05 October 2022

Slaven Bilic not using 20-minute stoppage time as excuse for loss to Swansea

05 October 2022

Slaven Bilic refused to blame the freak circumstances that extended his first home game as Watford manager by 20 minutes for the goal that gave Swansea a 2-1 victory.

Ben Cabango headed home in the eighth minute of time added on after play had been stopped for almost 10 minutes near the end of normal time when the officials’ communication equipment failed.

“It is a situation that doesn’t happen very often, I don’t want to say it was the reason we lost the game, I think it affected both teams,” said Bilic, who confirmed he intended to bring in long-time lieutenant Julian Dicks as his number two.

Bilic lamented injuries to defenders Mario Gaspar and Francisco Sierralta, both to groin problems, for Cabango not being picked up from Ryan Manning’s free-kick.

“We were short of players anyway and now we have more injuries,” he said. “The whole defensive line was not a normal one. It should not have happened anyway. A lot of goals come from set-pieces but the guy was alone in the middle, it is very hard to accept it.

“You can’t blame the players who came on but we lost the shape we had in the first half.”

Ismaila Sarr, on his 100th Hornets appearance, fired Watford ahead in the 34th minute from Ken Sema’s cross.

But Swansea, who had seen Michael Obafemi’s reply ruled out for offside before half-time, levelled in the 52nd minute through Olivier Ntcham’s strike from the edge of the box, which went in off Christian Kabasele.

“I expected us to be more brave,” said Bilic, who had seen his side win 4-0 at Stoke in his first game in charge on Sunday.

“We did not start on the front foot, not confident enough but I’m quite pleased with the way we played. We had another big chance to go 2-0 up. They didn’t create a lot of chances – we created more.”

Swansea manager Russell Martin hailed Cabango for popping up with a rare goal.

“I’m so pleased for him,” he said. “Ben should have had a goal before now but it was a brilliant header. He is a warrior who is starting to develop other traits and if he scores more goals it will be all the better for us.”

Martin was also happy with the way referee Tim Robinson and his officials handled difficult circumstances.

“I thought they dealt with it really well,” he said. “They communicated it really well, it was not an easy situation for them. Our message to the players was to stay brave.”

Watford were convinced they should have had a penalty for handball right at the end and surrounded first referee Robinson and then a linesman.

“It was a push on our player in the melee,” Martin said. “I thought the referee did well to spot that. We managed the game brilliantly.”

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