Craig Cathcart, Heurelho Gomes anchor Watford to clean sheet win over Sunderland
After a slow start, Watford dominated proceedings despite never being able to put the game out of Sunderland's reach in a 1-0 victory. The Hornets turned in a much improved performance while the hapless visitors look destined for the drop.
After a run of poor performances and results, it was important for Watford to get a win against the Premier League's bottom club. While they were unable to fully capitalise on their superiority, Walter Mazzarri's team looked focussed, disciplined and threatening for large parts of the contest.
The opening 15 minutes highlighted Watford's lack of confidence, allowing the visitors to enjoy their best period of the game. Hesitation and confusion nearly allowed the Black Cats to take the lead within the first 10 minutes, with Gomes forced into a smart reflex save. The Hornets also lost concentration after going ahead. Consistency still eludes the Vicarage Road side.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Mazzarri made the bold choice of dropping captain Troy Deeney and Sebastian Prodl and was rewarded with an improved performance and much-needed win. The Italian still has much to do to convince the Hornets faithful that he's the man to take Watford forward.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Heurelho Gomes, 7 -- Made several smart saves to repel the sparse chances created by a poor Sunderland side. Was called into action to make an early stop low down to his right and was aerially dominant when called upon.
DF Miguel Britos, 7 -- Took a while to get into the game and looked unsure early on. Did well to get the necessary power on his game-winning header and was more comfortable with Craig Cathcart as his central defensive partner.
DF Younes Kaboul, 7 -- Jeered throughout by the visiting Sunderland supporters, Kaboul was enjoying a dominant afternoon before injury curtailed his involvement before half-time.
DF Jose Holebas, 7 -- This was a disciplined display from a player who has been prone to erratic performances. Holebas carried out his defensive duties diligently, quickly tracking back after his attacking forays. Saw a fierce drive deflected over with 20 minutes to go.
DF Craig Cathcart, 8 -- A starring role for the Northern Ireland international, who was calm and composed throughout. Looked excellent after moving to centre-back following an injury to Kaboul. Perhaps should have done better with a first-half header, but this was a man-of-the-match performance.
MF Tom Cleverley, 7 -- Another impressive showing from the former Everton man, who this week was confirmed as a permanent signing. Worked hard for the full 90 minutes, and made a number of full-blooded tackles late in the game to disrupt Sunderland advances.
MF Etienne Capoue, 7 -- Much better from Capoue, who showed glimpses of some of his best form after a run of lacklustre performances. Several marauding runs caught the eye and he left Jordan Pickford rooted to the spot with a rasping drive after 35 minutes.
MF Nordin Amrabat, 6 -- Looked unhappy to be replaced, but in truth was never able to make the sort of impact he was regularly delivering before a long injury layoff. Always capable of beating a man, Amrabat is too often guilty of delivering a substandard final ball.
MF Abdoulaye Doucoure, 7 -- An excellent afternoon for Doucoure, who was able to showcase some of the strength and flair that Hornets fans had heard so much about before his arrival. Arguably his best display in a yellow shirt.
MF M'Baye Niang, 6 -- Sunderland were unable to cope with the live-wire loanee for large parts of the first half, as the youngster broke forward at will. A number of skillful surges forward resulted in Watford chances, but he faded out of the game and was ineffective in the second half.
FW Stefano Okaka, 7 -- Okaka did a decent job of leading the line in the absence of Troy Deeney and was let down by errant final balls from teammates when well placed. Held the ball up well, a discipline Watford have failed to master for some time.
DF Daryl Janmaat, 6 -- Replaced the injured Kaboul after 42 minutes and immediately gave the defence a more balanced feel. Got forward whenever possible from right-back.
MF Isaac Success, 7 -- His first touch was a volley that was deflected over for a corner, while his second meaningful contribution should have put the game beyond doubt when presented with a fantastic one-on-one opportunity. Replaced Amrabat after 53 minutes.
MF Juan Camilo Zuniga, NR -- A late replacement for the fading Niang, Zuniga wasn't afforded an opportunity to have any sort of impact on the game.
Mike is ESPN FC's Watford blogger.