Cleverley claims Watford winner against Palace

Cleverley claims Watford winner against Palace

Tom Cleverley scored a wonder volley as Watford fought from behind to secure a 2-1 victory against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

Palace took the lead in the opening period after Craig Cathcart’s own goal, but the Watford defender made amends when he converted Jose Holebas’ corner with 67 minutes gone.

Substitute Cleverley, who had only been on the pitch for six minutes, then netted his first goal in more than a year to complete the fightback from Javi Gracia’s side.

The victory moved Watford back ahead of West Ham, following their earlier win against Arsenal, and into seventh after Leicester’s defeat against Southampton.

Watford started brightly, and should have taken the lead inside three minutes. Gerard Deulofeu ghosted past James Tomkins with ease, but when one-on-one with Vicente Guaita, side-footed his shot on to the post.

The rebound fell to Roberto Pereyra, but with a vacant net at his disposal, hit the identical piece of Palace woodwork and the hosts somehow survived.

After just 19 minutes, the visitors were forced into a change when Will Hughes – who had been showing obvious signs of concussion following a coming-together with Mamadou Sakho in the opening moments of the match – was hooked. Hughes did not want to leave the pitch, but it appeared the right decision.

Although the Hornets were quickest out of the blocks, Palace began to take control of the game. Wilfried Zaha cut inside from the left-hand side, but his shot lacked power and was gobbled up by Ben Foster.

Down the other end, Troy Deeney leaped higher than Sakho from Holebas’ cross, but his header dropped wide of Guaita’s left post.

Moments later, Palace were ahead. Watford failed to deal with a corner, and following a goalmouth scramble, Abdoulaye Doucoure’s attempt hooked clearance hit team-mate Cathcart.

At first, Foster had appeared to claw the ball away, but goal-line technology proved otherwise, referee Paul Tierney was alerted, and Palace were celebrating only their fourth goal at home this season.

On the stroke of half-time, Wayne Hennessey was called into action as Guaita limped off with a calf problem.

Craig Cathcart, centre, scores an own goal (John Walton/PA)
Craig Cathcart, centre, scores an own goal (John Walton/PA)

Buoyed by their goal seven minutes before the interval, Palace started the second half brightly, and Zaha should have doubled his side’s lead. Through on goal, the Ivorian’s effort hit Foster’s out-stretched leg.

Then, following neat footwork in the Watford box, Zaha blasted his shot high and wide.

To their credit, Watford stemmed the early second-half storm, and with 23 minutes to go were suddenly back level when Cathcart beat Tomkins at the far stick to head Holebas’ corner in.

As the Hornets celebrated, Cleverley was introduced from the bench. Watford were in the ascendancy, and just six minutes after he was called into action, Cleverley had fired them ahead.

Palace failed to clear their lines from Holebas’ long throw, and as the ball dropped to Cleverley 12 yards from goal, he pinged in an unstoppable volley.

The midfielder, making only his fourth appearance in the Premier League following almost a year out through injury, was mobbed by his team-mates.

Palace boss Roy Hodgson threw on Christian Benteke for his first appearance in four months following an injury lay-off, but he could do little to prevent Watford from taking all three points, with Palace once again looking over their shoulders.

- Press Association

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