Welbeck’s wonder-goal continues City’s descent back towards the Championship
- Credit: PA
It was a display featuring some reminders of Norwich City’s success in the Championship but a sixth consecutive league defeat continued the painful descent back to the second tier for the Canaries.
Emi Buendia had fired City into an early lead, finally scoring his first goal of the Premier League season, but the hosts swiftly equalised thanks to a powerful header from defender Craig Dawson.
The hosts then took a 2-1 lead through a brilliant bicycle-kick from Danny Welbeck just 10 minutes into the second half, a genuine goal-of-the-season contender, to leave Norwich destined for the Championship.
The Canaries made three changes, with Marco Stiepermann and Mario Vrancic making returns to the starting line-up alongside Teemu Pukki, with Todd Cantwell missed out due to a hamstring injury.
Watford made two changes following a 3-0 loss at Chelsea, with former Arsenal forward Welbeck starting on the left in support of the notoriously physical and competitive striker Troy Deeney.
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Vrancic had an immediate impact and offered the creative edge that City’s midfield has been missing for most of 2020, freeing Onel Hernandez on the left, who was brought down on the edge of the box by Kiko Femenia.
Buendia curled the ball towards the back post and Watford keeper Ben Foster tipped the ball away just to be sure of safety but when Vrancic’s corner was cleared Buendia dwelled on the ball to be robbed by Will Hughes and allow a counter.
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The Argentine got away with it and immediately made up for his error as Hernandez out-muscled Femenia and spread the ball to Buendia on the right side of the box, who checked on to his left foot and curled an effort which Foster could only get finger tips to.
It was an almost surreal feeling as City had the lead in a game thanks to just their seventh away goal of the season – ending the danger of equalling a club record of six league games without scoring.
However, Daniel Farke’s celebrations were calm and he perhaps knew it was too early to get excited.
Less than six minutes later and Jamal Lewis got in a muddle and brought down the lively Ismaila Sarr, a £32million club record signing. Etienne Capoue curled the free-kick to the back post and defender Dawson eased past Lewis and powered a header past Alex Tettey’s desperate attempt to block and equalise swiftly.
There was more cohesion and fluency as City went forward, perhaps thanks to the familiarity of title winners being back together, but the Hornets had the better of the aerial battle, with Sarr giving Lewis a real test.
Tim Krul and Ben Godfrey had to be sharp to deal with powerful crosses from that right side and Krul was also grateful to see Welbeck nod a Hughes corner straight at him and Abdoulaye Doucoure power a header over his crossbar.
Pukki had turned wide at the other end as his midfield tried to find him quickly, as they did so well last season, but a competitive first half finished 1-1, with both teams working hard.
Tettey was replaced by Kenny McLean in the 64th minute, due to the skipper being on a yellow card, and the Scot was immediately overpowered by the impressive Sarr to leave his defence exposed. Klose held up the winger but Max Aarons could only scuff a clearance skywards, which was met by a brilliantly acrobatic overhead kick by Welbeck to claim the lead.
Vrancic and Hernandez twice nearly found Pukki in the box as the visitors tried to rally and Dawson bravely blocked a Klose volley after a corner, before substitute Tom Cleverley drilled a shot at Krul in the 65th minute at the other end.
Buendia was relieved to see Adam Masina fire over from the edge of the box after a poor clearance following a free-kick in the 74th minute.
Adam Idah replaced Stiepermann soon after and the youngster combined with Lewis on the left, with the latter winning a free-kick which was swung in by Buendia but headed wide by Vrancic.
Idah also turned just wide when fellow substitute Josip Drmic nodded on a Lewis cross in the 85th minute, but it just wasn’t to be, as the Hornets played sensibly.
The defeat leaves the Canaries 10 points from safety with four games remaining - and knowing that relegation will be confirmed if they lose to West Ham at Carrow Road on Saturday.
NORWICH (4-2-3-1): Krul: Aarons, Godfrey, Klose, Lewis; Tettey (C - McLean 54), Vrancic; Buendia, Stiepermann (Idah 75), Hernandez (Martin 82); Pukki (Drmic 82). Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Thomas, Rupp, Trybull, Duda
Booked: Lewis (foul on Sarr, 8), Tettey (foul on Welbeck, 11), Godfrey (foul on Cleverley, 88)
Goals: Buendia (4)
WATFORD (4-2-3-1): Foster; Femenia, Kabasele, Dawson, Masina; Capoue (Chalobah 87), Hughes (Cleverley 59); Sarr, Doucoure, Welbeck; Deeney (C). Unused subs: Gomes (GK), Mariappa, Cathcart, Pedro, Gray, Pussetto, Pereyra
Booked: Hughes (foul on Stiepermann, 23)
Goals: Dawson (10) , Welbeck (55)
REFEREE: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)
VAR: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)