Arsenal edge past 10-man Watford to climb back into fourth
A Ben Foster howler gifts Aubameyang his 18th goal of the season before Deeney is shown a straight red for clattering into Torreira
16 April, 2019 — By Paul Cowling
WATFORD 0 (Deeney sent off, 11)
ARSENAL 1 (Aubameyang, 10)
ARSENAL climbed back into the top four with a hard-fought victory over 10-man Watford, who had captain Troy Deeney sent off just 11 minutes into the game.
The 1-0 win at Vicarage Road – only their first away win since beating Huddersfield 2-1 on February 9 – was enough to see the Gunners leapfrog Chelsea and Manchester United in the race for the coveted Champions League places.
The winning goal came courtesy of a Ben Foster howler in the 10th minute – the Watford goalkeeper taking too long on the ball after collecting a backpass, and allowing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to charge down his clearance and deflect the ball into the back of the net.
Aubameyang’s 18th of the campaign was immediately followed by the sending off of Hornets talisman Deeney, who was shown a straight red for throwing his forearm into the face of Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira.
Despite seeing his side struggle across the finishing line, Gunners boss Unai Emery said it was a result that will give his side “confidence” ahead of the end of season run-in.
“We were competitive but in the circumstances we can control the match better,” he said.
“We didn’t make it easy to score the second goal. We did not control the ball in the attacking third. A clean sheet is very important. It is going to give us a lot of information, this match. Our analysis will give us confidence.
“The three points is, I think, the most important thing but, also, I think we worked well defending their long balls and set-pieces. Here they are a very strong team at doing that.”
Emery made six changes from the side that beat Napoli in the Europa League on Thursday, with young Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos coming in for his compatriot Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who was suspended.
Mavropanos’s nervy start was evident, having only managed 11 minutes of Premier League football since joining the club due to injury.
The match was decided in 90 decisive seconds. First Foster succumbing to the pace and clever thinking of Aubameyang for the goal – and then a hyped-up Deeney was shown a straight red for leaving one on Torreira.
What should have been an easy night from there on in, however, was anything but for Arsenal, as Watford made it difficult for the north Londoners to close the game out. Bernd Leno came to Arsenal’s rescue with two fine saves in the first half – the first from a Craig Cathcart shot that bounced onto the post. Then the German pawed away a goal-bound free kick from former Spurs man, Etienne Capoue.
Leno was well-beaten in the second half though. Adam Masina’s exocet had the Gunners goalie stretching in vain as the ball scorched the top of the right hand post.
Substitute Ainsley Maitland-Niles also made a fine block and clearance to deny a certain goal from Andre Gray as Watford gamely sought a deserved equaliser.
At the other end, Henrikh Mkhitaryan should have increased Arsenal’s advantage on at least two occasions, but he fluffed his lines as he was first denied by a good save from Foster before then ballooning an effort into the crowd.
In the end, Emery’s side managed to hold on. The relief at the end was palpable as players and fans celebrated. But questions will again be asked about Arsenal’s ability to take games by the scruff of the neck away from the Emirates.
Emery said that the Watford game allowed him to rest vital players ahead of their Europa League game in Italy.
“For some players, like Konstantinos Mavropanos, it is good to play some minutes and give other players some rest for Thursday,” he added. “It is a different competition -we have a two-goal advantage against Napoli but it is going to be very difficult.”
WATFORD: Foster, Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Masina (Sema, 86), Doucoure, Capoue, Femenia (Success, 59), Hughes, Gray, Deeney
Substitutes not used: Gomes, Britos, Mariappa, Chalobah, Navarro
ARSENAL: Leno, Koscielny, Mavropanos (Guendouzi, 59), Mustafi, Monreal, Ramsey (Maitland-Niles, 68), Torreira (Ozil, 45), Xhaka, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang
Substitutes not used: Cech, Elneny, Kolasinac, Lacazette