16 September 2023

Valerien Ismael feels dramatic win over Birmingham will give Watford boost

16 September 2023

Manager Valerien Ismael believes Watford’s dramatic late 2-0 home victory over 10-man Birmingham will give his side a huge lift.

The Hornets went into the game having won just one of their opening five matches and appeared set for more frustration before the visitors lost Lee Buchanan to a second yellow card in the 88th minute.

Watford took full advantage, scoring twice in added time through Mileta Rajovic and Ryan Andrews to give them a first win since the opening day of the season.

Ismael said: “I think that if we have a review of the first five games we should have more points but we made a lot of mistakes.

“Today was important for the mental side that we finally got the reward. We forced the red card and we forced the goals.

“Hopefully that will give the confidence to our players for the next game.”

Ismael was full of praise for substitute Yaser Asprilla, who drew the foul from Buchanan that led to the Birmingham full-back’s dismissal before teeing up Rajovic for the opening goal.

He added: “Everyone can see he has the quality to be a key player. He can be something special but sometimes we just missed the outcome.

“We work with him every week, we speak with him and say it is now time to step up otherwise it is just entertainment and finally he had a big impact on the game.

“And then he combined the both, the entertainment with the ability to make the difference.”

Rajovic had scored twice on his debut against Coventry before the break and found the target again with a powerful header.

Andrews, 19, slotted home five minutes later for his first senior goal.

The outcome meant Birmingham suffered a first league defeat of the season.

Blues manager John Eustace, a former Watford player, could not disguise his disappointment at the manner of his side’s defeat and was critical of referee Keith Stroud.

The match official issued seven yellow cards to the visitors, including the two that led to Buchanan’s departure.

Eustace said: “To come away with no points is really frustrating.

“I was disappointed with the inconsistency of the referee but it is what it is. No excuses, I still expect us to defend properly with 10 men, like we did with 11.

“They managed the game very well without getting punished.

“I was really pleased with the performance and I was very proud of the efforts of the group.

“We limited a very good squad of players to nothing. The way we defended, the way we carried out our game-plan was excellent.

“To go down to 10 men, with four or five minutes to go, was obviously very frustrating.

“But I am disappointed we conceded because I still felt we could defend the cross better.”

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