Match ends, Watford 2, Crystal Palace 1.
Watford beat Crystal Palace to maintain perfect start in Premier League
Watford manager Javi Gracia says his side have achieved "something massive" after beating Crystal Palace to win their opening three games of the season for the first time in their top-flight history.
The Hornets maintained their perfect start in the Premier League to move behind Liverpool and level with Chelsea at the top of the table on goal difference.
Roberto Pereyra scored his third goal in as many games with an exquisite curling effort, before Jose Holebas added a seemingly unintentional second from outside the area in a resurgent second-half display.
"There is no secret. The most important thing is to work hard, and the players are being rewarded for all of their outstanding work from the pre-season," said Gracia.
"Pereyra is scoring goals and he is an important player for us, but I would like to recognise the players that are not playing at the moment."
Watford had been fortunate to be level at the interval, veteran goalkeeper Ben Foster pulling off two reflex saves to deny Christian Benteke and James McArthur early on.
Palace threatened in the opening exchanges despite their talisman Wilfried Zaha being the victim of a fierce tackle from Etienne Capoue, for which the Watford midfielder was fortunate to receive only a booking.
Zaha did pull a goal back for the visitors late on, beating his marker to drill the ball through Foster's legs, but Watford withstood the fightback to claim all three points.
Holebas shines in the rain
Watford have won their opening three games of a top-flight campaign for the first time, and Holebas' performance epitomised their impressive early season form.
Foster was crucial in keeping Palace at bay in the first half, but Holebas was equally influential, as well as supporting attacks at the other end.
When McArthur played a neat one-two with Benteke and ran into the hosts' box, Holebas was on hand to slide in and nick the ball away as the Palace player was poised to shoot.
And the defender's first Premier League goal since October 2016 ultimately proved the difference, if rather fortuitously, as he admitted to Sky Sports afterwards that it was an attempted cross that deceived Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and looped into the corner.
In Pereyra, Watford have a real talisman. The Argentine has been directly involved in seven of the club's past 10 goals in the Premier League, scoring six and assisting another and it was a moment of brilliance to open the scoring as he curled the ball past a diving Wayne Hennessey from just inside the area.
Watford's three wins have come against Brighton, Burnley and Crystal Palace, and clearly they will face tougher challenges, but with the work ethic and determination on show by Holebas and his team-mates today, Javi Gracia's men have every prospect of a successful season.
Zaha on target despite special attention
Watford had clearly focused their efforts on stopping Zaha, but in the fourth minute Capoue crossed a line when he appeared to stamp on the Ivory Coast international's Achilles. On another day the Frenchman might not have been on the pitch long enough to assist in Pereyra's opening goal.
Zaha had a fairly quiet game after that incident, although he did burst into life to give the Eagles hope of a point in the final 15 minutes, his strike making him the club's all-time highest goalscorer in the Premier League with 24.
Palace had two excellent opportunities to take an early lead, but Foster was in inspired form to deny the hosts.
Benteke should have done better in the 12th minute when he rose highest to meet Andros Townsend's cross in the six-yard box, but the Belgian striker headed at Foster.
Minutes later, McArthur found himself one-on-one with the former England goalkeeper, but the midfielder's effort was well saved.
The result at Vicarage Road follows defeat against Liverpool on Monday and Roy Hodgson will be concerned about his side's goal threat, especially when Zaha is the subject of special attention from their opponents.
The 25-year-old has scored two of the club's three goals so far this season and the former England boss needs an alternative goal threat.
Man of the match - Roberto Pereyra (Watford)
'We were unlucky he was not sent off' - what they said
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson: "There's no particular anger as such. We didn't start the second half well and went a goal down. We were unlucky in that their second goal drifted over the keeper's head helped by the wind. At 2-0 we were facing a mountain.
"If the game had gone on another five or 10 minutes we could have got another goal and a draw would not have been an unfair result. It is very frustrating when you are 2-1 down and you are in the ascendancy but you can't get hold of the ball."
