Heurelho Gomes 6.5
This was one of Gomes’ quietest afternoons of the season and the Brazilian barely had a save to make before Sunderland’s opener. He did well to acrobatically parry away Jeremain Lens’ shot before being left with no chance when the Dutch international’s cross found Jack Rodwell at the far post to stab home the opener. He clearly didn’t get the message about this being a dead rubber, though, and celebrated with his usual gusto when Sebastian Prodl thumped home a header to equalise. He could, perhaps, have done better on Lens’ goal early in the second half. The ball didn’t appear to be too far away from his right hand when it squeezed beyond him. He did well to block from Duncan Watmore late on as the former Altrincham attacker slalomed into the penalty area late on, preserving a point. Almost landed one clearance on the roof.
Craig Cathcart 5
Bizarrely deployed as a makeshift right-back again, for the second time in a week, the Ulsterman was hooked at half-time. He was dragged out of position a few times early on by Sunderland youngster Rees Greenwood. His worst moment came when debutant Greenwood skipped past him before slinging in a cross which earned a corner. Cathcart was one of a number of Watford players who struggled to stay on their feet in the first half. He will hope Sanchez Flores’ replacement doesn’t opt to use him at right-back.
Sebastian Prodl 7
The highlight of his first-half display, and indeed his whole game, was the block he made as Dame N’Doye scythed through the Watford defence, ushering the forward onto his right foot before timing his challenge to perfection. It was the play of an international defender. He moved level with Almen Abdi and Ben Watson on two for the season with a bullet header that brought the Hornets level the first time. The former Werder Bremen defender clearly meant business, wasting little time celebrating his second Premier League goal before hot-footing it back to halfway. The Austrian topped Watford’s list of interceptions in the first half..
Miguel Britos 6
He delivered a hospital pass to Ikechi Anya at Anfield and here, with Watford General in the backdrop, delivered another to Heurelho Gomes in the second half. Gomes is one of the most mild-mannered members of the squad but he gave Britos a volley here for the short and wide pass he gave him on his weaker left foot. A couple of timely interceptions from the Uruguayan prevented Sunderland from opening Watford up while a thundering sliding tackle near the halfway typified his no-nonsense approach.
Nathan Ake 6.5
Restored to the XI for the first time since the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Crystal Palace, Ake signed off his Watford career with a much-improved display. His powers of recovery are one of his biggest assets – although if your positioning is correct, you shouldn’t need to do too much recovering – and that was tested in the second period as Sunderland directed more of the play down the Dutch Under-21 international’s side, as most teams do, knowing Jose Manuel Jurado doesn’t track back. He stood up well to the examination offered by Jeremain Lens, though. Most impressive was the way he stood his ground to stop Watmore from breaking through after a booming kick from Pickford had released the livewire forward on the counter. His good work was tarnished somewhat by his part in Sunderland’s second goal; he was dumped on his behind by Lens before he curled home. He might also have been at fault for another goal had the officials not deemed Watmore offside. He was, in fact, played onside by the dreadlocked defender.
Almen Abdi 7
It was surprising to see the Swiss schemer withdrawn after what had been one of his best displays in a Watford shirt in recent weeks if not months. He was a threat going forward, used the ball well and did his bit defensively, too – typified by a block to prevent Tom Robson, the debutant left-back, clearing deep in his own half. Abdi appeared determined to add to his two league goals and lashed just wide of Pickford’s near post after five minutes. He then bent an effort over with his left before working the England Under-21 goalkeeper with a stab at goal from 18 yards as he lost his footing.
Adlene Guedioura 6.5
Handed just his third Premier League start of the season, the Algerian failed to show why he might have deserved more outings earlier in the campaign. He won’t be Watford’s central midfielder come the start of next season. He was on the receiving end of an Odion Ighalo moan when his attempted ball in behind the Sunderland backline went nowhere and whizzed out of play. However, he got the assist for Prodl’s equaliser with an inviting corner from the right-hand side before stealing the ball off the toes of Ben Watson to lash over from a Jose Manuel Jurado cut-back shortly before the hour. He found himself bypassed completely at times, as Sunderland knocked the ball around at pace. He ended the game on the right-hand side of Watford’s midfield as Abdi was withdrawn. Made a mockery of those who questioned his passing accuracy by making 42 out of 55, the best in the game.
