Sunderland ease past 10-player Watford to stay fourth4 October 2023
Niall Huggins' brilliant first goal in professional football helped Sunderland to stay fourth in the Championship courtesy of a 2-0 win over Watford.
It was a goal to remember for the 22-year-old full-back, who moved from Leeds two years ago, after his thunderous effort flew in off the underside of the bar two minutes before half-time.
And this young Sunderland side went on to claim a sixth win from their last eight matches after Abdoullah Ba's 62nd-minute header left Watford wondering when things will take a turn for the better.
The Hornets, who handed head coach Valerien Ismael a contract extension on Tuesday, have only won once since the opening weekend of the season and sit 21st.
Watford's miserable night got worse with three minutes remaining when substitute Ryan Andrews was given a straight red card for a reckless tackle on Jack Clarke on halfway.
Huggins' opener arrived out of the blue. Even though Sunderland controlled much of the possession for the first half an hour they had very little to show for it.
Patrick Roberts looked lively when he was on the ball but the only time the home side tested the goalkeeper was when Jobe Bellingham drove low into Daniel Bachmann's arms.
Other than that Watford grew in confidence as the half wore on and had worked Anthony Patterson from distance too.
Tom Ince and Giorgi Chakvetadze, making his first start since moving on loan from Gent, both curled efforts into the arms of the Sunderland goalkeeper.
Just when it seemed Watford might gain an advantage a crucial two minutes arrived just before the break and ended with the home side leading.
Moments after referee Andy Davies allowed play to go on despite Sunderland captain Luke O'Nien appearing to consciously barge into Watford's Francisco Sierralta at one end, there was a moment of brilliance at the other.
Sunderland worked their way through the lines before Huggins took over on the right. He worked his way inside, beating Chakvetadze and then Wesley Hoedt, before his rasping 18-yard drive flew in off the bar.
There were Watford complaints to the official as the two teams left the field and after the restart the visitors started the brighter without finding the net.
Sunderland created the best of the second-half chances. Dan Ballard headed over from Roberts' back post free-kick on the hour.
Soon after that it was 2-0. When striker Mason Burstow clipped a cross to the back post, Bellingham headed back across the six-yard box where Ba was on hand to nod high into the net.
After that it became a routine night. Substitute Adil Aouchiche had an effort cleared off the line by Ryan Porteous after he ran clean through and there was no way back after Andrews saw red.
Sunderland's Tony Mowbray:
"I'm delighted for Niall. He has had a tough time in the year or so I've been here with injury. Yet he's had really high moments too. We did huff and puff for 45 minutes but we got the job done. I thought the centre-backs were amazing tonight. I'm pleased with them all, we have goals all over the pitch. We have to keep going. We kept a clean sheet and got three points.
"The moment normally comes from Jack Clarke or Patrick Roberts, and yet Niall comes up with an amazing goal. We preserved what we were doing. Sitting here now with 2-0 feels good. It was a dangerous game. I'm not sure Watford's results warrant the talent they have. I am just pleased we have three points and move on to the next one."
Watford's Valerien Ismael:
"When you lose games you are not happy. I needed to have clarity with the players in the changing room. I wanted some answers, like why we came from a strong performance where we dominated a game and to this. The way we conceded the first goal showed we are not able to do the basics at the moment. That is frustrating. Sunderland are a team with a lot of confidence, they have started strong, we had to face that, but we were not good enough.
"I need answers from them and for them to understand they must focus on the game in two days. We needed a lot of time in the dressing room. We can't continue to play like that. We need to change something and I need the answers from the players. If they can give me answers then they will be able to give me answers on Saturday.
"We got a lot of answers, everyone said something and I think we can work on that for the next game. Now it is all about Cardiff. The players need to step up and take responsibility and make sure we come back to our strength."
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This news item was provided by the SkySports | News website - the original link is: https://www.skysports.com/football/sunderland-vs-watford/report/484820