1: Crystal Palace 2-3 Watford, 18 August 2012
When the Pozzo family first took over Watford in 2012, the cautious optimism was mixed with a dose of scepticism. After all, it was not long since another Italian manager had displaced Graham Taylor at Vicarage Road and that spell had left the club on the brink of ruin. Trailing 2-1 at Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season did nothing to dispel these fears. So when Almen Abdi picked the ball up in the 88th minute and found the bottom corner, the mood changed. Matej Vydra scored the winner minutes later and Watford were up and running under the Pozzos.
2: Charlton Athletic 1-2 Watford, 2 October 2012
On their next visit to south London, Tommie Hoban saw his header cancelled out by an equaliser from Ricardo Fuller only to see Fernando Forestieri shown a red card on the cusp of half time. Watford were up against it when they won a free kick on the edge of the Charlton box. Abdi stepped up and caressed the ball into the top corner. A real smash-and-grab, right when Watford needed it.
3: Watford 1-2 Leeds United, 4 May 2013
In their biggest game of that season to date, Watford faced Leeds United at Vicarage Road on the final day of the regular season. If Watford could win, and Hull City failed to beat Cardiff City, the Hornets would achieve automatic promotion to the Premier League. Anything else and it was the playoffs. This game will always be remembered as a red-letter one for Watford’s substitute keeper Jack Bonham, his two costly misjudgements overshadowing a brilliant strike from Abdi. Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, he hit it first time into the top corner. It was a big goal, in a big game, from a big player.
4: Watford 3-0 Leeds United, 8 April 2014
Abdi’s 2013-14 campaign was hampered by injury and he never quite managed to replicate his 2012-13 form. So after his extended period in the medical room, and with Watford struggling in the league, Abdi’s return was awaited more eagerly by Watford fans than Laurence Bassini’s departure had been the previous year. On his first start since January (he had only made four appearances since August), Abdi was expected to supply the creativity which had been missing throughout that season. But it wasn’t a 25-yard curler or a defence-splitting pass that Abdi provided. Instead, the midfielder opened the scoring inside ten minutes, with nothing other than a soaring header Luther Blissett would have been proud of.
5: Fulham 0-5 Watford, 5 December 2014 (the second one)
Abdi’s first goal on this Friday night at Craven Cottage – a free kick driven cheekily under the wall to open the scoring – may have made this list in its own right. But his second of the evening completely overshadowed it. Fulham were down to ten men and Watford led 3-0 at the break, so the contest was anything but competitive. Abdi had run rings around the Fulham defence during the first half and his sky-high confidence was evident when he collected the ball a distance from goal, turned and curled a shot into the top corner. Fulham’s goalkeeper simply watched as the ball sailed over his head and into the net. It was an early Christmas present for Watford fans, who would go on to vote this as their goal of the season.
6: Nottingham Forest 1-3 Watford, 15 April 2015
As the 2014-15 season neared its climax, Watford visited Nottingham Forest in a must-win match. An early goal from Odion Ighalo and another from Matthew Connolly put Watford into a comfortable position going into the break. Kelvin Wilson received a red card for the home side after an hour, meaning Watford only had to defend a 2-0 lead for half an hour to take home three points. When Forest pulled one back and Michel Antonio missed an open goal for an equaliser, nerves were jangling. Cue Abdi. An 87th minute long-range shot was parried by Forest’s goalkeeper and Abdi drilled the rebound into the net without any hesitation. The three points were sealed and, with only three matches remaining in the season, Watford were in the driving seat in the race to the Premier League.
7: Watford 3-2 Aston Villa, 30 April 2016
It was difficult to decide between including Abdi’s first goal in the Premier League, a rocket against Stoke City, and his last for Watford. In the end, it was the latter which had to make this list. Watford were expected to walk the game against an already relegated Villa side but were trailing as half-time approached. Deep into first-half injury time, just like against Leeds United three years earlier, Abdi conjured up an equaliser. The midfielder won a free kick himself with a trademark give-and-go just outside the box, before stepping up to take it. Abdi curled his free-kick over the wall and out of reach of a diving goalkeeper. It was, it turns out, a fitting way to say goodbye.
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