Kasper Schmeichel mistake gifts Watford well needed win
Riyad Mahrez scored first but the hosts come back to end run of eight defeats from 11
Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel scrambles as Watford score their second goal. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters
Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez scores the opener at Vicarage Road. Photograph: PA
Watford 2 Leicester 1
Watford have bemoaned their misfortune in recent weeks but here Marco Silva’s team were grateful for the unwitting assistance of Kasper Schmeichel as they came from behind to end a miserable series of results.
The Leicester goalkeeper turned a cross by Abdoulaye Doucouré into his own goal in the 65th minute to complete Watford’s comeback after Mollo Wagué had negated Riyad Mahrez’s opening goal for the visitors.
Silva was under pressure to find a solution to his team’s rotten form which took root when the manager was courted by Everton last month. The Portuguese deserves praise for triggering the turnaround here as it began when he made a first-half substitution that altered the course of the match.
Watford came into the game on the back of eight defeats from their last 11 eleven matches and initially it did not look like Leicester would grant the home team any respite from their woes. The visitors were the sharper side for most of the first half and, if not for the incorrect decision to disallow a goal by Jamie Vardy for offside, they would have been in front even before Riyad Mahrez netted with a rare header in the 37th minute.
It was a splendid finish by the Algerian, who guided the ball beyond the reach of Heurelho Gomes from eight yards after a typically fine cross by Marc Albrighton. The fact that Mahrez was free in the box when he scored, as he had been on several previous occasions, highlighted the extent to which the hotch-potch home team were malfunctioning.
Silva, faced with a spate of injuries and suspensions on top of a dreadful run of results, had opted for a surprising formation in which Richarlison was deployed in an unfamiliar lone-striker role. The hosts struggled to find fluency, even though Richarlison should have equalised within two minutes of Mahrez’s goal. André Carrillo, the hosts’ most threatening player throughout, created the chance with a jagged run in from the left and a cute pass. The Brazilian dodged past Kasper Schmeichel but fired into the side netting from a tight angle.
That chance did not fool Silva into thinking his original plan was working. So he changed it, introducing Stefano Okaka for the ineffective Roberto Pereyra and shifting Richarlison out to the left. Watford immediately looked more comfortable. But it is unlikely that even Silva anticipated their breakthrough coming moments later from Wagué.
The Mali international made a single start for Leicester while on loan there last season, suffering a season-ending injury in February’s FA Cup defeat at Millwall. That was one more start than he had made before this match for Watford, whom he joined on loan from Udinese in the summer. He marked the occasion in unexpected style just before half-time, stabbing the ball into the net from close range after Richarlison’s shot from a corner was blocked by Wilfried Ndidi.
Watford almost underlined their transformation by scoring a second before the break, but Richarlison blasted a low shot against the post after a flowing move involving Carrillo and Tom Cleverley.
Watford’s vibrancy carried over into the second half but their adventure left them exposed to Leicester’s counter-attacks. Gomes had to make a solid save from Mahrez early in the second half. He should have been required to make another on the hour but Albrighton elected to attempt a pass rather than shoot after being sent clear by Mahrez. The pass was cut out.
That misjudgment was soon followed by a worse one in Leicester’s defence. A deep free kick by Cleverly was allowed to travel beyond the far post, where Doucouré hooked the ball back across goal from the byline. Schmeichel tried to block it at the near post but succeeded only in deflecting it over the line despite Ben Chilwell’s attempted clearance. Doucouré celebrated like a midfielder who had scored his seventh goal of an impressive campaign but the goalkeeper’s touch was decisive.
Claude Puel made three attacking substitutions in a bid to regain the initiative. But Leicester were thwarted by Gomes, who made two marvellous saves following Leicester corners, first from Wes Morgan and then from Leonardo Ulloa.