Report: Albion 1 Watford 3Albion went down 3-1 to Watford at the Amex, witfh all four goals arriving during an action-packed second half.
Troy Deeney put the visitors ahead before David Lopez levelled from the penalty spot, but there was no way back for the Seagulls after Czech striker Matej Vydra scored a quick-fire brace with 20 minutes remaining.
Albion made a bright start and it was the visiting goalkeeper Manuel Almunia who was called into action first on six minutes when he scrambled across his line to stop Andrea Orlandi’s 25-yard effort.
Minutes later Andrew Crofts was presented with a good chance to open the scoring after some great work by Kazanga LuaLua, but the latter’s 12-yard shot blazed over the crossbar.
At the other end Daniel Pudil made space for himself inside the Albion box but his free header also ballooned over the bar.
The opening quarter was an end-to-end encounter with both teams intent on playing attractive football imposed by the respective managers.
LuaLua was brought into the starting line-up for the first time since early October and he looked lively from the off. Indeed a trademark shot from 20 yards was denied only by the fists of the former Arsenal stopper.
But Gianfranco Zola’s side started to enjoy possession and a classy interchange of passing created space for Jonathan Hogg but Tomasz Kuszczak made a smart stop diving low to his left.
Then on the brink of half-time Kuszczak was called into action again to turn Vydra’s shot around his left post before Deeney missed a header from six yards.
There was a sense that goals would arrive in this game and the opener arrived ten minutes into the second half, when Deeney put the Hertfordshire side ahead.
The Watford striker peeled away into space on the right angle and when he received the ball he clinically drilled it through the legs of Albion's Polish keeper and into the net.
The goal raised the tempo for both sides and when LuaLua snatched the ball off Almunia he was upended by Tommie Hoban just inside the area; referee Oliver Langford had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Lopez stepped up and lifted his spot-kick into the top left corner, to level the scores.
But the scoreline lasted for just four minutes as Czech Vydra struck a double blow for the Hornets.
There was an element of luck involved in his first, and Watford’s second, as his shot took a wicked deflection off Adam El-Abd before lopping over Kuszczak. But just a minute later he showed blistering pace to stride clear of the Albion defence before drilling the ball into the bottom right corner.
Gus Poyet made a bold double change, bringing on Will Hoskins and Stephen Dobbie at the expense of Crofts and Orlandi as he looked to create a comeback, while the visitors dropped deeper to protect their two-goal advantage.
And with five minutes remaining Hoskins brilliantly brought down Bruno’s lofted pass before executing a near-post volley, but Almunia did well to block to ball.
The Seagulls pushed until the final whistle but were unable to find another goal against an impressive Watford side.