On Capoue's booking: "We're not happy about the foul. I've only just seen it again on television. I'd have to say we were unlucky he was not sent off."
On Watford targeting Zaha: "We have to get used to that. Players of his match-winning ability do get targeted. He was targeted by that foul but he got over that and his ending to the game was quite good."
Watford boss Javi Gracia: "I'm very happy because it is always difficult to get a result in the Premier League. We have three wins and it is amazing. The players have been rewarded because they have worked very hard.
"It is only three steps but I'm very proud to be Watford coach."
On Capoue's challenge: "To be honest I didn't see the action. It was a rainy day with many contacts. If you speak to me about Capoue, I didn't see it."
Watford end Palace's run at Vicarage Road - match stats
- Watford have won their opening three games of a top-flight league campaign for the first time in their history.
- This was Crystal Palace's first league defeat at Watford since February 2009 (2-0 in a Championship meeting), having been unbeaten in seven trips prior to today (W3 D4).
- Watford's current run of three consecutive wins in the Premier League is their second-longest winning streak in competition history, and just one short of their record of four games (in December 2015 under Quique Sanchez Flores).
- Watford have lost only one of their nine home games in the Premier League under Javi Gracia (W6 D2), including wins in each of their most recent three.
- Wilfried Zaha is now Crystal Palace's top scorer in Premier League history (24), overtaking Chris Armstrong who netted 23 goals in the competition for the Eagles.
- Roberto Pereyra has been directly involved in seven of Watford's last 11 goals in the Premier League, scoring six and assisting another.
- Nine of Roberto Pereyra's 10 goals in the Premier League have been scored at Vicarage Road, including each of his last six in the competition.
- Jose Holebas has been directly involved in three of Watford's four Premier League goals at Vicarage Road this season (one goal and two assists).
Watford travel to Reading in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, 28 August (20:00 BST) before hosting Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday (16:00). Crystal Palace are at Swansea in the EFL Cup on Tuesday (19:30) before entertaining Southampton in the league on Saturday (15:00).
- 2JanmaatBooked at 37mins
- 25HolebasBooked at 84mins
- 29CapoueBooked at 4mins
- 37PereyraBooked at 86mins
- 18GraySubstituted forSemaat 73'minutes
- 9DeeneySubstituted forSuccessat 90+4'minutes
- 3van Aanholt
- 15SchluppSubstituted forMeyerat 75'minutesBooked at 80mins
- 17BentekeSubstituted forSørlothat 85'minutes
- 11ZahaBooked at 7mins
- 14J Ayew
- Anthony Taylor
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Watford 2, Crystal Palace 1.
Foul by Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace).
Isaac Success (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Joel Ward (Crystal Palace) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Luka Milivojevic with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Christian Kabasele.
Attempt saved. Isaac Success (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Abdoulaye Doucouré.
Substitution, Watford. Isaac Success replaces Troy Deeney.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Mamadou Sakho.
Foul by Joel Ward (Crystal Palace).
Roberto Pereyra (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt missed. Alexander Sørloth (Crystal Palace) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Luka Milivojevic with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Craig Cathcart.
Foul by Martin Kelly (Crystal Palace).
Ken Sema (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Roberto Pereyra (Watford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Joel Ward (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Roberto Pereyra (Watford).
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Alexander Sørloth replaces Christian Benteke.
Foul by Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace).
Christian Kabasele (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
José Holebas (Watford) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt missed. Christian Kabasele (Watford) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by José Holebas with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Andros Townsend.
Hand ball by Roberto Pereyra (Watford).
Max Meyer (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Max Meyer (Crystal Palace).
Etienne Capoue (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by James McArthur (Crystal Palace).
Etienne Capoue (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Watford 2, Crystal Palace 1. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the left to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Max Meyer.
Attempt blocked. Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by James McArthur.
Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Will Hughes (Watford).
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Daryl Janmaat (Watford).
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Max Meyer replaces Jeffrey Schlupp.
Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by José Holebas (Watford).
Substitution, Watford. Ken Sema replaces Andre Gray.