shot which was almost certainly sailing in for 3-1.
Miguel Britos 5
His performances have been dipping of late and Britos looks like he needs the season to end and recharge his batteries. He and Ben Watson watched as Ayew calmly brought down a long ball unchallenged in the first half and this set the tone for the match. Was scrambling to keep up with Ayew as the forward played a one-two and put the away side back ahead just after half-time and was equally slow to react when Gestede flicked the ball over his head in showboating style soon after. Was no more commanding in Watford’s box than Cathcart and should have done better to flick away the delivery which found Toner in the second half. Did, however, fizz a ball into Odion Ighalo that led to Deeney slamming in the winner.
Ikechi Anya 6
A surprise inclusion at left-back, Anya prospered in a match where he had freedom to get forward but didn’t take on his man enough, especially with Jose Manuel Jurado drifting inside. Looked uncomfortable when defending one-on-one and his crossing was poor. May have exaggerated his fall to get Cissokho sent off in the second half but it was just so refreshing to see someone willing to get beyond Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo.
Almen Abdi 6
His best performance since Watford swept Liverpool aside in December and a vast improvement on the woeful showing at Wembley. Drifted inside more than he has done in recent weeks and looked lively from the start. Won a free-kick and curled it over the wall and into the bottom corner just before half-time, just when Watford needed him most. Slung over some good crosses towards Ighalo before he was shifted back to right-back for the final 30 minutes. May have been guilty of forgetting his defensive duties more than once when he overlapped with Berghuis, but he can be forgiven for that.
Mario Suarez 5
Quique Sanchez Flores described him as an attack-minded player after the semi-final, using that as the reason for replacing the injured Etienne Capoue with him and not Valon Behrami. Rene Gilmartin called him a passenger on commentary yesterday. Showed glimpses of his passing range, playing one incisive ball forward to Ighalo, but also showed rustiness with one which left Anya scrambling to keep it in play. Had one effort at goal but blazed his effort over the bar. Will hopefully be in a better position to perform consistently next season.
Ben Watson 5.5
Usually a reliable anchor to recycle possession in midfield, Watford were unable to depend upon Watson’s passing against Villa. Conceded possession within minutes on the halfway line, allowing Villa to counterattack and give them early encouragement. Overhit another pass to Anya and lacked conviction throughout. Played a rare forward pass to pick out Deeney and then Anya for the move which led to the red card. Watford’s goal-of-the-season contenders were shown pre-match and Watson almost made them regret jumping the gun when his volleyed effort from the edge of the box cannoned off Mark Bunn’s crossbar.
Jose Manuel Jurado 5.5
Started lively enough and was allowed to cut inside regularly as Anya would overlap on the wing. Put in two good early crosses, one which met Deeney’s head and another that Ighalo may have converted if he was not tugged back. Showed flair, some fancy flicks and turns and nutmegged Leandro Bacuna to earn a round of applause in the first half. Still can’t hide the fact he is yet to score and has but two assists, if you are being generous and giving him one for the goal taken off Ighalo at Chelsea. “Jurado doesn’t beat the first man [from a corner]. How many times have I said that in my life?” said Gilmartin. Was substituted 20 minutes from time and also headed straight down the tunnel.
Odion Ighalo 5
Looked brighter than he has done in recent weeks, but that’s hardly saying much. Unfurled out his trademark scoop turn more than he has done in any match since Christmas but never quite managed to fashion a shooting chance. Could have passed to Deeney rather than shooting more than once but the captain offered his support to his grieving strike partner, giving him a high-five and a hug rather than berating him for not spotting the pass. Was unable to direct any of his headers at goal with any strength and still looks in need of a rest. Gilmartin highlighted his poor link-up play on commentary.
Troy Deeney 7.5
While the majority of the 22 players on the pitch seemed to treat the match as an early pre-season friendly, only Deeney got stuck in from the first whistle. Maybe that’s because he’s a Blue Nose, but he was dropping deep to make tackles on the halfway line from the off and even found himself at right-back on one occasion. Caught the loose-pass bug, and one at the start of the second half sparked the move which led to Ayew’s goal. More than made up for it with two at the death in front of the Villa fans who had been taunting him throughout. Just who writes his script?
Steven Berghuis 8
Where has he been all season and why on earth didn’t he start here? Berghuis curled a beautiful shot into the top corner in the warm-up and it must have been tempting to resubmit the team list after that as you got the feeling it was going to be his day. Changed the game when he came on at right-midfield, showing flair, skill and directness at every opportunity. There was an air of unpredictability about the winger and that’s what Watford have lacked since Christmas. Danny Murphy, on Match of the Day, described his assist for Deeney’s first as “a hell of a cross”. Fans will be excited to see more of him in the next few matches and next season. Deeney will certainly want more first-class service like this.
Nordin Amrabat 7
Had only 20 minutes to make an impact but when finally played in his preferred position (cutting in from the left on his right-foot) showed the all-action style regular watchers of Malaga had told us the club were getting for more than £6m. The perfect complement to Berghuis on the right and meant the opposition, for once, had to think about Watford getting round the back or slinging in crosses on two flanks let alone one.
Quique Sanchez Flores 5.5
Seemed to sign his own resignation letter when naming Abdi and Jurado on the wings after that system failed so spectacularly at Wembley. The logic in picking Paredes ahead of Nyom at right-back because of his superior technique had merit, but it didn’t work. The head coach partially redeemed himself by making two attacking substitutions in the second half, but why has he left it until now, the penultimate home game of the season, when they were 2-1 down to the league’s whipping boys? Again showed his propensity for a left-field tactical call when Abdi was shunted to right-back. Even club employees Jon Marks and Gilmartin couldn’t believe it.