Ben Watson 7
When the midfielder is playing well it is easy to forget he’s even on the field. It is only when he’s having a bad game that he stands out. Thankfully for Watford he’s had more of the former than the latter this season and this was another example. He went about his business with minimal fuss, sitting at the base of the midfield and often filling as a third centre-back, exactly where Sanchez Flores likes him to be when Watford are without the ball and it’s out wide. He completed 39 out of 43 passes, making him the game’s second-best passer behind Guedioura. He might even have finished with a flourish had Guedioura not nicked the ball off his toe and fired over from Jurado’s deft cut-back. He threw his hands up in the air in a rare moment of frustration.
Jose Manuel Jurado 6
A display which summed up the Spaniard’s season. He was neat and tidy and occasionally threatened to get bums off seats, only to fall short. Jurado’s first telling contribution came after 26 minutes when he let fly with a rasping effort from 25 yards which nearly caught out Pickford, yet one from a similar position in the second half almost took out someone in The 1881 section. It will be interesting to see if his critics, of which there are plenty, award him the assist for Troy Deeney’s penalty. He was replaced by Nordin Amrabat nine minutes from time and was showered and changed by the time the players did their lap of honour. It will be interesting to see where the new head coach sees him in his plans or if he joins Sanchez Flores down the road.
Troy Deeney 7
Signs of the once feared partnership with Ighalo were evident early on as the Hornets captain played a one-two with his strike partner before getting his head up to fizz the ball out wide to Jurado. He scored one penalty and might have had another when he appeared to be hauled down by Kone. He couldn’t believe it wasn’t given and charged around looking for retribution soon after, prompting a word in his ear from the referee.
Odion Ighalo 6.5
The Nigerian’s new-found selfless streak almost paid off with a nice turn and lay-off for Abdi after five minutes. The midfielder ought to have finished the move off but it was progress for him at least to look up for a teammate within 30 yards of goal. Three minutes later he linked up well with Deeney, only to waste the effort by landing a misplaced chip in no-man’s land. Just after the half-hour he went closer when he shifted the ball onto his right foot and fizzed low and wide of Pickford’s goal. His influence waned after that, though he passed up two presentable chances at the death, dithering on the ball once after receiving Mario Suarez’s cut-back. He tried to muscle his way through the Sunderland defence, like he did at the Vicarage Road end against Liverpool, but the Sunderland centre-halves shut the space down expertly and there was no way through.
Juan Carlos Paredes 6.5
The Ecuadorian was quickly put under the spotlight as Sunderland broke away to go back in front five minutes after his introduction. He could, perhaps, have done more to hold up the advancing Watmore as Watford’s backline looked recover their shape. However, on a more positive note, it was the marauding full-back’s run and cross which led to Watford’s second equaliser following a fine bit of link-up between Watson and Almen Abdi. He also got right to the byline on another forward surge.
Mario Suarez 5
Like Jurado, the former Atletico Madrid man will be wondering where he features in the plans of the next Watford head coach. He has failed to live up to his billing this season and flattered to deceive again today. He should have finished with an assist but Ighalo couldn’t get a shot on target from his cut back. Suarez also passed up a good chance to win it at the death, the ball skimming off his forehead awkwardly from a Guedioura cross.
Injected his typical energy and athleticism into the game but he was pickpocketed to spark a late counterattack, spending too much time moaning about the decision.
Quique Sanchez Flores 7
The Spaniard’s final starting XI looked like one last display of defiance as he reinstated Craig Cathcart at right-back and persisted with Almen Abdi and Jose Manuel Jurado as his wingers. Right to the last he stuck to his principles and, in a way, that is to be admired. It is also part of his undoing and why the mood has turned against him in recent weeks. Most interesting was the fact he remained largely glued to the bench in the first half, spending more time on his feet in the last ten minutes as he sought to make sure his final game didn’t end in defeat.