We’re not sure how Walter Mazzarri will be celebrating his 55th birthday tonight but he would be forgiven for having a crafty cigarette and a stiff drink as this was breathless, often heart-stopping, stuff.
Watford twice fell behind, twice levelled, saw Bournemouth hit the woodwork three times, had another three players booked (that’s now 23 for the season) and yet almost won it through Isaac Success whose bustling second-half cameo was enough to get pulses racing on its own. Good job there is an international break now; everybody needed it after this helter-skelter affair.
There were many that felt Watford scaled the mountain by beating Liverpool last season only to spend too long admiring the view. The early signs were that Watford had got ahead of themselves again after putting three goals at home past another team in red, this time Manchester United. They followed up that heady victory over United with a horror show at Burnley and then 45 minutes here that nobody will remember with much fondness. The only consistent thing about Watford right now is their inconsistency.
The Cherries weathered the mini early storm from the home side who came out with the bit between their teeth, keen to restore faith and pride after events at Turf Moor. Odion Ighalo, who was somewhat fortunate to keep his place in the side, had a chance inside two minutes and will feel, on reflection, he might have done better. But he’s just going through one of those lean spells right now when the ball just isn’t dropping for him.
Bournemouth grew into the game and started to get a grip of the all-important midfield battle where Jack Wilshere featured. They looked to unleash the pace in their team at every opportunity, with Wilson lurking menacingly off the shoulder of Sebastian Prodl. It was, however, from yet another cross, and not a slide-rule pass through the middle, that Watford conceded the opening goal. Junior Stanislas got down the right and sent over a cross that saw Wilson get across the front of Prodl and nod the ball under Heurelho Gomes at the near post. Gomes was outstanding in the matches between these two sides last season but he should have done better here.
At the other end, Prodl had a shot blocked while Nordin Amrabat had two bites of the cherry and forced a double save from Artur Boruc. It was Mazzarri, instead of Eddie Howe, who had the bigger job on his hands at the break. Whatever he said during the interval, in whatever language, it did the trick. Within minutes, Prodl had a header at goal from a corner and then a flick-on from the giant Austrian led to an acrobatic effort from Deeney.
Watford so often look to Deeney for inspiration and, yet again, he provided it here. Even the captain, though, will be appreciative of the role Nordin Amrabat, who had an excellent second half, played in the first equaliser. Collecting a pass from the rather subdued Roberto Pereyra, Amrabat muscled his way to the byline before cutting the ball back for Deeney who, after cleverly drifting away from the six-yard box, unerringly found the bottom right-hand corner. It was his third of the season and his 99th for the club.
You fancied the skipper to bring up his century with Watford now on the front foot but it was Bournemouth who struck next with the second goal of three in a 15-minute purple patch. Josh King had been on the pitch for less than a minute when he capitalised on a loose Jose Holebas touch and found the back of the net with a shot from the edge of the box which deflected off Younes Kaboul and found the bottom corner. It was the first time Bournemouth had scored twice in a league game in 12 matches. Now was a test of this Watford team’s character. Now Mazzarri had to earn his corn.
The Italian, to his credit, again showed how adept he is becoming at using his bench as it was his first substitute, Success, who drew Watford level for a second time just seven minutes after coming on. The way he got to the near post, rose highest and craned his considerable neck muscles to deflect a Holebas free-kick into the far corner was Heidar Helguson esque. And we all know in what esteem the Icelandic striker is held in these parts.
Deeney thought he had put Watford in front for the first time only to have been adjudged to foul Artur Boruc by Mike Dean, the referee who dished out seven cards on a difficult afternoon.
Watford had to ride their luck thereafter; Wilshere hitting the post twice and then Junior Stanislas smacking the crossbar but Success almost added to his growing cult status by bursting through two tackles only to strike a fierce shot straight at Boruc. And that was that, with everyone going home in need of a lie down.
Watford: Gomes; Zuniga, Prodl, Kaboul, Holebas: Amrabat, Behrami, Capoue (Guédioura 79); Pereyra; Ighalo (Success 58), Deeney. Not used: Doucoure, Kabasele, Pantilimon, Watson.
Bournemouth: Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Surman, Arter, Stanislas, Wilshere (Gosling), Ibe (King 62), Wilson (Afobe 90)
Attendance: 20,575 (2,112 Bournemouth)
Referee: Mike Dean
Bookings: Prodl, Wilshere, Pereyra, Francis, Smith, Behrami, Stanislas