WATFORD’s three-goal second-half blast finally sent Fulham crashing to
But Scott Parker’s men died with their boots on.
They rattled the Hornets so badly during the first half that Vicarage
Road gaffer Javi Gracia was forced into a double substitution at the
And one of those subs, striker Andre Gray, created two of the goals
that showed exactly why the Cottagers are finished as a Premier club
after only one season – their defence just wasn’t up to life at the
Watford made a storming start, taking a deserved lead with Abdoulaye
Doucoure’s 23rd-minute goal.
Fulham could have died then and there – but they just would not lie
down. Ryan babel fired them back into the game 12 minutes from
half-time with Watford looking second-best.
But goals from Will Hughes, Troy Deeney and Kiko Femenia killed off the match.
Now FA Cup semi-finalists Watford head for Wembley – where Fulham’s
Premier dream syarted in last May’s play-off final.
Contrary to expectations, Gracia fielded a full-strength team ahead of
Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final with Wolves.
The reserve back four who played in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at
Manchester United were replaced by the first-choice rearguard.
Fulham caretaker boss Parker restored Tim Ream to the defence, and
fit-again Aleksandar Mitrovic returned to lead the attack.
But the home side made all the early running and the Cottagers had to
deal with an early worry when Joe Bryan was floored by a shot from
Defender Bryan was able to carry in after treatment and Fulham were
able to stage their first serious attack, which saw Mitrovic head wide
from Tom Cairney’s cross.
Just before the quarter-hour mark, Roberto Pereyra showed sublime
skill, slicing open the Fulham defence as he zipped past three
defenders only to have his shot blocked by Ream.
The counter-attack narrowly failed as Ryan Babel’s through ball was
just too long for Ryan Sessegnon to make contact just outside the box.
Fulham’s travelling fans sang ruefully: “That’s why we’re going down.”
Mitrovic gave them hope with a 22nd-minute shot that was comfortably
saved by home keeper Ben Foster.
But Watford always looked the more dangerous going forward and Deeney
narrowly failed to make contact as he dived in to try and meet
Femenia’s cross just short of the goal line.
Seconds later, Fulham’s shaky defence finally caved in. Hughes’ pass
set up Doucoure for a powerful run towards the penalty area and the
midfielder gave keeper Sergio Rico no chance with his left-foot drive
– that was two in two games for the Frenchman after his strike at Old
Trafford on Saturday.
But Fulham were in no mood to wave the white flag – and they equalised
in the 33rd minute.
Ryan Sessegnon set up Babel with an inch-perfect pass to feet and the
former Liverpool man left centre-back Adrian Mariappa floored before
evading Foster’s dive to drift across the box and firing home from an
That brought Fulham’s away goals total in the league up to 11 – they
had managed just two draws on the road before arriving at Watford –
but it gave them hope heading into the second half.
Gracia brought on full-back Daryl Janmaat came on for attacking
midfielder Pereyra and Gray replaced Deulofeu as he teamed up with
Deeney in attack.
Janmaat wasted no time getting booked after lunging in on Tom Cairney
in the opening seconds of the second half.
But Gracia’s worked as Watford regained the initiative early in the
Rico rescued Fulham when he pushed Femenia’s cross over the bar.
And the keeper needed treatment after diving at Janmaat’s feet to
prevent a certain goal.
Then, just after the hour, it was Foster’s turn for heroics, diving to
whip the ball off Sessegnon’s toes.
But Watford struck what appeared to be the killer blow with a goal of
true class after 63 minutes.
Gray’s low show as deflected narrowly past Rico’s left-hand post for a
corner taken by Jose Holebas.
The clearing header was way too feeble, falling to Hughes on the
edge of the box. His left-foot volley flew into the top corner, past
Rico’s despairing attempt at a fingertip save.
If that wasn’t the killer, the next two were. Local hero Deeney scored
the third in the 69th minute blasting home from eight yards after Gray
had passed across the box.
Gray was provider again for the fourth, in the 75th minute. Doucoure
unselfishly stepped over the striker’s passer across the box, allowing
Femenia to score his first of the season with a right-foot shot.
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