Nick Szczepanik's press verdict: Watford

With only two Premier League matches being played on Saturday, there was no excuse for any of the papers sending weakened teams to report on Albion’s draw with Watford.

By Nick Szczepanik • 09 February 2020

By Patrick Sullivan
Nick Szczepanik delivers the media's verdict on Saturday's game.

In The Sunday Telegraph ,top football man, Sam Wallace, seemed to enjoy the Albion equaliser. “Not many own goals this season will be dispatched with the utter certainty that Adrian Mariappa directed the ball into his net as time ticked down at the Amex Stadium and it looked like another bad evening for Brighton and Hove Albion,” he wrote.

“The relegation fight does strange things to professional footballers, the only explanation for Mariappa’s unusually decisive connection with a cross from substitute Alireza Jahanbakhsh in what was shaping up to be Nigel Pearson’s fifth win at Watford.

“On the bench, the expletive from the Watford manager was evident, even for those without an aptitude for lip-reading as Pearson was given to ask how victory had slipped away.”

His verdict on the team’s performance was harsh but fair: “Graham Potter is still without a win in the six league games since the turn of the year, but it could have been so much worse without the intervention of Mariappa.

By Paul Hazlewood
Lewis Dunk, Shane Duffy and Aaron Mooy tussle for possession.

The Brighton manager saw his team overrun in the first half and responded with three changes that forced his side to be more competitive. Even so, they have 27 points from 26 games – the same yield as they had at this stage last season under Chris Hughton. The next home game against Crystal Palace is one they have to win.

“Potter said he was proud of his team and the manner in which they had stayed in this match. ‘When you go behind at home things get edgy and nervy and that makes the environment even more challenging and we have to create something and score.’

“He was ‘delighted with the spirit.’ They had all the possession, although so few of the chances that matter.

“The Brighton manager tried everything. After his substitutions, including the introduction of Steven Alzate, Brighton’s best chance of the match was created by Maupay’s ball through to Mooy after 76 minutes, which Ben Foster saved well. Then came Mariappa’s mistake and Brighton had secured their point.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Davy Propper attempts an acrobatic effort.

Paul MacInnes of the Guardian pointed out that Watford “have now dropped eight points from winning positions in their last three matches, with Pearson’s impressive job at Vicarage Road at risk of being undermined by their inability to see out games.

“For Brighton, who stay in 15th place, Mariappa’s moment of self-destruction is unlikely to distract from their own problems. The Seagulls struggled to break down compact opponents and looked vulnerable on the counter.

“Brighton … set off on the front foot, controlling play without threatening unduly, believing nothing much was being risked by doing so. Their confidence was misplaced. In the 19th minute, Brighton worked themselves out of trouble after a smart exchange of passes and gave Aaron Mooy the chance to break forward from midfield. The Australian held on to the ball for too long, however, and Étienne Capoue cut out his pass. The rebound fell to Abdoulaye Doucouré and the midfielder made Brighton pay the heaviest price.”

Sonia Twigg of the Press Association reported on The Independent website that “Brighton came close to levelling the match at the start of the second half, but Ezequiel Schelotto's ball across the box was just ahead of the sliding Glenn Murray at the far post.

“The home side continued to look for the equaliser, but struggled to get the ball past the resolute Watford defence.

“Aaron Mooy nearly levelled the tie in the 77th minute for the home side, but Foster made a crucial save to deny the Australian his third goal of the season with an outstretched leg.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Solly March brings the ball forward.

Oxbridge Classics graduate Dan King added some extra information to his description of Albion’s leveller in The Sun on Sunday.

“Mariappa, one of football’s increasing number of vegans, made meaty but needless contact with a late cross by Brighton substitute Alireza Jahanbakhsh to cancel out Abdoulaye Doucoure’s first-half stunner.

“The Watford defender no doubt thought that Murray was on his shoulder as Jahanbakhsh sent a cross fizzing to the back post.

“Yet he could simply have left the ball rather than applying a finish of which Murray would have been proud.

“This was the reverse fixture of an opening day clash that had supposedly set the tone for how the season would go for both teams. For Watford, in a sense it had. The 3-0 defeat at Vicarage Road set alarm bells ringing and although Pearson, the third head coach of the campaign, had enjoyed an excellent start to his reign, the team was second from bottom at the start of play.

“Conversely, Brighton’s victory back in August, and the manner of it, had suggested it was onwards and upwards for the Seagulls.

“The safety-first, staid football that had cost Chris Hughton his job would be banished in favour of an attractive, progressive style that would take the club to the next level.

“But a run of just one win in 10 Premier League games had put them back in a familiar position: trying to survive.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Leandro Trossard celebrates Albion's equaliser.

Adrian Kajumba of the Mail on Sunday, gave more credit than most to Albion and head coach Potter.

“Brighton's equaliser, when it arrived, had been coming for some time. That did not make it any easier for Nigel Pearson to take.

“This is six pointer territory and Watford were just 12 minutes away from a victory that would have been worth much more than the usual three before Mariappa’s moment of misfortune.

“They would have climbed out of the bottom three again and level on 26 points with Brighton.

“Against Brighton, they were unable to hold on to the lead given to them in the first half by Abdoulaye Doucoure, the hosts’ persistence and pressure in the second half eventually telling.

“Graham Potter’s attacking substitutions paid off too, especially his final one, with the equalising goal that kept day light between 15th-placed Brighton and the bottom three set up by his final player he introduced, Alireza Jahanbakhsh.

“Brighton have yet to win any of their six league games in 2020 and now sit on exactly the same tally of 27 points that they had at the same stage under Chris Hughton last season. A second successive comeback draw, though, was a positive for Potter.

“‘When you go behind and things get edgy and nervy, and that’s understandable, it makes it even more challenging so I’m delighted with the character and spirit showed. That will serve us well,’ he said. ‘We are in a fight, we know that but we are ready for it’.”

Latest News

More News