Watford’s revival under new manager Nigel Pearson continued as the Hornets survived being reduced to 10 men to beat relegation rivals Aston Villa 3-0 and move within three points of safety.
The Hornets played for more than half an hour with 10 men after defender Adrian Mariappa was sent off following two yellow cards in the space of six minutes.
Watford was leading 1-0 when Mariappa was sent off – Hornets captain Troy Deeney reacting quickest to slot home after Tom Heaton had palmed away Abdoulaye Doucoure’s shot following a mistake by Ezri Konsa.
Deeney doubled the lead from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Douglas Luiz before the impressive Ismaila Sarr added the third from Etienne Capoue’s cross.
Villa was upset the penalty for Watford’s second goal was awarded as defender Matt Targett was down injured, while the visitors were also aggrieved about the third goal as they felt Jack Grealish was fouled by Capoue in the build-up.
However, Sarr’s goal was allowed to stand after a video assistant referee (VAR) check.
Aston Villa will start 2020 in the relegation zone and with pressure building on manager Dean Smith, who only signed a new four-year contract in November.
While they were unhappy with the penalty and the build-up to the third goal, they were abject and rarely looked like capitalising on the man advantage.
With the game goalless, Wesley was denied by a superb save by Ben Foster yet they mustered just two attempts on target despite playing for more than half an hour with an extra player.
Wesley has not scored in his past 12 league matches, and Spanish forward Jota, who made a rare start, rarely looked like troubling a well-drilled Watford defence.
Villa has troubles at the back too. England defender Tyrone Mings was missing for the fifth successive game with a hamstring injury and Villa have not kept a clean sheet away from home in the Premier League since January 2016.
With problems mounting up, fans will be hoping Smith can land some of his targets in the January transfer window.
Watford has had a chaotic season, with managers coming and going, an 8-0 thrashing at Manchester City and a long relegation battle.
Yet their polished performance against troubled Villa provided further evidence things are changing for the better.
The Hornets look refreshed and reborn under Pearson.
Having secured just one top-flight win in 16 games before the arrival of the former Leicester City boss earlier this month, Watford has since taken seven points from four games.
While Deeney will get the plaudits for his two goals, Sarr was outstanding, using his pace to torment Villa’s defence and score his side’s third goal.
Despite Mariappa’s dismissal – his first in 158 top-flight appearances – they played with confidence and belief against Villa, which suggests they have an appetite for the battle ahead.
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Source – BBC